By The Canadian Press - Tuesday, February 5, 2013 - 0 Comments
MONTREAL – The son of Canadian Zahra Kazemi says he gets no satisfaction from…
MONTREAL – The son of Canadian Zahra Kazemi says he gets no satisfaction from the reported arrest of the former Iranian prosecutor who sent his mother to a prison where she was tortured and died.
Stephan Hashemi says Saeed Mortazavi is but a small fish in the repressive Iranian regime.
Iran’s Fars news agency has reported that Mortazavi was arrested this week and is being detained at Tehran’s Evin prison.
By Michael Petrou - Tuesday, December 14, 2010 at 6:00 AM - 68 Comments
In September, U.S. President Barack Obama signed an executive order imposing sanctions on Iranian officials determined to be responsible for serious human rights violations.
The idea that individual Iranians must be targeted for such violations, rather than exclusively because of involvement in Iran’s nuclear program, has long been advocated by McGill University international law professor, and co-founder of the Iran Human Rights Documentation Center, Payam Akhavan. Maclean’s understand the State Department consulted IHRDC while compiling its list of blacklisted individuals.
Obama’s order is significant because until recently most sanctions imposed on Iran have focused on the nuclear file. That this might be misguided is something I explored in an article last year. Challenging Iran over its nuclear program allows the regime to play to nationalist sentiments. Challenging Iran over human rights does not. Moreover, focusing on nuclear and other weapons suggests that should the Iranians involved cooperate, sanctions will be lifted and they will not suffer long-term consequences. But targeted sanctions based on human rights violations, says Akhavan, are an intermediate step before prosecution. They send a message that, one day, you will be held to account.
“The question is what are you incentivizing,” said Akhavan in an interview with Maclean’s. “Are you incentivizing cooperation on the nuclear program, or atrocities?”
This summer Canada imposed sanctions on 42 Iranians and 279 corporations. All individuals were singled out because of suspected involvement in Iran’s nuclear or other weapons programs, or because of membership in or affiliation with the senior ranks of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. This results in some overlap with the American list. But Akhavan says the fact that those Iranians blacklisted by Canada have not been targeted specifically because human rights violations is a crucial flaw. It is notable that former Tehran prosecutor-general Saeed Mortazavi, whom Ottawa accuses of responsibility in the murder of Iranian-Canadian photographer Zahra Kazemi, is blacklisted by the United States but not Canada.
“The point is not just declaring these people inadmissible, but setting them up for eventual prosecution,” says Akhavan. “There’s no sense [in the Canadian case] that what is being incentivized is better compliance with human rights regulations. It may seem academic, but it’s not.”
Akhavan says it is particularly important for Canada to target Iranian officials guilty of abusing human rights, because many of them are putting down roots in Canada.
“Canada is probably one of the biggest money laundering centres for the Islamic Republic,” he says.
“The rhetoric of the [Canadian] government is very strong, but very little concrete action is taken to make Canada inaccessible to those who are responsible for crimes against humanity. Many of their families are here. They send their children to schools here. They have investments here. The themselves have contingency plans for when there is a democratic change in Iran. Where are they likely to escape to? Well, they are likely to come to countries like Canada. So they set up an alternative life here. And one of the messages the international community has to send is that you will have nowhere to hide, because you’re blacklisted. Only then are they going to take seriously the use of human rights violations as a political instrument — when they realize that they are individually going to have to pay a price for it.”
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, September 24, 2009 at 2:11 PM - 32 Comments
Lawrence Cannon, today. The reasons behind our decision to boycott may be obvious, but are nonetheless worth repeating. Firstly, Iran has violated the human rights of its own citizens and foreign nationals, including Canadians Maziar Bahari (by unjustifiably detaining him) and Zahra Kazemi (whose death remains unexplained). This recently also has been demonstrated in its violent response against protestors following the fraudulent presidential election.
