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Ahmadinejad and International Law

Ahmadinejad and International Law

Three important lessons from the Theater of the Absurd.


Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's recent visit to the United States and the UN was no less than a three-act play in the Theater of the Absurd. While it has been argued that his command performances at the UN, Columbia University and in the media further exposed his absurdity, critics need to look behind and beyond the on-stage theatrics, lest we ignore the depth of his regime's criminality and the suffering of the Iranian people.

Now that the curtain has fallen, the question becomes: What are the lessons to be learned and actions to be taken?

Arguably, there are three lessons to be learned, each corresponding with the acts in the Theater of the Absurd, and each with a lesson anchored in the rule of law; more particularly, in the disregard of the rule of law.

Ahmadinejad should have been declared an inadmissible person and placed on the "United States' Watchlist" of persons barred from entering the country.

First, President Ahmadinejad should have been declared an inadmissible person and placed on the "United States' Watchlist" of persons barred from entering the country. For American law excludes from entry any person who has engaged in, or incited to, terrorist activity, or who "has used his position of prominence to endorse or espouse terrorist activity in a way that undermines United States' efforts to reduce or eliminate terrorist activities."

The evidence of Iran's complicity in terrorist activity is clear and compelling. Ahmadinejad's Iran has recruited, trained, financed, instigated and armed its terrorist proxies such as Hamas, Hizbullah and Islamic Jihad, whose platforms and policies are replete with genocidal calls and terrorist activity that outdo even its Iranian patron.

Moreover, Ahmadinejad is in standing violation of the Genocide Conventions prohibition against the "direct and public incitement to genocide," which alone should be cause for exclusion. If it be argued that no precedent exists for excluding an sitting president, it should be recalled that Austrian president Kurt Waldheim was placed on the "US Watchlist" for his participation in the persecution of civilian populations during the Second World War.

The second act in this Theater of the Absurd was the invitation extended to Ahmadinejad to address Columbia University. This was not a matter of academic freedom. Columbia was not obliged to give Ahmadinejad a podium; rather, given his criminality, it was obliged not to give him a podium. Nor was this a matter of "free speech;" incitement to commit genocide is not protected speech. Indeed, it is a violation of international criminal law - including not only the Genocide Conventions but the International Criminal Court Treaty.

In fact, the best evidence for not inviting Ahmadinejad to Columbia was set forth in the "introduction" by Columbia's President Lee Bollinger of Ahmadinejad , which was more indictment than introduction, and appeared more as an exculpatory disclaimer -- however discourteous -- for the wrongful judgment to invite Ahmadinejad to begin with.

Further, the "justification" offered for the invitation by Columbia University Dean John Coatsworth - that he would have given Hitler a platform -- was devoid of any moral compass.

Third, and most disturbing, Ahmadinejad should not have been a welcome guest at the United Nations General Assembly. He should have been -- and should be -- the object of a criminal indictment, the elements for which can be found in Lee Bollinger's own introduction.

A person who incites to genocide and is complicit in crimes against humanity belongs in the dock of the accused, rather than the podium of the UN General Assembly.

A person who incites to genocide; who is complicit in crimes against humanity; who continues the pursuit of the most destructive of weaponry in violation of UN Security Council Resolutions; who warns Muslims who support Israel that they will "burn in the umma of Islam;" who is engaged in a massive repression of human rights in Iran; who assaults the basic tenents of the UN Charter -- such a person belongs in the dock of the accused, rather than the podium of the UN General Assembly.

But it is not enough to lament what occurred in this Theater of the Absurd, or even to learn its lessons. It is important to act on those lessons so as to restore respect for the rule of law and the Responsibility to Protect doctrine, fidelity to the UN Charter, and the struggle against impunity. Accordingly, the following actions should be undertaken with all deliberate speed:

State parties to the Genocide Convention, such as Canada, have not only a right, but a responsibility, to enforce the convention, particularly as regards the prevention of genocide.

State parties should therefore refer the criminal incitement to genocide by President Ahmadinejad and other Iranian leaders to the appropriate UN agencies. It is astonishing that this criminal incitement has yet to be addressed by the UN Security Council, the UN General Assembly, or any other body or agency of the United Nations, though it has found fit to give him a podium.

State parties should initiate, in the International Court of Justice, an inter-state complaint against Iran - for its "direct and public incitement to genocide" in violation of the Genocide Convention, to which Iran is party.

The crimes 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.

State parties should prepare criminal indictments of President Ahmadinejad, former president Rafsanjani, and other Iranian leaders on the basis of the "Universal Jurisdiction" principle embodied in the Genocide Convention.

The UN Secretary General should refer President Ahmadinejad and other Iranian leaders to the UN Security Council, on the basis of their threats to international peace and security, pursuant to Article 99 of the UN Charter.

President Ahmadinejad and other designated Iranian leaders should be placed on a "watchlist" by concerned countries, preventing their entrance as "inadmissible persons." There is presently discussion about holding Iran accountable for its defiance of UN Security Council resolutions calling for the suspension of its uranium-enrichment process. The recommended options have included everything from UN sanctions to possible military strikes. It is time that the above juridical options was 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, and such actions are clearly preferable to military options.

This is an opportunity for countries such as the United States and Canada to exercise necessary leadership in regard to one of the most important threats confronting the international community today.

October 6, 2007

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Visitor Comments: 40

(40) Anonymous, July 9, 2013 5:41 PM

The clock is ticking.

