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Baird open to idea of legal options against Iran: Cotler

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Irwin Cotler

MONTREAL — Foreign Minister John Baird was receptive to counsel that Canada should seek more international support for using legal options against Iran, Liberal human rights critic Irwin Cotler told The CJN after meeting with Baird recently in Ottawa.

Back from a visit to the Middle East earlier this summer, Cotler has been writing, meeting with Israeli leadership (including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu) and lobbying to increase efforts to counter Iran’s strategy of “denial, deception and delay” in furthering its nuclear ambitions.

“It is clear to me this is what Iran is doing,” Cotler said in a recent telephone interview. “What we really need to implement is a series of legal and juridical remedies.”

Based on findings by the all-party Canadian foreign affairs committee and the international Responsibility to Protect (R2P) coalition, which Cotler chairs, Cotler told Baird Canada could work with such like-minded nations as the Netherlands, Italy, Australia, Germany and potentially others in seeking to hold Iran accountable.

The coalition’s conclusions were, Cotler said, “to the effect that Iran has already committed the crime of incitement, prohibited under the [UN] Genocide Convention and international law; and Canada and other state parties to the Genocide Convention have a legal responsibility – not just a policy option – to hold Iran and its leaders to account.”

Cotler has also argued that Iran could be brought before the International Court of Justice in The Hague.

At the diplomatic level, Cotler told The CJN, Iran is essentially mocking the work of “P5+1” nations (the five United Nations Security Council members – United States, United Kingdom, Russia, China and France, “plus” Germany) in trying to keep Iran in check through negotiations.

“In fact, I would say that Iran is using negotiations as a means to nuclear enrichment” and “weaponization,” he said, “by denying, deception and delay.”

Even if you accept the idea, as some do, that Iran would not necessarily use a nuclear bomb even if it had one, mere Iranian possession of one would “completely alter the strategic calculus,” Cotler said. “Iran would still constitute a clear and present danger.”

Cotler has been elaborating on the issue wherever he can and recently delineated 13 “undertakings Iran must be called upon to do” to satisfy concerns about the nuclear question and lead to “abandonment of its nuclear weapons pursuit.”

He also is seeking more international co-operation against Iran’s frequent state sponsorship of international terrorism by Hezbollah and other groups, adding that such international effort should use the expertise of Israel, “the leading target of this Iranian wave of terror.”

One obvious way includes enhancing sanctions against Iran, Cotler said.

The recent bombing of an airport bus filled with Israeli tourist in Burgas, Bulgaria, reflects “the lethal convergence of Hezbollah operatives and Iranian instructions,” Cotler has written.

On another issue, Cotler said Baird was also open to the idea of making representations to Russia to finally “come clean” on the fate of Raoul Wallenberg, the Swedish diplomat credited with saving tens of thousands of Jews during World War II.

“The smoking gun as to his fate is known to be in Russian archives, so the burden is on them,” Cotler said.

Cotler is also continuing to work on the case of Ouda Tarabin, an Israeli Bedouin in Egyptian custody since 2000 for allegedly entering Egypt illegally.

Tarabin was convicted in May to a lengthy prison term, even though a United Nations working group on arbitrary detention concluded that he had been “illegally arrested, held, convicted and sentenced – and should be released right now with compensation,” Cotler said.

Cotler said Tarabin is also being helped by his “amazing lawyer” in Israel, Yitzhak Meltzer.

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