Chair of Raoul Wallenberg Human Rights Centre, Former Minister of Justice/Attorney General of Canada
Irwin Cotler is Chair of the Raoul Wallenberg Centre for Human Rights, Emeritus Professor of Law at McGill University, former Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, and longtime Parliamentarian.
An international human rights lawyer, Professor Cotler has served as Counsel to prisoners of conscience including Andrei Sakharov & Nathan Sharansky (former Soviet Union), Nelson Mandela (South Africa), Jacobo Timmerman (Latin America), Prof. Saad Eddin Ibrahim (Egypt) and he was Chair of the International Commission of Inquiry into the Fate and Whereabouts of Raoul Wallenberg. He is a Member of the International Legal Team of Chinese Nobel Peace Laureate Liu Xiaobo, and serves as international legal counsel to imprisoned Saudi blogger Raif Badawi, imprisoned Venezuelan democratic opposition leader Leopoldo López, and imprisoned Baha'i leadership in Iran. A feature article on him in Canada’s national magazine – Maclean’s – referred to him as “Counsel for the Oppressed”, while the Oslo Freedom Forum characterized him as “Freedom’s Counsel.”
When Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad arrives in New York to address the UN General Assembly it will be a cruel parody of law and justice that will put us on the wrong side of
history. Simply put, this charade ignores and undermines basic principles of domestic, international, and humanitarian law.
Ahmadinejad will enter the U.S. despite being inadmissible under American law. He will address the United Nations General Assembly despite being in violation of its UN Charter and international law. And, he will be indulged by universities, institutes, and the media, thereby sanitizing his crimes and mocking the suffering of the Iranian people.
As you know, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad will address the 67th session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York City next Wednesday. While he is not the first war criminal to seek the world stage and will not be the last, the US has the power to refuse him a visa to set foot on American soil.
Indeed, President Ahmadinejad is a classic case study of an inadmissible war criminal who belongs on the US "Watchlist." Simply put, those who "aid terrorists ... persecute religious minorities ... or commit or incite to genocide" are prohibited from entering the United States, and the evidence of President Ahmadinejad's criminality on each of these counts is as clear as it is compelling.
I have been writing for over a year now of the need to affirm and implement the Responsibility to Protect doctrine to help save Syrian civilians being massacred by the Assad regime. Everything that was predicted would happen in Syria as a result of international action has in fact resulted, but from international inaction. It is now as timely as it is necessary to increase pressure on Assad, and those loyal to him.
These are but the latest set of condemnations following a week of the Assad regime's massive atrocity crimes. I remain haunted by the poignant and painful final words of UK-based correspondent Marie Colvin before she herself was murdered, "In Baba Amr. Sickening...Watch a baby die today. Shrapnel, doctors could do nothing. His little tummy just heaved and heaved until he stopped..." That was from some four months ago.
Bill C-38 as a whole was introduced and steamrolled through parliament in a way that undermines our parliamentary democracy. Not only does it stand in contempt of parliament, it denies the public the right to information. I will now address nine primary areas of procedural, process, and constitutional concern in regard to C-38 -- though there are many more.
This hydra-headed Trojan horse budget implementation bill -- where the open-ended omnibus character masks its stealth-like impact -- will have prejudicial fallout in nearly every conceivable domain. Simply put, this legislation and the process of its implementation represents an affront to all Canadians, and Canadians should be appalled by it.
Clearly, the deployment of 290 unarmed UN monitors, not unlike the initial deployment of Arab League monitors, has ended up with the monitors being observers to the killing rather than a protection force to prevent the killing to begin with.
Negotiations over Iran's nuclear program between Iran and six major powers began Wednesday. Given the Iranian pattern of denial, deception, and delay, the whole while uranium continues to be enriched and centrifuges continue to spin, only a verifiable abandonment by Iran of its nuclear weapons pursuits will suffice.
Alberta-born Ronald Allan Smith is the only Canadian on death row in the United States. With his death sentence under review, I recently sent letters requesting that clemency be granted in the case. I petitioned the Governor because at issue in this case are fundamental -- and sacrosanct -- rights set out in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
As we celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the Harper government insists on casting the Canadian Bill of Rights as not only the catalyst for the Charter, but indeed itself as a great instrument of rights protection. This is to misstate history, to minimize the importance of Charter, and to marginalize the revolutionary impact that this document has had not only on our laws, but on our lives.
On the Charter's 30th anniversary, we find ourselves in a Dickensonian moment -- the best of times for the Charter in global constitutionalism terms, but a worrisome one in Canadian terms. To begin with, the landmark 30th anniversary process has gone without any remark or notice from the Harper government.
Regrettably, the 30th anniversary of any of the events in the landmark process to enshrining Canada's Charter of Rights and Freedoms has gone without any remark or notice from the government. Indeed, with just five days until the Charter's birthday we have yet to hear of any plans for official commemoration from the government.
Whether it's marginalizing low-income seniors by increasing the qualifying age for OAS, or cutting funds to regional development programs that create jobs, or not announcing any new funding for affordable housing -- when the existing program funds are set to expire soon -- this budget is simply wrongheaded, misguided, prejudicial, and disconnected from the needs of Canadians.
Syria's acceptance of UN and Arab League envoy Kofi Annan's six-point peace plan -- while welcome on its face -- will be tested by its implementation. In this regard, this seemingly dramatic announcement invites serious skepticism, borne of experience and the lessons of recent history.
Currently, Canadian law prohibits states from being sued except in relation to commercial matters. As such, state sponsors of terror are shielded from civil redress, and Canadian tax dollars are used to finance the defending of that state's immunity from liability. The Justice for Victims of Terrorism Act will fix this.
As we celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms -- and its transformative effect on the protection of women's rights -- it is important to recognize the singular role of the women's movement in the enactment of the Charter.
Today, the House had its final opportunity to debate Bill C-10, the Conservative omnibus crime bill. It is quick to judge non-violent offenders as needing lengthy mandatory minimum prison sentences in the face of all evidence to the contrary.
What is needed is a total quarantine of Syria -- global travel bans and asset freezes, a complete arms embargo, and utter diplomatic isolation and condemnation. The Syrian political and army leadership must be put on notice that they will be held accountable for their international criminality.
In the run-up to the Iranian election today, there has been a massive campaign underway for imprisonment and silencing of all opposition. There have been arrests, beatings, torture, detentions, kidnappings, disappearances, and executions -- indeed, an execution binge even by Iran's wanton standards.
One year ago this week, the world mourned the loss of Shahbaz Bhatti, Pakistan's minority affairs minister who was tragically assassinated. Whether it be the Christian Copt minority in Egypt -- itself under assault from extremists -- or the Baha'i community in Iran -- religious minorities around the world are under assault from radical regimes.