Thank you to all members of the Iran 180 Coalition. To be in the company of fellow Canadian, broadcaster Shabnam Assadollahi, in receiving it is also a great honour. Few if any individuals in my country are more dedicated than she is to improving the well-being of seventy million Iranians.
Since Mr. Ahmadinejad became president in 2005, he has imprisoned protesters, tortured prisoners and in recent months even escalated the execution rate.
He is doing his utmost to develop nuclear weapons, while insisting that it is only for peaceful purposes that he wants to enrich uranium. Iran has an estimated 300 year supply of natural gas, so his real aim is clear. Nuclear weapons in his hands would be a major setback for security in both the Middle East and world.
Professor Irwin Cotler, chair of the International Responsibility to Protect Coalition, warns that Iran’s government “… now leads the world in per capita executions, many of which are in secret, taking place after arrests, detentions, beatings, torture, kidnappings, disappearances, and brief trials in which no evidence is presented.”
Cotler has called for several responses, including the creation of a special tribunal by the Security Council to deal with crimes by Tehran officials.
We Americans/Canadians generally and the entire world have a responsibility to stand in robust solidarity with the struggle for dignity for all in Iran.
I close with a word about Ashraf. Approximately 3200 Iranian refugees at Ashraf in Iraq, supporters of the People's Mojahedin Organization of Iran, are at serious risk of more violence from the Tehran-influenced government of Iraq.
Amnesty International notes, “In the past five months the already appalling medical conditions at (Ashraf) have deteriorated even further. Many residents are reportedly suffering from … diseases that without prompt and adequate treatment can result in irreversible health damage...”
International law experts say that the U.S. government must resume protection for all Ashraf residents as ‘protected persons’ under the Fourth Geneva Convention since the Iraqi government clearly has no intention of discharging its legal obligations as successor guarantor”.
In Brussels last December, the European Parliament adopted a declaration called on the E.U. to urge the U.S. government to follow the example of the 27 E.U. countries by removing the PMOI from its blacklist and urge the U.N. to provide urgent protection for Ashraf residents.
The risks to Ashraf residents cannot be ignored. There are terrible examples of what can happen when the international community and the United Nations fail to protect vulnerable communities, including Rwanda, Bosnia (Srebrenica), Kosovo and Darfur. The residents of Ashraf must not be added to the “list of shame”.