'Indict Ahmadinejad' drive fails to take off

In 2006 Dore Gold began pushing campaign to prosecute Ahmadinejad for incitement to genocide under UN treaty.

Ahmadinejad 224 ap (photo credit: )
Ahmadinejad 224 ap
(photo credit: )
One year ago, a team of diplomats, international jurists and other luminaries, led by former ambassador Dore Gold of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, launched a global initiative to indict Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad for incitement to genocide under a UN treaty. The campaign drew media interest, was taken up by the US Congress, and has even been adopted by several candidates in the race for the White House. But no government has yet taken serious legal action on the idea, even though proponents contend it is a viable option, short of war, to hinder Iran's nuclear ambitions. "In my opinion, it's a very solid case from a legal standpoint, from an evidentiary standpoint, and from a moral standpoint," Canadian MP Irwin Cotler, an early sponsor of the initiative, told The Jerusalem Post. Cotler is a former justice minister and attorney general who indicted two Rwandans for inciting tribal genocide during Rwanda's vicious civil war. Cotler noted that Ahmadinejad's personal Web site even has a photo of Shihab-3 missiles parading through Teheran with banners saying: "Wipe Israel off the map, as the Imam said." "This is an even more dangerous case [than Rwanda], where you have religiously motivated fanaticism combined with a determined nuclear quest," said Cotler. A member of the Liberal Party, he had high hopes of bipartisan support for Canada to take action against Ahmadinejad, but has yet to win the backing of Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who is otherwise a strong supporter of Israel. "No country seems to want to take the lead, but they would follow if someone else did," said Cotler. Reports out of Washington indicate that the Canadian government was ready to move on a referral to the UN or International Court of Justice, but was waiting for Congress to adopt a resolution taken up by the House of Representatives last year. That resolution passed the House last summer 411 to 2, but has stalled in the Senate. Some Democrats, including Joe Biden, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, are apparently concerned the resolution may be used by the Bush Administration to justify military action against Iran, according to Richard Hellman, head of the Christian pro-Israel lobby CIPAC, which has spearheaded a year-long lobbying campaign for it. "Several senators were very keen to move on the resolution, but Chairman Biden has decided to sit on it, and his aides are not giving us a clear answer as to why. I suspect it's the military excuse," Hellman said. Biden is indeed opposed to a pre-emptive military strike on Iran. When he recently dropped his presidential bid after a poor showing in Iowa, his parting shot was a vow to personally lead an effort to impeach President George W. Bush if he attacks Iran without congressional approval. "Instead of providing a pretext for war, this would squarely put the issue before the UN and fulfill that body's founding principle to prevent genocide," countered Hellman. He hopes to revitalize the lobby effort on Capitol Hill, particularly as it becomes a campaign issue. Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney has a plank about indicting Ahmadinejad in his platform, while Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton endorsed the idea early on. Meanwhile, Cotler pointed to Australia as another promising option, after newly elected Labor Prime Minister Kevin Rudd embraced the JCPA's initiative late in his campaign. "We would like to initiate legal proceedings against President Ahmadinejad on a charge of incitement to genocide," Rudd promised. "Adopting this approach would serve two purposes. Firstly, as former Israeli UN ambassador Dore Gold mentioned, it will move the international legal system from punishing genocide post-facto to preventing it before it occurs." Cotler said he senses the window for legal action may be closing, as Ahmadinejad appears to be curtailing his hostile rhetoric. Still, Cotler plans to press the matter with top UN officials, and remains hopeful someone will take the lead.