Michael Petrou, Nov. 20, 2008. Vafaseresht, a man who surely would have been a valuable witness and source of information for any legal case Canada might compile against Saeed Mortazavi, hasn’t been in touch with any Canadian diplomats or government officials since. It’s a stunning oversight, if one assumes that Stephen Harper was sincere when he said that Canada had not “dropped” the matter of Kazemi’s murder. But the available evidence suggests that Canada still isn’t serious about building a case against Mortazavi. Maclean’s interviewed Shahram Azam, a former staff physician in Iran’s Defence Ministry, who examined Kazemi four days after her arrest and found evidence of torture. Azam, who now lives in Canada and is willing to testify against Mortazavi, says no one from the Canadian government has contacted him about Kazemi since he arrived more than three years ago. Rodney Moore, a spokesman at Foreign Affairs, said that Canada did not consider the Kazemi case resolved but could not confirm if there is an ongoing investigation or extradition request, nor could a spokesperson for the Department of Justice.
By Michael Petrou - Wednesday, August 26, 2009 at 9:11 PM - 9 Comments
Here’s his take on the meeting, via the CBC.
And here’s Iran’s, via Press TV, with a nauseating explanation of Zahra Kazemi’s murder and the ongoing detention of Canadian journalist Maziar Bahari.
Press TV’s Canadian correspondent, Zahra Jamal, incidentally, continues to churn them out.
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, July 31, 2009 at 9:17 PM - 10 Comments
Paul Koring, July 24. Abousfian Abdelrazik, the Canadian citizen whose reputation remains tainted by ministerial accusations, wants his name restored and those Canadian security agents who aided his imprisonment in Sudan brought to justice … But the Harper government made it clear yesterday that Mr. Abdelrazik couldn’t expect any support in his efforts to remove his name from the UN list. Foreign Minster Lawrence Cannon, in a letter delivered yesterday, told Mr. Abdelrazik to check out a UN website that explains delisting procedures for individuals. “I regret to inform you that I must decline your invitation to meet,” the minister wrote.
Michael Petrou, July 27. There is nothing in Foreign Affairs’ response to indicate that Canada considered using Vafaseresht’s information in a legal case against Mortazavi … And Canada might have had good information to suggest that Vafaseresht’s story is not credible. But I also spoke to Shahram Azam, a former doctor in Iran’s Defence Ministry, who examined Kazemi four days after her arrest and found extensive evidence of torture. Azam now lives in Canada and says he is willing to testify against Mortazavi. But he too says no one from the Canadian government has talked to him about Kazemi either. MacKay said Canada would do whatever it takes to bring Mortazavi to justice. This apparently doesn’t include talking to the doctor who examined Kazemi’s broken body.
Canadian Press, tonight. The Canadian government has also formally asked Brazilian authorities for “more information” about Gatti’s death … ”The government of Canada is seeking more information on the investigation into the death of its citizen, and on the findings of the investigation,” Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon said in a statement Friday.
Foreign Affairs flies into action on the Zahra Kazemi case: “We are concerned that a very negative story might be published on the basis of the above allegations.”
By Michael Petrou - Monday, July 27, 2009 at 12:32 PM - 11 Comments
Last November, I published a story about an Iranian exile by the name of Behnam Vafaseresht who claimed to have been jailed at the Evin Prison in Tehran at the same time that Canadian journalist Zahra Kazemi was held and eventually murdered there. Vafaseresht said he had information implicating Saeed Mortazavi, the prosecutor general of Tehran, in Kazemi’s death.
This is significant because in 2006, then foreign affairs minister Peter Mackay said of Mortazavi: “Mark my words. This individual is on notice. If there is any way Canada can bring this person to justice, we’ll do it.” Prime Minister Stephen Harper also claimed he had asked Germany to detain Mortazavi should he set foot in the country so that he could be prosecuted for “crimes against humanity.”
Vafaseresht told Maclean’s that he met with Canadian embassy officials in Ankara in 2006 and 2007 and offered to testify any court case that Canada might launch against Mortazavi. He said Canadian officials, though they interviewed him in detail, were not interested in his help. He sought refuge in Germany and hasn’t heard from Canada since.
At the time, Foreign Affairs would neither confirm nor deny that any meetings with Vafaseresht took place. I therefore filed an access-to-information request about the alleged meetings and received a partial response last week, eight months after filing it – which makes Foreign Affairs’ response time lightning fast compared to the transparency-phobic folks at the Canadian International Development Agency. Continue…
By Michael Petrou - Thursday, June 25, 2009 at 11:25 AM - 2 Comments
Iranian jurist Saeed Mortazavi, Tehran’s general prosecutor, has been put in charge of interrogating jailed protesters and opposition members involved in demonstrations against the rigged June 12 presidential election.
