Iran lectures Canada on human rights

By BRIAN LILLEY, Parliamentary Bureau
TORONTO SUN – OTTAWA – It’s a country that will execute women for adultery, has more than 100 children under 18 on death row and answered public protests over election results by opening fire on crowds numbering in the thousands.

Still, Iran thinks it has lessons to teach Canada when it comes to human rights.

Last week, Iran summoned Canada’s top diplomat in Tehran to ask him about how Canadian police handled protests at the G20 summit in Toronto.

“Canadian officials should provide a response to all questions and ambiguities regarding human rights violations in their country,” Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast told Iranian reporters.

Mehmanparast calls the security approach adopted by Canadian police during the G20 “brutal and deadly,” adding that countries cannot keep silent on human rights abuses.

Canadian officials are rejecting the advice.

“The world watched as Iranians turned out in the thousands to protest against the authorities after a deeply flawed election last year. The world watched Iranian security forces use lethal force against the demonstrators,” said Melissa Lantsman, a spokesperson for Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon.

Lantsman also referred to the “cruel and barbaric” punishment of stoning handed down by the Iranian court against Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani.

Ashtiani is a 43-year-old mother of two whose death sentence for having an “illicit relationship” was temporarily halted following an international outcry. Amnesty International says Ashtiani’s sentence remains in place and she could be executed at any time.

The International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran (ICHRI) estimates that at least 100 people were killed during protests following last year’s presidential elections.

Hadi Ghaemi, executive director of the ICHRI says it is common for the Iranian government to use live ammunition against peaceful protestors, something that he says western governments just don’t do.

In 2003, Canadian photo-journalist Zahra Kazemi was killed by Iranian guards as they interrogated her. Iran claimed she had a stroke under questioning, but an Iranian doctor who examined Kazemi¹s body said she had died from a beating.

Kazemi, a Canadian citizen born in Iran, had travelled to the country of her birth to photograph political protests in the summer of 2003. Those protests were met with government violence and thousands were arrested.

Lantsman says given this record, Canada will not take lectures from Iran.

“Canada has a system which affords all citizens due process of the law,” said Lantsman. “This is something that Zahra Kazemi was never afforded.”

 

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