Symposium on Iranian President Ahmadinejad
International symposium of legal and diplomatic experts call on the United Nations to bring President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran to justice for incitement to genocide in violation of the 1948 Genocide Convention
(Left to right: Ruth Wedgwood, Justus Reid Weiner, Alan Dershowitz, Harold Tanner, Ken Bialkin, Meir Rosenne,
Martin Peretz, Dore Gold, Dani Naveh, Eitan Ben-Tzur, Irwin Cotler, Malcolm Hoenlein)
Prominent international law experts, diplomats, and other leaders met on Thursday, December 14, 2006 for a special symposium convened by the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations and the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs to discuss legal options for bringing President Ahmadinejad of Iran to justice for incitement to genocide. Addressing a standing-room only crowd of over 200 people at the offices of the New York County Lawyers' Association, a number of significant recommendations were presented in the first major international effort to prosecute President Ahmadinejad for violating the 1948 Genocide Convention provisions of the UN Charter and other international conventions. Among the recommendations to be pursued are:
1. States should initiate an Inter-State complaint against Iran, a State Party to the Genocide Convention, at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) for its “direct and public incitement to genocide” in violation of the Genocide Convention.
2. The UN Security Council should refer the issue of Ahmadinejad’s incitement to genocide to the Special Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) for investigation and prosecution.
3. State parties to the Genocide Convention, which have enabling domestic legislation, 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.
4. The UN Secretary-General should exercise his authority under Article 99 of the UN Charter under which he “may bring to the attention of the Security Council any matter which in his opinion may threaten the maintenance of international peace and security.”
5. President Ahmadinejad should be added to the US State Department’s Terrorist Watchlist
6. In pursuit of holding Iran responsible for its prior attacks against the Jewish people, Argentina should be supported in its efforts to implement the arrest warrants issued by the Argentinean judiciary for the named Iranian authorities – including former Iranian President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani - and Hezbollah operatives for the 1994 bombing of AMIA, the Argentine Jewish communal organization.
7. Individuals should ask their elected representatives to have their governments pursue all available avenues to bring Ahmadinejad to justice.
The program opened with remarks by US Ambassador to the UN John Bolton and Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee Representative Charles Rangel. Then followed presentations by the expert panel who presented a slew of recommended actions. The following are brief excerpts:
“Iran, and the government that President Ahmadinejad leads, is not simply a regime that engages in hateful rhetoric. It is seeking to acquire capabilities which, when married with the intentions that they (Iran) make public, have to be of very grave concern to the US, all its friends and allies, particularly Israel…The notion of taking Ahmadinejad seriously, taking seriously that he means what he says and intends to have the capabilities to carry through on it, is critical in our own internal discussions in the US about what we are going to do about it, and whether we will find ourselves a few years from now looking back, and asking as historians did, ‘How did we miss this?’”
“Where is our outrage? Where is the Catholic Church, the Protestant councils, the Muslims that are here? Because it does not seem to me that we are doing this for the Jewish people, that we are doing this for Israel. We all will have a role to play, at least morally, to say when a crisis exists, no matter what it was, someone may ask us…perhaps our children and grandchildren, and say ‘you heard what was going on, you knew the dangers, they said they wanted to kill, they told you who they hated, and just what did you do?’”
“The Genocide Convention is a convention with state parties like the US or Canada not only have a right to enforce, but have a duty to enforce…We should be referring Ahmadinejad’s genocidal incitement to the International Criminal Court (ICC) which equally prohibits in its treaty the direct and public incitement to genocide.”
“We should be supporting the international arrest warrants issues by the Argentinean judiciary for the arrest of Rafsanjani and other named officials in the Iranian government of that time, and Hezbollah operatives.”
“We reserve the inherent right of self-defense. We reserve that right on behalf of the US, on behalf of Israel, on behalf of the Jewish people, and on behalf of humankind. If the international community fails, if this challenge is not met, we reserve that right of self-defense. We reserve the right, never again to rely on international law to do what we are entitled to do to protect our children, our families, our future generations. And so finally, we pledge here today to do everything it takes, and anything it takes, to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons. We will stop at nothing in satisfying that pledge. We are asked what we will say to future generations if we fail. We will not fail. We cannot fail. We are today giving the international community a chance to prevent the nuclearization of Iran peacefully. But we are issuing a dire warning: we will not accept their answer if it does not provide equal justice and protection for the Jewish people.”
