By Payam Akhavan
In the aftermath of the brutal repression of peaceful pro-democracy demonstrations in Iran, the evidence of systematic murder, rape, torture and unlawful detention of thousands of protestors continues to accumulate. Under international law, these large-scale atrocities constitute crimes against humanity for which the relevant Iranian officials bear individual criminal responsibility. How should Canada and the international community respond to a regime with such an appalling disregard for the human rights of its citizens? A first step is to recognize that leaders ordering or tolerating such atrocities are international outlaws who should be denied admission to Canada and other democracies.
The numerous horror stories emerging from Iran confirm a consistent pattern of extreme violence against those detained for participating in the protests. A severely traumatized 15-year-old boy recounts how he was arrested for wearing the green wrist-band of the opposition, and subjected to savage beatings, sexual humiliation and gang-rape for 20 days. Another youth describes the condition of his 24-year-old friend Amir Javadifar, who was arrested during the protests and tortured to death in custody: “He had a fractured skull, one of his eyes was almost crushed, all the nails on his toes had been extracted and all of his body was bruised.” Alas, there are now hundreds and hundreds of such accounts by victims and witnesses despite the censorship and intimidation of the regime.
There is little doubt that such abuses are part of a state-sanctioned policy of terrorizing supporters of the “Green Movement” that challenged President Ahmadinejad’s electoral victory in June. While 100 protest leaders are prosecuted in a farcical show trial and accused of a “foreign conspiracy,” nobody has been prosecuted for the heinous crimes against thousands of prisoners. One of the senior judiciary officials assigned to investigate these allegations is the notorious henchman, Saeed Mortazavi, implicated in the murder of Canadian photojournalist Zahra Kazemi in July 2003 and in the torture of many others. Not surprisingly, he has dismissed reports of abuse as baseless. Another senior pro-regime figure has gone even further and called for the punishment of those who dare to expose these abominations. After reformist leader Mehdi Karroubi publicly stated that “female detainees were raped savagely” in prison, Ayatollah Ahmad Khatami declared that Karroubi “deserves to be punished for libel.”
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