Mortazavi played a direct role in the torture and murder of Canadian Zahra Kazemi while she was in Iranian custody in 2003. I wrote about Kazemi’s murder in detail after traveling to Iran in 2004 to secretly meet with Iranian democratic activists who were jailed with her. That article can be found here.
Foreign Affairs: pursuing all channels to protect Canadians, as long as it doesn't involve leaving the embassy compound
By Michael Petrou - Monday, May 25, 2009 at 10:17 PM - 2 Comments
Canadian freelance journalist Amanda Lindhout has been held captive in Somalia since August. In January, her Somali colleague Abdifatah Mohammad Elmi, was released. The CBC’s David McGuffin tracked him down in Kenya, where he revealed that no one from the Canadian government has been in touch since his release.
Foreign Affairs, as per usual, said it is pursuing the case through all appropriate channels but offered no details. Apparently it feels that talking to the man who spent some six months with Lindhout and her kidnappers wouldn’t be useful or appropriate.
I wish this suprised me. Unfortunately, this chasm between Canada’s rhetoric and action when it comes to protecting its citizens abroad is not new. As I wrote last year, despite making several chest-thumping statements about how it wants to bring the Iranian government officials who tortured and murdered Canadian journalist Zahra Kazemi to justice, Canada refused the help of an Iranian dissident who had first-hand knowledge of her abuse, and hasn’t bothered to talk to Shahram Azam, the doctor who examined her and now lives here.
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, November 25, 2008 at 1:35 PM - 1 Comment
Three of a kind.
Paul Koring in the Globe. “Although ministers told the House of Commons last spring that Abousfian Abdelrazik, a Canadian citizen, had received full consular assistance, the documents show a senior Foreign Affairs official explicitly ordered Canadian diplomats in Khartoum to stay away from the interrogation by U.S. agents.”
Wesley Wark in the Citizen. “The Conservative policy has hit a realpolitik wall. The United States has a new president-elect, Barack Obama, who has committed his government, repeatedly, to the closing down of Guantanamo Bay. Even if this promise is delayed in its execution, the trial of Omar Khadr will never lead anywhere; its wheels will come off, just as so many others are doing at Guantanamo Bay.”
Michael Petrou in Maclean’s. “Vafaseresht, a man who surely would have been a valuable witness and source of information for any legal case Canada might compile against Saeed Mortazavi, hasn’t been in touch with any Canadian diplomats or government officials since. It’s a stunning oversight, if one assumes that Stephen Harper was sincere when he said that Canada had not “dropped” the matter of Kazemi’s murder. But the available evidence suggests that Canada still isn’t serious about building a case against Mortazavi.”
By Paul Wells - Thursday, November 20, 2008 at 11:35 PM - 6 Comments
Michael Petrou asks an important question: Wouldn’t the Canadian government want to hear from a cooperative witness to the beating death of Zahra Kazemi?
By Michael Petrou - Thursday, November 20, 2008 at 9:00 AM - 12 Comments
Why did the Foreign Affairs Department rebuff a witness in the Kazemi affair?
Peter MacKay’s vow to seek justice for a tortured and murdered Canadian was decisive and explicitly clear. “Mark my words,” he said as minister of foreign affairs in June 2006. “This individual is on notice. If there is any way Canada can bring this person to justice, we’ll do it.”
The individual supposedly on notice was Saeed Mortazavi, the prosecutor general of Tehran. Mortazavi supervised and may have taken part in the violent interrogations of Canadian Zahra Kazemi, who, in 2003, was arrested for taking photographs of a vigil outside Tehran’s Evin prison, where most Iranian political prisoners are held. She was tortured and brutally raped while in custody, and died of her injuries. No one in Iran has ever been convicted for the murder. But upon hearing that Mortazavi would be part of Iran’s delegation to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, MacKay asked German authorities to arrest Mortazavi if he stopped in Germany. Prime Minister Stephen Harper said Canada had requested Mortazavi be detained so he could be prosecuted for “crimes against humanity.” Continue…