OpinionIran in the World PressStep up pressure on Iran torturers

Step up pressure on Iran torturers

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Toronto Star: Zahra Kazemi did not die in “an accident” at Tehran’s notorious Evin prison, whatever Iran’s discredited courts may claim. She was savagely beaten, tortured and raped, according to a physician who treated her as she lay dying from a brain injury. Toronto Star

Zahra Kazemi did not die in “an accident” at Tehran’s notorious Evin prison, whatever Iran’s discredited courts may claim. She was savagely beaten, tortured and raped, according to a physician who treated her as she lay dying from a brain injury.

Kazemi, an Iranian-born Canadian photojournalist, was arrested June 23, 2003, outside Evin prison while taking pictures at a pro-democracy rally. Three days later she was carried unconscious on a stretcher into Baghiatollah military hospital, reports Maj. Shahram Azam, a physician in the Iranian security forces who treated her. She never recovered.

What Dr. Azam saw at the hospital that night shocked him and will outrage Canadians, including the 250,000 of Iranian origin in this country.

Kazemi’s skull was badly bruised and her nose was crushed. Her eardrum was ruptured. Fingers were broken. Fingernails and toenails were ripped out. Her ribs were bruised, possibly broken. She had been flogged. A nurse reported Kazemi had been violently raped. “I could see this was torture,” Azam said yesterday in Ottawa, after arriving this week with his family seeking asylum. And he said the torture went on for some time.

Azam’s horrific account of Kazemi’s last hours makes a mockery of the Iranian court’s claim that her death resulted from “a drop in blood pressure resulting from a hunger strike” and a fall to the ground.

While Canadians have just learned of Azam’s findings, Prime Minister Paul Martin’s government has known for months. Why wasn’t the information made public? And why did Foreign Affairs Minister Pierre Pettigrew suggest lamely yesterday that “Canadians want answers”?

What Canadians want is action.

That action should start today with Martin recalling our ambassador to Iran and demanding Tehran immediately reopen the probe into Kazemi’s death, with full Canadian and international participation. He should push for a statement by the United Nations endorsing that approach.

Martin should also insist Iran surrender Kazemi’s remains to her family for burial here. That would allow the family to seek an autopsy to verify Azam’s account. If Tehran balks, Martin should expel Iran’s ambassador, bar officials from visiting here, and downgrade ties with the regime.

He should then petition the International Criminal Court to hold Ayatollah Ali Khameini and Iran’s rulers to account. Article 8 of the Rome Statute that created the court gives it jurisdiction over crimes “committed as part of a plan or policy” that violate the Geneva Conventions, including “wilful killing” and “torture or inhumane treatment.” Kazemi was subjected to both under a policy to crush dissidence. We have a case.

Martin has already rightly labelled Iran an “emerging threat” because of its attempts to develop technology that can be used to make nuclear weapons, and because of its support for terror. He should push other countries to adopt the same view. Finally, Canada must sponsor more embarrassing U.N. resolutions censuring Iran for rights abuses.

Martin must be relentless in this. That’s because until justice is delivered for Zahra Kazemi, the whole world must know that Iran is run by a brutal regime that lies and turns a blind eye to torture and murder.

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