The outrage over Iran’s hosting of a Holocaust denial conference has tended to overshadow what should be a greater outrage: Iran’s state-sanctioned incitement to commit genocide. Simply put, the denial of genocide became a media event, but incitement to genocide in violation of the prohibition against the “direct and public incitement to commit genocide” in the Genocide Convention, the “never again” convention, is greeted with a yawn.
We are witnessing – and have been witnessing for some time – the emergence of state-sanctioned incitement to genocide, whose epicenter is President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s Iran. Ahmadinejad has presided over the parading of a Shihab-3 missile draped in the emblem that Israel be “wiped off the map,” while exhorting assembled thousands in their chants declaring “Death to Israel.”
The answer is for the international community to act now, as mandated under the Genocide Convention, to prevent this clear and present danger, not only to Israel and the Jewish people, but to international peace and security.
The “responsibility to prevent” obligation in international law requires that the following actions be undertaken with all deliberate speed:
1. State parties to the Genocide Convention, whose responsibility is to enforce the convention, should refer the genocidal incitement by President Ahmadinejad and other Iranian leaders to the appropriate UN agencies for account. It is astonishing that this genocidal incitement has yet to be addressed by any body or agency of the United Nations.
2. State parties should initiate in the International Court of Justice an inter-state complaint against Iran for its criminal violation of the Genocide Treaty.
3. The international criminality of President Ahmadinejad and other Iranian leaders should be referred by the UN Security Council to the special prosecutor of the International Criminal Court for investigation and prosecution.
4. State parties to the Genocide Convention should prepare criminal indictments for President Ahmadinejad, former president Rafsanjani, and other Iranian leaders on the basis of the “universal jurisdiction” principle embodied in the Genocide Convention.
5. NGOs should prepare an indictment of President Ahmadinejad and other Iranian leaders for the violation of the prohibition in both the Genocide Convention and the International Criminal Court Treaty against the “public and direct incitement to genocide.”
6. The new secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, who seeks to “lead by example,” should refer the genocidal incitement of President Ahmadinejad and other Iranian leaders to the UN Security Council, as a matter threatening international peace and security, pursuant to Article 99 of the UN Charter.
It is time that these juridical options be initiated, which might also embolden progressive forces within Iran, while holding the responsible individuals accountable. Indeed, recent history has taught us that sustained international juridical remedies can bring about the indictment of seemingly immune dictators, such as Slobodan Milosevic and Augusto Pinochet. This is an opportunity for countries to exercise juridical leadership in regard to one of the most important threats confronting the international community.
The writer is a former Canadian minister of justice and attorney general.
See also The Iranian Who Wants an Apocalypse