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Iranian Nobel laureate urges sanctions against officials

Shirin Ebadi (Bengt Oberger/Wikimedia Commons photo)

Iranian Nobel Peace Prize laureate Shirin Ebadi has joined the Montreal-based Raoul Wallenberg Centre for Human Rights (RWCHR) in urging Canada to sanction what it calls “the architects of repression” in Iran.

The RWCHR says this could be done under the so-called Magnitsky act, which allows the government to impose sanctions in the form of travel bans and asset freezes on individuals responsible for gross human rights violations in other countries.

“I believe that any targeted sanctions against regime officials or people within the establishment who have violated human rights would be the best way of helping us (the Iranian people),” said Ebadi, who became the first Iranian to receive a Nobel Prize in 2003, in a statement released Feb. 20.

A lawyer and judge in pre-revolutionary Iran, she has been persecuted by the Islamic regime for her pro-democracy activism. She was suspended from practising law for five years in 2000 for supposedly slandering members of the government.

In 2001, she co-founded and became president of the Human Rights Defence Centre. In 2008, Ebadi received death threats, and later that year security forces raided her office in Tehran and closed it down. The following year, the government confiscated her Nobel medal and froze her bank accounts.

She has, nevertheless, continued her human rights advocacy, including publishing the memoir, Until We are Free, in 2016.

In December, the RWHRC released a report titled Rights Over Repression in Iran: The Case for Canadian Magnitsky Sanctions. It identified 19 especially egregious rights-abusing Iranian officials that it says should be targeted under the legislation, formally called the Justice for Victims of Corrupt Foreign Officials Act.

Among them are government ministers, judges, prosecutors and heads of prisons.

“Naming and shaming these human rights abusers will be an important expression of solidarity with their victims and of pursuing justice and accountability for their criminality, and ending the culture of impunity that underpins it,” said Irwin Cotler, the founder and chair of the RWCHR.

“Sanctioning specific human rights violators is indispensable to mobilizing a critical mass of global advocacy to address and redress human rights violations in Iran.”

Cotler serves as the international legal counsel to several imprisoned Iranian human rights defenders and Iranian-Canadians. He noted that the RWHRC, which he created after he left politics, was recently listed by the Iranian regime as a “Top Enemy of 2018.”


Cotler long championed Canada following the United States and other countries in adopting a Magnitsky law, which is named for Sergei Magnitsky, the Russian lawyer and whistleblower who died in prison in 2009 under suspicious circumstances.