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Winnipeg’s David Matas, one of the world’s leading human rights activists, was in Ottawa on February 19  to present a submission on Iran to the House of Commons Subcommittee on International Human Rights.

Matas’ presentation focused on Iranian anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism which, he argued, are central to the regime of the mullahs of Iran.  “Though the regime bills itself as Islamic and Shiite, it is more accurate to describe it as anti-Zionist and anti-Semitic,” he said.
There is a difference in tone, he acknowledged, between the previous president of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the current, President Hassan Rouhani.  “Yet, in substance,” he noted, “the regime remains ideologically the same.”
At the top of the list, Matas noted, is Iran’s ongoing Holocaust denial.  He pointed out that former president Ahmadinejad hosted a Holocaust denial conference in Teheran in December, 2006.  Another one was scheduled for December, 2013, which Rouhani cancelled.
Matas quoted Rouhani as saying that “the crime that Nazis committed towards the Jews as well as non-Jews is reprehensible and condemnable”.[1]  But then, under Rouhani, the Holocaust denial conference happened anyway - last year, in October, 2014.
“Secondly,” Matas said, “the regime of the mullahs is actively hostile to any peace agreement between Palestinians and Israelis.  The regime takes the position that Israel should not exist, no matter whether the Palestinian authority comes to terms with Israel or not. Symptomatic of this attitude is the refusal of the regime even to call Israel by its name.  Instead Iran refers to Israel as the Zionist entity.  This is terminology President Rouhani himself uses.”
The Iranian constitution, Matas noted,  which was enacted after the revolution, states that Jews are a recognized religious minority who are free to perform their religious rites and ceremonies and to act according to their own canon in matters of personal affairs and religious education.[2]
“Yet, Jews, including Jewish community leaders, have been arbitrarily executed, accused and convicted of spying for Israel, and their property confiscated,” he reported.  “The leadership of the Jewish community has been forced to condemn Israel publicly and take part in anti-Israel demonstrations.
“The Jewish population of Iran has shrunk from 100,000 to 120,000 in 1948 to 8,756 in 2011.”     
Hezbollah in southern Lebanon, which is listed in Canada as a terrorist organization, was created by Iran to fight Israel, Matas said.  He quoted United States Federal Court judge Royce Lamberth, who stated in a May, 2003 judgment that “it is clear that the formation and emergence of Hezbollah as a major terrorist organization is due to the government of Iran. Hezbollah presently receives extensive financial and military technical support from Iran, which funds and supports terrorist activities.”
He referred to the bombings of the Israeli embassy in Buenos Aires, Argentina in March, 1992, and the Jewish community centre in the same city in July, 1994, which killed more than 100 and injured over 300 as the work of Hezbollah with the support of Iran.
“The Argentinean intelligence service investigated this second attack and concluded, in a detailed report, that the attack was planned and organized by the Government of Iran.  The decision to mount the attack was taken in August, 1993 by Iran’s National Security Council.  Participating in the decision were the then and current leader Ayatollah Khamenei as well as the then president Hashemi Rafsanjani.  Iran used Hezbollah to perpetrate the attack.”
Among the actions that Matas called upon the Government of Canada to take were to expand the exceptions to sovereign immunity to catch Iranian human rights violations in a larger net.  “It should be possible for victims of the Iranian regime to sue in our courts for the harm that the regime has done to them,” he said.
“Parliament has enacted the Justice for Victims of Terrorism Act in 2012 and the Government has designated Iran under that legislation.  The designation of Iran allows victims to sue Iran for acts of terrorism.
“Yet, the crimes of Iran go beyond terrorism to encompass a wide range of international human rights violations.  We need exceptions to the state immunity regime which cover genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity and torture.  We commend to your attention Bill C-632, the Private Member’s Bill of Irwin Cotler, the proposed Redress for Victims of International Crimes Act which does just that.”
He seconded the suggestion of a previous submission by Mark Dubowitz from the Foundation for Defense of Democracies that Canada should campaign to link any arms agreement between Iran and foreign states to a human rights component paralleled on the Helsinki Accord.  He also encouraged Canada to urge the European Union to list Hezbollah as a whole (and not just its military wing) as a terrorist entity.
And finally, Matas called on Canada to use stronger language at the United Nations General Assembly when Canada once again takes the lead in sponsoring a resolution about Iran, by adding comments about the regime’s anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism.

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