Time is running out. USA, you need to support your only true ally in Mid-East, Israel. Wake up!! DJ

(39) Anonymous, October 21, 2007 9:40 AM

Visit of Ahmaninejad in the States

I feel shocked that such a terrorist, previously prisoner (ex-Pasdaran") in the Shah's jails, because he had stolen, violated people, not only is now at the head of such a great country as Iran, but also is allowed to deny so openly the Holocaust, to incite hate of Israel and the jews in the world, and has been given a "podium" in a famous university as Columbia, and at the tribune of the UN to disseminate his speeches of hate. In what kind of world do we live? Are the people of the world dumb, or all converted, by force, to Islam, to accept these declarations?Its'really a shame for our occidental democraties to close our eyes on this kind of people who should not even exist.

(38) Gen. Dov Shefi, October 15, 2007 3:51 PM

Agree with Prof. Cotler's article

See and forward my letter of Oct. 3rd
Brig. Gen. (Ret.) Dov Shefi, Attorney-at-Law
13 Bar-Lev St. #34
Neve Savion 60417, Israel
Phone: 972-3-5333854 Cell: 972-52-3581306 Fax: 972-3-6344173
September 23, 2007

Prof. Lee .C. Bollinger,
President of Columbia University,
New York (Via e-mail)

Dear President Bollinger,

I am a graduate of Columbia Executive Program in International Management (EPIM) – October 84.

I am the proud and most sad father of the late Hagay Shefi (34) who was murdered by Al-Qaida in the course of the Mega-Terror attack of 9/11/2001. Hagay held MBA (Magna Cum Lauda) and was the President & CEO of GoldTier Technologies Inc.of New Jersey. He was invited in the poor date of 9/11 to provide a lecture as one of the Keynote speakers in a Conference of 100 Directors of Banks at WTC, 106th floor, in the city of NY. He left a wife and two little kids: 3 and 5.

My son and other 3000 fellow Americans were innocent people that did not harm or fight Al-Qaida or any other State or organization.
They were, in the time of the sudden attack, in a civilian building. Although Al-Qaida is not a State, even as a terrorist organization it had to act according the Laws of War which prohibit clearly and absolutely to attack civilian targets, unless the target enabled opening fire.

I read carefully SIPA's Press Release and I wish to quote one passage of it:

President Bollinger will introduce the event by challenging President Ahmadinejad on
number of his controversial statements and his government's policies, including his denial of the Holocaust and his call for the destruction of the State of Israel. The US government has accused Ahmadinejad's government of supporting terrorism and developing nuclear weapons capacity. Human rights groups have charged Iran with suppressing dissent and women's rights. Columbia students and faculty will themselves have an opportunity to question Iran's leader on these and other issues.
Moreover, I read today the NY Daily News about tomorrow's visit and I wish to bring part of it to your attention:
Large protests will greet Ahmadinejad - an accused terrorist, Holocaust denier and member of the Axis of Evil - when he speaks at Columbia University on Monday and when he addresses the UN Tuesday.
Ahmadinejad sparked outrage last week by requesting an official tour of Ground Zero. The proposed visit, which was promptly rejected by the NYPD, sickened victims' relatives and U.S. leaders.
Columbia has refused to cancel Ahmadinejad's appearance at its School of International and Public Affairs. University President Lee Bollinger has vowed to challenge Ahmadinejad on his denial of the Holocaust, his alleged sponsorship of terrorism, his pursuit of nuclear weapons and the imprisonment of journalists and scholars in Iran..
"Anyone who supports terror, pledges to destroy a sovereign nation [Israel], punishes by death anyone who 'insults' religion ... denies the Holocaust and thumbs his nose at the international community has no legitimate role to play at a university," Catholic League President Bill Donohue said.
I think that the new Hitler's visit to Columbia University' which is very dear to me, is a big mistake. I trust that the majority of Columbia's Allumnies and supporters in the US, in Israel and in other many countries share the same views as mine. Your being an host to such a figure will be regretted and registered as a shameful act, in the History of the Academic Institution in the world, especially in U.S.A, in light of the harrows of 9/11/01 and the repeated warnings to
attack the US and to violate international order.

If the free world wants to survive, there should be some limits nowadays to the Academic Freedom to provide a podium (no matter if it is called "only" a class with students) to a new Hitler.

Dov Shefi
Lecturer on the laws of War
Bar Ilan University, Ramat Gan
Father of Hagay, WTC, 9/11

(37) Anonymous, October 14, 2007 5:12 PM


I think it was not a mistake to invite the president of Iran to the U.S.A. It it easy to make peace with friends, but difficult with enemies. His presance in U.S.A. was a great oportunity to face him with all the crimes he commits and wait for his answers.. It was a great opportunity to send him home embarased and give him some sleepless nights.

(36) Connie Belrose, October 12, 2007 7:21 PM

It is an abomination to give a world leader a podium with which to spread hate. I agree wholeheartedly with Cotler that we, as Canadians, need to do more to protect the victims of such injustices. It is our responsibility, as an ally to Zion, to bear our breastplates of supposed diplomatic righteousness and stand in the gap for our brothers and sisters. Furthermore, Canada needs to do more to ensure that we are not contributing to the problem by allowing terrorist cells to train, grow and flourish within our borders. What touches the Jewish people, touches us all. We will not be immune from the effects of our blind apathy.

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