Canadian human rights activist and former justice minister and attorney-general Irwin Cotler revealed at a Jerusalem press conference on Wednesday a petition he is spearheading that calls on governments and the UN to take immediate and massive diplomatic and economic action against Iran.
Cotler accused the Iranian government of violating international law regarding nuclear weapons development, incitement to genocide, state-sponsored terrorism and human rights.
Other speakers at the press conference included Harvard University law professor Alan Dershowitz, who spoke from the US, British MP Denis MacShane, who spoke from London, Bassam Eid, executive director of the Palestinian Human Rights Monitoring Group and Prof. Suzanne Stone of the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law.
All have signed the petition, which includes documents and eyewitness testimony describing Teheran's violations in all four areas, according to Cotler. It also includes a "road map" of sanctions and remedies that the world should apply against the Iranian government to force it to cease its alleged violations of international law.
Neither Cotler nor Dershowitz ruled out the possibility of military action against Iran, but said that, before reaching that point, all peaceful attempts to curb the Iranian government must first be tried.
"For sanctions to be effective," added Cotler, "what is needed is the will to act, and what has been absent so far has been political will with respect to each of the threats."
Dershowitz warned that "today is a true test of whether international law will survive and whether the rule of law will prevail... This is the time. This is the moment in which the international community must act to prevent genocide."
The speakers stressed that taking action against Iran was not an option but an obligation of the international community.
"Iran has already committed the crime of incitement to genocide," said Cotler. "We do not have to wait and should never wait for the actual beginning of atrocities before taking action."
States that signed the 1948 Genocide Convention are obliged to act since Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has already violated Article 3, which enumerates punishable actions including "direct and public incitement to commit genocide," Cotler added.
In this context, the petition calls for individual states and the UN to take action, including asking the UN Security Council to file a complaint against Teheran with the International Criminal Court prosecutor.
Cotler also warned that because most of the international concern regarding Iran was focused on its nuclear development, "the genocidal threat is being sanitized and marginalized."
Regarding the nuclear threat, Cotler charged that not only has Ahmadinejad gone back on his word regarding an agreement he reached with world leaders on October 1, but in the past two weeks he has taken additional steps to advance his nuclear program. For example, the head of Iran's nuclear program, Ali Akbar Salehi, announced that Iran would build 20 new uranium enrichment facilities.
Cotler said the true face of the Iranian regime's attitude toward human rights inside the country has been revealed since the June elections, with protesters allegedly being arrested, tortured, raped and murdered. He said the petition included many eyewitness testimonies of how the government treated the demonstrators.
Cotler is travelling all over the world to discuss his call for sanctions with various world leaders. Recently, he has visited Austria and Germany, and he said he planned to put special emphasis on 13 countries, including South Africa, the US and Canada, which have a special connection to the issue.
He said his own party, the Liberal Party, had endorsed the petition and that the Canadian parliament was due to release a statement on the matter.
Cotler also drafted a bill, which he presented to parliament, calling for stiff economic sanctions against Iran.
More than 60 people, including human rights experts, academics and politicians have signed the petition, including Per Ahlmark, former deputy prime minister of Sweden, Kamal Hossain, former minister of justice and minister of foreign affairs of Bangladesh, John Turner, former Canadian prime minister and author Elie Wiesel.