"State Parties Who Signed Genocide Convention Are Obligated To Act To Prevent Iran From Acquiring Nuclear Weapons"
"Those Experts & Advisors Who Talk Of Living With Iranian Nuclear Weapons Ignore Genocidal Aspect Of Iran's Regime"
'A genocide foretold' - that is how Prof. Irwin Cotler, a former Minister of Justice in Canada and a Member of Parliament, has described Iran's genocidal incitement against Israel when linked to Teheran's nuclear weapons development. At a Bar Ilan University Conference in the Mishkenot Shaananem Center in Jerusalem, Prof. Cotler presented a petition calling on the state parties to the Genocide Convention to honor their international obligation to prevent Iran from continuing on its path of genocide against the Jewish state. In a subsequent interview with IsraCast Prof. Cotler, an expert on international law, told David Essing that he believed Iran could still be stopped from acquiring the bomb.
At a conference in Jerusalem, marking the sixtieth anniversary to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Genocide Convention, you stated that Iran has already started down the path to genocide. What did you mean by that statement sir?
It isn't only President Ahmadinejad, I might add also the supreme leader, the Ayatollah Ali-Hamanai has said that the only solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict is the destruction and annihilation of the Jewish state. That could not be any clearer. Former President Rafsanjani has also spoken about how one atomic bomb can wipe Israel off the map. In effect, we released a petition this week on the sixtieth anniversary of the Genocide Convention, which expressly prohibits public and direct incitement to genocide - I believe it is a kind of watershed development in the struggle to bring Ahmadinejad's Iran to account. I say Ahmadinejad's Iran because I want to differentiate him from the people and public in Iran, who are otherwise the objects of his massive repression. And the petition in its first part documents, in my view, for the first time in an authoritative fashion the extent and the depth of the state sanctioned incitement to genocide in Ahmadinejad's Iran. The second part of that petition calls upon state-parties to the Genocide Convention to in fact intervene so as to prevent this incitement on the grounds that they have an obligation under the convention to do so.
And you link this to Iran's development of nuclear weapons?
We are saying that most of the focus thus far has been on the nuclear dimension. Iran has answered by saying: 'We are not developing atomic weapons, we are simply engaging the peaceful uses of atomic energy and therefore why should we be subject to sanctions. What we are saying is that one has to see the genocidal and the nuclear as a toxic convergence and a lethal combination; in fact when you look at the genocidal incitement you see that in those expressions were references made to atomic weapons. So we are saying you can't focus only on the nuclear, because if you do that you are ignoring and sanitizing the genocidal. On the contrary, the focus is on the genocidal and within that context the nuclear becomes as dangerous as it is.
You are focusing on international pressure on Iran, yet Germany and the rest of the Europeans with Russia and China are actually vying with each other over lucrative trade deals with Iran, what can be done about this?
This is a good point, if you go to Germany and you say look, we want to ratchet-up sanctions with respect to Iran, you may get the response: 'Well, it's not clear that Iran is actually pursuing nuclear weapons, they claim that they're basically doing it for peaceful proposes and that's perfectly legitimate under international law'. Our response is: 'If you look at the genocidal incitement - that is a clear violation of international law. If you look at your obligations as a state party under the genocide convention, it's not a policy option. You have a responsibility to prevent this'. I would think that the question of genocidal incitement would resonate with Germany for example, in a way that reference to the nuclear might not, and then the nuclear becomes accentuated and dangerous when as I say it is linked to and is expressly seen as a manifestation of the convergence of both the genocidal and the nuclear. We are hoping that by linking the two rather than separating the two, by focusing on the genocidal incitement rather than just on the nuclear development, then the world and state parties will not only appreciate the danger in terms of the toxicity of these genocidal and nuclear dynamics combined, but will also appreciate that in these circumstances they do not have a choice - they are obliged under the genocide convention to act so as to prevent it.
But on the other hand, even if we turn to the United States of America, where President Elect Barack Obama has made a strong statement about what he calls 'aggressive diplomacy' towards Iran, some of his top advisors, even Brzezinski and others in very high places, have spoken about the need to live with the Iranian nuclear weapon.
Again, I think that makes the point I was trying to suggest here which is it isn't only the nuclear issue, and you cannot focus on the nuclear issue in isolation, because if you say that you're prepared to live with a nuclear Iran, or even if you say that a nuclear Iran is inevitable, you are ignoring the danger that this nuclear Iran is also a genocidal Iran so when Brzezinski and others focus only on the nuclear, they are basically ignoring the root of the problem which is the motivational aspect which is genocidal while they are focusing only on the instrumentalist aspect, which is a nuclear.
Professor Cotler, I'm asking you as an international expert on international law, in light of the threats from Iran, do they constitute for Israel a casus belli?
Well, they do constitute a violation of international law. Now, whether they constitute a casus belli has to do with how you interpret the questions of the imminence of an armed attack on Israel, and whether Israel can preemptively preclude that atomic attack and itself launch an attack to begin with. My own view is that there is one option and an important option, I would say an obligation, that has not yet been tried. We talked about engagement with Iran, we talked about sanctions, but nobody has spoken about the legal obligation to prevent both nuclear and genocidal Iran and if the state parties were to act to do so, that would be itself a preemptive measure without having to enter into the casus belli issue.
Yet sir, as we speak, genocide is now being perpetrated in Darfur, Sudan, and the world leaders seem to be doing next to nothing except making pious statements about it.
You are correct, and I have written about it - Darfur as well at least with respect to Darfur, the special prosecutor of the International Criminal Court has asked for arrest warrants to be issued including for the president of Sudan Mr. Bashir, and President Bashir has now altered somewhat his own rhetoric and in light of the fact that there are prospective arrest warrants about to be issued for him. I think that if we were to start holding Ahmadinejad's Iran to account, I think that you would find that their own genocidal rhetoric would be altered and indeed the nuclear dimension might be impeded as well.
And finally, even with the Iranian nuclear threat coming closer and closer, looming on the horizon or just below the horizon, are you still optimistic that Iran can be stopped?
Well, I have to just say that I'm an optimist by nature and I take a longer view of history. Admittedly, what you said with regard to Darfur, and one can point to other killing fields in the Congo and elsewhere, does give one pause and the enduring lessons of history however are that these genocides have occurred not simply because of a machinery of death but because of state sanctioned incitement to genocide. Now all these other genocides have already occurred, only in the case of Iran do we have not only an opportunity but a responsibility to prevent it. I hope we would have learned the lessons of history and we will act and not allow us to go down the road to genocide again.