Amb. Eitan Ben-Tzur, former Director-General of the Foreign Ministry of Israel
“Could it be that the world remains quiet [about Ahmadinejad’s statements] also because of anti-Semitic predispositions? Perhaps it is not disconnected from the rising anti-Semitism in Europe, where only a year ago a poll conducted under the auspices of the European community found Israel alongside North Korea as countries endangering world peace the most.”
“We are here to launch a new initiative, to call on the UN to live up to its founding purpose. That means, first and foremost, dealing with the statements that are being made by the president of Iran which are a clear-cut violation of the anti-incitement clauses of the 1948 Genocide Convention. It is our hope that this initiative can be embraced by all peoples, because Jews, Muslims, Christians have all be victims of genocide. It is an initiative we hope will be embraced by all parts of the political spectrum, here in the US, in Europe and in Israel, by both the left and the right, by all movements and all peoples. We believe that this can serve as a basis of unity of action, because only through unity of action can we defeat this guy, and we must defeat the president of Iran.”
“We believe that Ahmadinejad’s actions warrant Iran’s removal, or at least its suspension, from the UN and the community of nations. Seventy years ago Hitler repeatedly made his intentions clear, but the international community chose to ignore or dismiss his threats. Avoidance or appeasement only exacerbate the dangers posed by tyrants like Ahmadinejad, who see such responses as indications of weakness, even capitulation.”
Dani Naveh, Israeli Knesset Member and former Israeli Minister of Health
“Should we wait for genocide to take place before we take action? The whole idea of the UN charter from 1948, describing the crime of incitement to commit genocide as a crime, is based on the idea that we should not wait for the crime of genocide to take place. We should act beforehand.”
“Iran is all over. They are not only involved in that campaign of achieving nuclear weapons. I can tell you they are involved deeply with Hezbollah in Lebanon. Thanks to the assistance that [Hamas] has been receiving from Iran, they have been rearming themselves as well. In the end of the day, the threat is not only to the State of Israel or the United States, but to the entire international community. We should be united and we should work together to do the utmost in order to stop that threat from taking place.”
Martin Peretz, Editor-in-Chief of The New Republic and Harvard University Professor
“I think we are now at a moment that reminds us of the late 1930’s in England. We had Chamberlin who wanted to engage the dictator. We had Chamberlin who went on his knees to Hitler. And then we had Churchill who did not want to engage, but he wanted to pursue. I believe we now have James Baker and company wanting to engage when it is time to pursue, to pursue, to pursue.”
“Today we face quite a credible threat, in view of the campaign waged by the president of Iran. Unfortunately, in spite of some statements by some European leaders, in spite of the resolution adopted by the UN Security Council threatening Iran with sanctions, nothing has been done to stop Iran from developing nuclear weapons…Since Hitler, no leader of any nation has threatened Israel this way. ‘Im ain ani li, mi li?’ This is what Hillel said. ‘If we don’t act for ourselves, who will do it for us?’ ”
Dr. Ruth Wedgwood, Professor of International Law and Diplomacy at Johns Hopkins University
“The one hope thing is that the Arab Sunni states are terrified of Iran. They see them as the new hegemon on the Eastern Mediterranean. They will take over Lebanon, Syria, and Egypt; Saudi Arabia and Jordan are very concerned. The question is how to use that [concern] and mobilize?”
“Israel itself could go [to the ICJ] under the Genocide Convention, as Bosnia did against Serbia, and ask for a clarification of the interpretation of the Genocide Convention, in addition to going to the ICC…on a referral from the Security Council.”
“One has to quote back to the UN its own phrase – it’s now the favorite phrase in the international law community – ‘responsibility to protect’. And that means not simply the obligation of a country to avoid hurting its own people, but the obligation of other countries to prevent any bad actor from malevolently hurting an isolated and endangered population.”
In a message addressed to the symposium Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY) wrote:
“To deny the Holocaust places the President of Iran in company with the most despicable bigots and historical revisionists. It is an insult not only to the memory of the millions of Jews who suffered and died in the Shoah, but also to the troops of the United States and its allies who, in the fight to liberate Europe from Nazism, bore witness to the reality of the Holocaust. Such comments only add greater urgency to the necessity of denying nuclear weapons to Iran. A nuclear Iran is a danger to Israel, to its neighbors and beyond. The regime’s pro-terrorist, anti-American and anti-Israel rhetoric only underscores the urgency of the threat it poses. US policy must be clear and unequivocal. We cannot and should not – must not – permit Iran to build or acquire nuclear weapons.”