MONTREAL — Liberal MP Irwin Cotler was one of the international lawmakers to sign a declaration last month condemning Iran’s human rights abuses.
The inaugural declaration by the Trans-Atlantic Group on Counterterrorism (TAG) – formed in April 2008 and comprised of legislators from the United States, the European Union (including the Netherlands, Spain, United Kingdom, Austria, Romania and Cyprus) and Canada – called on the Iranian government to end human rights abuses of its citizens.
The declaration also called upon the United Nations to go to Iran to investigate alleged abuses, urged TAG members’ respective governments and the UN to investigate alleged abuses by Iran’s Basij militia, and said the UN Human Rights Council should freeze Iranian membership on the council pending investigation into Iranian human rights.
“This is historic because it is the first document signed by a group of international lawmakers addressing the Iranian regime’s human rights record against the Iranian people,” North Carolina Republican congresswoman Sue Myrick Myrick, who also co-chairs the U.S. bipartisan house caucus on counterterrorism, said in a statement issued following the declaration.
The signing took place inside the U.S. Congress in Washington shortly after TAG completed its second summit there and only a day before Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad addressed the UN General Assembly.
Speaking to reporters recently in his Mount Royal riding office, Cotler, the former justice minister and the Liberal party’s special counsel on human rights and international justice said the two-day conference in Washington underscored the need to continue the battle against jihadism, or radical Islam.
“The interesting thing is that jihadism is a term used by Muslims among themselves,” he said.
Cotler, the only Canadian in TAG, said the group’s lawmakers will seek to have their governments act upon the declaration and work to reach Muslims where the belief in radical Islam often begins: in mosques, schools and the media.
“It is a standing threat to their own communities,” Cotler said.
While Cotler praised the fact that the Canadian delegation to the UN boycotted Ahmadinejad’s address to the General Assembly, he also echoed comments made by Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff wondering why the Canadian government is taking no action to hold Iran to account.
On Sept. 23, Ignatieff “strongly urged” the Harper government to back Cotler’s bill (the Iran Accountability Act) and his international petition.
Cotler was also the only Canadian speaker at a rally in New York the day after Ahmadinejad spoke at the UN.