Cotler calls for immediate legal action against Ahmadinejad

Canadian MP cites violation of Genocide Convention and Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Irwin cotler 224.88 (photo credit: )
Irwin cotler 224.88
(photo credit: )
Canada's former justice minister and current MP Professor Irwin Cotler has called for criminal charges to be filed against Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. As keynote speaker at the B'nai B'rith Journalism awards ceremony in Jerusalem on Sunday, Cotler stated that Ahmadinejad was in violation of both the Genocide Convention and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The enduring lesson of the Holocaust, as well as the crises in former Yugoslavia, Rwanda and now Darfur, is that demonizing of the "other" and incitement was where genocide began, Cotler said. "The Holocaust did not begin in the gas chambers, but with words," he said. Quoting Canada's Supreme Court, Cotler said that the willful promotion of hatred constituted an assault on freedom of speech and the underlying values of a free and democratic society. He warned that the sinister abuse of free speech could tear society apart, and added that there was a fundamental difference between hate speech in a constitutional democracy and state-sanctioned hate speech, which is prohibited under the Genocide Convention. Cotler made the point that heads of state are not immune and can be prosecuted for incitement, as was a former prime minister of Rwanda. "Incitement itself is the crime," he said. "One must not wait for the crime of genocide to occur. One must prevent genocide from happening. It is an obligation to prevent and prohibit genocide." At the same time that Ahmadinejad is denying the Holocaust, he is planning a new one, Cotler charged. He cited some of the expressions used by the Iranian president as well as instances of "incendiary hate-mongering" by serious Muslim scholars, which bear a striking similarity to terms used by the Nazis when referring to Jews: "Filthy bacteria; stinking corpse; stain on humanity; defilers of Islam; cancerous tumor that has to be eradicated." The former justice minister said there was as much, if not more, evidence for convicting Ahmadinejad as there was for convicting the Rwandan prime minister, he said. Cotler said that what made the Ahmadinejad case so compelling and so dangerous was that "there is no ambiguity in what he says. His is the state sanctioned promotion of hatred and contempt for a targeted group - Israel and the Jews." Cotler also characterized the glorification of acts of terror as "tantamount to incitement to kill." Angered by the "inaction and indifference" of the international community, Cotler declared that the international community must not only pay heed to the incitement, but also invoke the actions available under international law. "What is ignored is that the parties to the Genocide Convention have not only a right but a responsibility to enforce it," said Cotler. "No one has taken any steps to refer Ahmadinejad to any agency in the United Nations. No one has initiated a complaint against him in the International Court of Justice or in the International Criminal Court." Cotler took the UN to task for not declaring Ahmadinejad a persona non grata, noting that there was a precedent for doing so, when the US denied entry to Austrian President and former UN Secretary-General Kurt Waldheim because of his complicity in war crimes. Asked why he hadn't been able to get his own country to act against Ahmadinejad when he was justice minister, Cotler admitted that Canada did not have a history of initiating such measures. He said that he had proposed that action be taken against the Iranian president, but that the government had been replaced before it could be implemented. However, Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has indicated that Australia may take the initiative against Ahmadinejad. In that case, Cotler surmised, Canada and Israel might join in the Australian initiative, which could lead France, the UK and Germany to follow suit.