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Statement of David Matas to a Press Conference on Iran

21 September 2009
New York Marriott East Side Hotel
New York City

We are two days away from the scheduled address of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to the United Nations General Assembly. The Iranian regime of the mullahs flouts international standards with impunity.

There are regrettably all too many governments who violate human rights. However, even amongst this sombre list of gross human rights violators, Iran stands apart. Iran does not just violate human rights in a gross manner. It challenges through word and deed the whole international legal order.

a) The regime denies the Holocaust, the underpinning and catalyst for the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the United Nations Human Rights Commission and Council, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, the Genocide Convention, the Refugee Convention, the International Criminal Court, and the human rights component of the laws of war. By denying the Holocaust, the regime denies the legitimacy of the whole international human rights superstructure built on the foundations of the Holocaust.

b) The Iranian regime of the Mullahs calls for a member of the United Nations, Israel, to be wiped off the map. The eliminationist antisemitism of the Nazis led to World War II, the killing of sixty two million people, 25 million military and 37 million civilian. The eliminationist anti-Zionism of the Iranian regime of the mullahs threatens the world order as did the Nazi regime did before it.

c) The regime has engaged in nuclearization and weaponization of its developing nuclear capacity in violation of International Atomic Energy Safeguards. A nuclear weapons capacity in a state which rejects the international legal order poses a threat to the international community the likes of which we have never seen.

d) The regime has conducted fraudulent elections and then violently suppressed its political opposition both at home and abroad. Part of that suppression was the attack on Camp Ashraf on July 28, home of the People's Mujahadeen of Iran, killing eleven, injuring 500 hundred, arbitrarily detaining thirty six. Though the attack was by Iraqi forces, it was done after the request of Iran. This request was public made at a publicly reported meeting between Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei February 28, 2009. After the attack on Camp Ashraf, the Iranian Parliamentary speaker Ali Larjani welcomed the attack, calling it praiseworthy.

The issue has ceased to be what Iran is going to do. Iran will continue to violate human rights and deny the legitimacy of the international legal order. The question becomes: what is the international community going to do?

I suggest the international legal order should take these initiatives:

1) The president of the General Assembly on Wednesday should deny Mahmoud Ahmadinejad the podium. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad should not be allowed to speak.

2) If he is allowed to speak, all rights respecting states should walk out for his speech. Those who support the international legal order should show with their feet where they stand.

3) The United Nations General Assembly should again pass a resolution this year about Iran condemning Iran for its gross human rights violations. That resolution should condemn the suppression of its political opposition both at home and abroad, including the suppression through the instrumentality of Iraq, of the People's Mujahadeen of Iran, at Camp Ashraf.

4) The United Nations Security Council should refer the situation in Iran to the International Criminal Court for possible prosecution for incitement to genocide and crimes against humanity. In my view, there is a compelling case to be made that the regime of the mullahs is guilty of incitement to genocide against the Jewish people and crimes against humanity inflicted on its political opposition.

5) The United States should itself oppose the violations and rejections of international standards of the Iranian regime. One way to do that is reassert protection of Camp Ashraf. The Multi-National Forces in Iraq which the United States headed declared the residents of Camp Ashraf to be protected persons under the Geneva Conventions on the Laws of War. Now that Camp Ashraf has shifted to Iraqi control, Iraq at the bidding of Iran, has ceased to offer protection. The US has a continuing obligation to protect the residents of the Camp which it should assert.

6) As bad as the attack of July 28 on Camp Ashraf was, the residents of the Camp, at the hands of the forces of Iraq under the prodding of Iran, face the threat of far worse. The United Nations Assistance Mission in Iraq (UNAMI) should establish a permanent observer human rights post in the Camp to discourage such a threat.

7) The government of Iraq should release the 36 arbitrarily detained. Their release has already been ordered by two different court orders. The Government of Iraq needs to break free from the thralls of the government of Iran.

8) The Iraqi government, under the prodding of Iran, has threatened to forcibly relocate the residents of Camp Ashraf away from the place where they have lived for twenty three years and made their homes to an uninhabitable desert in the West of Iraq. Such a forcible relocation would violate a wide variety of international standards. All the international human rights mechanisms, as well as governments and non-governmental organizations, should oppose this threatened forcible relocation.

We must not think that the threat Iran poses to the international community is limited to those who are in its immediate sights. We live in an interconnected world where a grave attack on one group is an attack on us all. Unless the international community acts to defend the immediate targets of the wrath of Iran, we will all suffer.

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