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OCT 1 2004
“From Words To Action”
Torture, Human Rights, and the Responsibilities of the Canadian Legal System
University of Toronto, Faculty of Law
Bennett Lecture Hall

Kidnapping, false imprisonment, torture, fake execution, ransom taking, death threats and persecution. What else do we need to portray a perfect crime? A dead body? We even have thousands of those! Yet the attorney general of Canada turns a blind eye to these occurrences by attributing these crimes as being acts of a sovereign state.

A significant number of people are killed and tortured every year around the world in the hands of government agents. victims have their skulls smashed, and have their faces, feet and limbs under torture. However, the torturers are assured by immunity on the parts of their own governments.

At the same time, even if a few hundred of those prisoners escape their inferno and enter the free world, even if they are of sufficient mental and physical health to cry for justice, there exist ‘State Immunity Acts” which will protect them from retribution around the world. “ An abject appeasement.”

It seems like little attention is paid to the fact that the doors of justice are closed to the victims in the countries that inflicted pain, torture and suffering, and little attention is paid to the fact that even if there is a kind of inquiry or trial in the violating states, these are nothing more than kangaroo trials and mockeries of justice. Closing the doors of justice to the Canadian victims of torture means closing the doors of justice to them indefinitely, for these individuals will have no other redress.

My story can serve as an example. For months, the son of the President of Iran was chasing me all over Europe! what did he want? Not a fraction of the project that I was involved in. Fully backed by the power base of his father, he wanted the business that I was involved in its entirety, the project that later proved to be the most lucrative oil and gas mega project in the middle east.

But when on that beautiful sunny day of May 31st 1993 half awaken- half sleep that heavy gun pounded my head to the ground, In a few seconds I woke up to the reality that in some regimes, the value of a man’s life, let alone his Right to live, appertains to the whim of a 24 year old young man of a Colossal power.

Few hours later, I had been stripped of all my clothing and had changed into a foul smelling, torn and bloody jumpsuit. Blindfolded and engulfed in a sea of terror, I had been thrown into a 4 per 6 feet cell in the notorious Evin Prison. I knew that if I could escape this living hell, my life would never be the same again.

In the days to come, confined to an even smaller cell, while fidgeting and roaming around on my knees and back desperately trying to put back some of the few nails I had left on my now overblown feet, I knew that if and only if I could one day get out of there in one piece, I would do whatever man can do to prevent this sort of agony from being inflicted on any other human being. I would tout to the world until their eyes were opened to the reality that continues to go on unpunished to this very day.

Only through this collective awareness and recourse to Justice could a pledge be made for the termination of such barbaric acts of inhumanity.

But I didn’t know that I would fail.

Because what I didn’t know was that when, years later, in a country that I had chosen as my home, a country that is proud of its charter of Rights and Freedoms, a country that is renown for its progress in Human Rights, I would be rebuffed, rejected and denied at the first steps of justice, even if I could miraculously overcome my demoralizing fears and reservations to tell my story, and seek justice.

Yes, I failed! And in part as a result of my failure, there are hundreds of more lives lost in those torture-prone countries.

But frankly, when I resolved to seek justice for the agony inflicted upon me never did I think that people would say: ” you were not Canadian when this happened to you. You can not implore for Justice! You can not have access to our courts!”

Yes! I was not Canadian! But was I not a human being?
Was Zahra Kazemi not a Canadian? Are Bill Sampson and Maher Arar not Canadians?

Do we not all have one head, one body? One soul? Soul of humanity?

Is the Universal Declaration of Human Rights not about Human beings and their Rights?

Is the Charter of Rights and Freedom not about Human Rights?

Or are they all merely about citizenship?

By universal, did they mean discriminatory instead?

If a universal right cannot be universally applied to all human beings, then what does it truly represent?

This is not about me! It is not about these all tormented body and souls here! It is all about humanity!

Torture is a period of suffering that almost no one in a modern comfortable society like Canada can genuinely grasp.
A survivor of torture is an individual who is isolated, disoriented and often disconnected from society. He is or she is irreversibly transformed by the experience

The lives of the victims as well as their immediate families are shattered by the profound and irreparable pain they have been all through.
Most of them- in this town alone hundreds, all over the world thousands- are so aghast by what they have experienced that their entire lives are crumbled.

Hopes are dashed, souls are shattered, and bodies are mutilated. Oblivious to their surroundings, most they have lost their primary instinct to live.

Though unable to integrate into everyday social life, few survivors find enough strength to commit suicide. Most become too impassive to even take their own life to put an end to their enduring pain, to their lasting misery.

And just when a handful of them, out of a vast array of physically and morally crippled tortured population, find sufficient courage to lift their hands and raise their voices to tell their stories in the search of Justice, there is a tiny, pale sub –article in the book of law which prevents their access to the Justice, blocks their chance to restore their lost dignity.

Despite enduring great losses and pain, Canada and its peace loving population has helped me to resurrect and restart my life, as it has for tens of thousands other people, making this mostly frosted soil their home, the maple leaf their emblem and O! Canada their anthem.

Now I am asking that we go one step further. I am asking to be allowed to pursue justice. I am trying to advance a case against the government that tortured me for the damages they have conflicted upon me. I need the help of the Canadian Legal system and this Peace loving nation to bring my case forward.

Sometimes Action is the only way for a survivor to move forward A Legal Action!

I am demanding that Islamic Republic of Iran take responsibility for the suffering it has caused me. For making me unemployed for the rest of my life, for pushing me into an unwanted, undesirable, mainly painful early retirement.

Hardly a day passes by when I am not reminded of that gruesome period.
My hearing is permanently damaged. To this day I have on and off back pain as a result of the “swing treatment” I received while I was their guest!

To stop Torture we have to make it impossible. And for it to be impossible, torture should cost dearly for its implementers. Only if we make torture expensive for the perpetrators. The states sponsoring torture would not be able to bear it and would stop using it.

Only through this type of legal action we can target these evil doers directly. Lawsuits hurt the perpetrators directly by aiming for their pockets and, lets face it, we all know how efficient of a punishment that can be.

I plead Canada to finish what we have started. Don’t leave me and victims like me without a voice, unable to act, unable to cry.

Help us make something positive come out of our experiences. Help us help others who are hurting as well, so many promising lives that have been subsided into ashes.

I know what it feels like to be hurt, to bear injustice and abated into darkness while states sponsored torture unabashedly carry on with torture and killings.

Now I have sworn not to sit Idle while others continue to suffer as I have suffered.

I call on Canada not to sit passively on the sidelines. To honor the inheritance of great paragons of this unique nation, the magnificent legacy of spearheading in adoration of Human Rights, Canada has to become actively involved. Just because these crimes are committed far away doesn’t mean there is nothing that cannot be done.

Don’t wash your hands of these crimes. Help us obtain justice.
Failure to attain justice further alienates torture survivors from a quasi-normal pace of life which they so painfully strive to recapture.

Please let the world know that Canadian Justice for victims of tortures and their families is not just a hollow word, and in Canada justice is a right, not a privilege and that here justice prevails.

Thank You
Houshang Bouzari

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©2003-2005 International Coalition Against Torture (InCAT.org)