Iran’s Human Rights Violators and Canada’s Magnitsky Statutes: A Canadian Primer
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Those who violate human rights in Iran are not fringe or renegade officials. Rather, they hold senior positions in the executive branch and the judiciary, where they continue to enjoy impunity. These officials control a vast infrastructure of repression that permeates the lives of Iranian citizens.…
Defiance of these norms often comes at a terrible cost, with Iranians frequently facing unjust detention, torture, and even death.
Dr. Ahmed Shaheed
UN special rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief from 2011 to 2016
A Memo to the Reader
1. The Magnitsky Act – On January 8, 2020 Ukraine International Airlines Flight PS752 was shot down near Tehran by two Iranian surface-to-air missiles. 57 Canadians were among the 176 people killed. There has been much debate in Canada as to what if any action Canada should take against Iran in response to this incident, or in the event that Iran refuses to abide by its international obligations to cooperate with the investigation; to repatriate the remains of Canadians killed in the attack; and to compensate the families of the victims. One possible route that some have suggested is to list Iranian violators of human rights under the Justice for Victims of Corrupt Foreign Officials Act, more commonly known as the Magnitsky law. The Act bars human rights abusers and any corrupt foreign official from entering Canada, freezes their assets and outlaws any dealings with them.
2. The Islamic Republic of Iran – is the globe’s most egregious state-sponsor of terrorism, and has imprisoned, tortured and murdered tens of thousands of Iranian citizens. Iran continues to be a global leader in the execution of minors; has imprisoned, tortured and murdered Canadians citizens; and is directly complicit in the war crimes being committed by the Assad regime. Iran is listed in Canada as a “State Supporter of Terrorism”.
3. The Objective of this primer – Despite Tehran’s global web of malevolent activities that include terror sponsorship; criminal networks engaging in narcotics trafficking and other illegal industries; and the plundering of billions of dollars of national assets by regime officials, not a single Iranian official has been listed for corruption under the Magnitsky Act. This primer has been compiled to assist in remedying that omission. It provides the names, faces and crimes of a very small selected group of offenders from amongst the thousands of Iranian regime officials who should be designated under the Magnitsky provisions. It also seeks to provide a framework for understanding the scope, breadth and depth of Iran’s malevolent behavior.
4. The Government’s Commitment – Listing key Iranian regime violators will fulfill the commitment of Global Affairs Canada that long predates the recent downing of flight #752 to implement a “robust sanctions regime|” to hold Iran accountable for its human rights violations.[i] . To be “robust” the listing must not be cosmetic or token in nature. It must target leading perpetrators and in sufficient numbers to provide a minimal level of impact and deterrence.
As noted by Dr. Ahmed Shaheed, the UN special rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief: “Those who violate human rights in Iran are not fringe or renegade officials. Rather, they hold senior positions in the executive branch and the judiciary, where they continue to enjoy impunity. These officials control a vast infrastructure of repression that permeates the lives of Iranian citizens…. Defiance of these norms often comes at a terrible cost….”[ii]
5. The Method – Determining which offenders to sanction amongst so many candidates is subject to a multitude of legal, political and moral considerations. This primer therefore has selected a small number of violators organized according to the category of offense. The categories provide an initial sorting of violators according to topics of particular interest to Canadian lawmakers, human rights advocates, and most importantly Canadian constituencies and individuals who have been impacted by the regime’s egregious violation. This indexation will assist lawmakers in determining which violators should be subject to sanctions and enable the general public to engage in a more informed public discourse on this matter.
The primer has collated information from various sources relying primarily on:
a. “Rights over Repression in Iran: The Case for Canadian Magnitsky Sanctions” (Raoul Wallenberg Centre for Human Rights)
b. “Profiles of Iranian Repression: Architects of Human Rights Abuses in the Islamic Republic” (Foundation for Defense of Democracies)
c. https://justice4iran.org/- Justice For Iran (JFI) is a human rights organization dedicated to addressing the “practice of impunity that empowers officials of the Islamic Republic of Iran to perpetrate widespread human right violations against their citizens.” JFI researches, documents, validates, and litigates individual cases. It further raises public awareness and participates in human rights advocacy through the UN and the EU. JFI’s advisory board includes Payam Akhavan, a Professor of International Law at McGill University, who was the first Legal Advisor to the Prosecutor’s Office of the International Criminal Tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda at The Hague. He served with the UN in Cambodia, East Timor, and Guatemala and has appeared as counsel in cases before the International Court of Justice, the International Criminal Court, the European Court of Human Rights, and the Permanent Court of Arbitration.