By David Matas and Sarah Teich, June 15, 2022
When Belgium’s Court of Appeal this spring upheld the sentences of three terrorists for their role in the 2018 attempted bombing of an Iranian opposition political rally in Villepinte, France, it illustrated the global community’s determination to serve justice upon anyone convicted of terrorism inflicted by Tehran — no matter how far in the past.
Held in Belgium, where the criminals planned and organized their attempted attack, the proceedings were not an isolated display of international justice. Currently Sweden is prosecuting Hamid Nouri, accused of atrocity crimes in relation to a 1988 massacre in Iran in which thousands of political prisoners were murdered. Nouri was arrested after he showed up in Sweden in 2019, and officials there are prosecuting him under that country’s universal jurisdiction laws.
The Nouri case is a reminder to Tehran that while the wheels of international justice may move slowly, they grind inexorably. In contrast, the Iranian regime’s response to Nouri’s prosecution had been the scheduled May 21 execution of innocent Swedish-Iranian national, Ahmadreza Djalali. While the execution did not take place, Djalali’s continued arbitrary detention as well as his death sentence and scheduled execution violate numerous international treaties including the International Convention against the Taking of Hostages, to which both Iran and Sweden are signatories.
The treatment of Djalali illustrates how divorced the Iranian regime is from the notion of justice.
His detention and death sentence — which has been condemned by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights — is the latest in a long list of atrocities committed by Iran, but people who are committed to international justice will forget none of them.
Remaining dedicated to international justice means continuing to pursue it in other instances, such as the Tehran-directed 1994 bombing of the Jewish Community Centre, AMIA, in Buenos Aires, Argentina. This attack killed 85 innocents and injured over 300. Interpol has issued Red Notices for six people accused in that crime – one Hezbollah leader and five members of the Iranian regime. All states should cooperate in bringing these suspects to justice, and any attempted deterrence — like the 2015 murder of Argentinian prosecutor Alberto Nisman — should not stop the effort.
If justice is both past and future, memory and deterrence, then injustice too has its own past and future, impunity and reoccurrence. Failures to bring Iranian regime perpetrators to justice has led to a continuing litany of terrorist crimes, including the shooting down in Tehran in January 2020 of Ukrainian International Airlines Flight PS752, killing all on board, including 55 Canadian citizens and 30 permanent residents. The Iranian regime is doing its best to cover up its complicity in this crime, but international justice will make every effort to ensure these diversions are to no avail.
Bringing perpetrators to trial is a measure of justice for all victims and intended victims of Iran’s state terrorism. Justice may be a foreign concept to the Iranian government, however to those inside and outside Iran who are not part of the regime, justice is integral to humanity.
The stand for justice is the voice of humanity against inhumanity.
David Matas is an international human rights lawyer based in Winnipeg. He was an invited guest to the rally in Villepinte in 2018. Sarah Teich is an international human rights lawyer based in Toronto. She is a legal advisor to the Canadian Coalition Against Terror and a senior fellow at the Macdonald-Laurier Institute.