Liberals urged to press Iran on executions of prisoners during Iran-Iraq war


OTTAWA – A group of Iranian Canadians is calling on the government to add a tough new element to its annual United Nations resolution on Iran’s dubious human rights record — an international call for a war crimes investigation.

The group, which calls itself Canadian Friends for a Democratic Iran, will make the request later today at press conference on Parliament Hill.

The group will present what it says is new evidence that shows complicity in a mass killing of Iraqi prisoners by senior Iranian government officials in 1988 at the end of the Iran-Iraq war.

An audio recording from the era surfaced in August that implicates high-level members of the current Iranian regime, including the country’s current justice minister, said Shahram Golestaneh, the group’s director.

Canada has taken the lead each year since 2003 in sponsoring a resolution at the UN condemning Iran’s human rights record.

That was the year that Iranian-born Canadian photojournalist Zahra Kazemi was tortured and killed in a Tehran prison after she was arrested for photographing a demonstration.

Now, Golestaneh’s group wants the government to up the ante by asking the UN to launch an investigation into the event as part of that annual resolution.

Shahin Gobadi, a Paris-based dissident with the National Council of Resistance of Iran, acknowledged that any such call would likely fall on deaf ears in Tehran and be turned away by the country’s leaders.

But he said: “It would also send a strong message internationally that one cannot get away with crimes against humanity.”

It is the second day in a row that the Trudeau government has faced calls to use its new embrace of the United Nations to take a tough stand on human rights.

On Wednesday, an all-party delegation led by former Liberal MP Irwin Cotler called on the government to oppose the membership of Saudi Arabia, Cuba, Russia and China in the upcoming voting for United Nations Human Rights Council.

“Canada will announce its decision in due time, but what I can say is that the strong voice of Canadians speaking for human rights is something we also consider, especially when you have a champion like Irwin Cotler,” Foreign Affairs Minister Stephane Dion said Wednesday.

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