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photo of David Matas





 
WINNIPEG’S DAVID MATAS ADDRESSES PROTESTERS OUTSIDE IRANIAN EMBASSY IN OTTAWA

By Rhonda Spivak

Winnipeg-based international human rights lawyer David Matas addressed about 60 protestors protesting the regime of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad across from the Iranian Embassy in Ottawa on Dec 29th, calling on the Canadian government to impose sanctions on Iran.

Dozens of protesters including former MP David Kilgour, co-chair of Canadian Friends of a Democratic Iran, waved Iranian flags and chanted slogans across from the Iranian Embassy for about an hour in frigid temperatures.

The protest was reported on by the Ottawa Citizen and other Canadian media.

In his speech delivered outside the Iranian Embassy, Matas said:  “With the killing of protestors this past Sunday, we are seeing the last days of the regime of the mullahs in Iran.  The regime has been repressing violently those dissidents who protest the apparent rigging of the June 2009 presidential election…  As the dissent broadens and deepens, the [Iranian] police and army will see their friends, their neighbours, their relatives on the other side.  They will abandon repression in increasing numbers.  The repression will collapse and the regime will end.”
 
Matas addressed the question of whether people outside Iran, such as himself, should do anything to actively protest. He listed the reasons “ to hesitate”  about doing anything, as follows:
 
…“The more vociferous outsiders are the more ammunition outsiders give to the regime in its campaign to blame its foreign enemies for the dissent.
 
“  The leader of the dissent, Mir-Hossein Mousavi, the presidential candidate from whom victory seems to have been stolen, was prime minister of Iran from 1981 to 1989.  During that period, the regime as a whole and he personally were complicit in gross human rights violations, including mass killings, inflicted on the Iranian people.
 
“One of Mousavi's key supporters is Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, president of Iran from 1989 to 1997.  Buenos Aires prosecutors have charged Rafsanjani with ordering Hezbollah to carry out the July 1994 bomb attack on the Argentine Jewish Community Centre (AMIA) which killed 85 people and injured hundreds.
 
“The current regime has stated it is determined to proceed to nuclearization and appears hell bent on weaponization.  On this issue, as alarming as the statements and behaviour of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad have been, Mousavi has been worse.  When he was prime minister of Iran, he was knee deep in the secret development of Iranian nuclear capacity, authorizing the purchase of centrifuges on the black market.”

Matas concluded, however, that people outside of Iran ought to protest, saying
“Despite all these reasons for hesitancy, my view is that we who are outside should join with those who are inside in combating the stealing of the elections and the repression of the protestors.  This is not an issue of insiders or outsiders, Iranians or foreigners.  The crimes of the regime are crimes against humanity.  They are crimes against us all.  We have every right to protest because we too are the victims.”
 
He added, “Human rights are not a reward bestowed on those who behave in the right way.  A mass killer is as entitled to have his basic human rights respected as a saint…  In the case of Mousavi and Rafsanjani, the rights to which they are entitled are the rights associated with a fair trial for crimes against humanity.”
 
In an interview by email following the protest, The Winnipeg Jewish Review asked Matas what kind of sanctions could Canada be imposing, and he replied “oil and gas.”
 
 
When asked, whether he believes Canada should be actively supporting the opposition in Iran, Matas replied “I do not think Canada should support any one opposition group.  Canada should oppose human rights violations inflicted on all.”
 
When asked what else he thinks Canada should be doing, Matas responded “The resolution on Iran at the United Nations General Assembly which Canada leads can be improved.  For the last General Assembly I had suggested a revised text.”
 
 
Matas suggested adding the  phrase “at home and abroad" into the resolution on Iran. He explained “With the changes, the resolution would oppose harassment, intimidation and persecution of political opponents and human rights defenders from all sectors of Iranian society outside of Iran as well as inside Iran.”


He also proposed the addition of the phrase "inflicted at home and abroad"  inserted in paragraph 3(h) of that U.N. Resolution. With the proposed change, an example of human rights violations that would be captured by the resolution would be violations against the Jewish people inflicted outside Iran, including the Iranian regime’s denial of the Holocaust, and regime’s advocating that Israel “must be wiped off the map.” It would also apply in the situation of the terrorist attack planned by the government of Iran on the Jewish community centre in Buenos Aires in 1994.

 
As Matas explained “Argentina has requested the extradition of five suspects from Iran for their part in the bombing and issued Interpol red notices for them. One of the five was Ahmed Vahidi.  After the most recent elections in Iran, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad named Vahidi as his Minister of Defense.”
 
In addition to being a well-known human rights lawyer, Matas is also the senior honourary counsel to B'nai Brith Canada.

A version of the above article will also be published in the Vancouver Jewish Independent.

 
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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.


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