PUBLIC PANEL DISCUSSION
“From Words To Action”
Torture, Human Rights, and the Responsibilities of the
Canadian Legal System
University of Toronto, Faculty of Law
Bennett Lecture Hall
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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
Yes, I failed!
And in part as a result of my failure, there are hundreds of more
lives lost in those torture-prone countries.
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
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?
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!
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
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.
dashed, souls are shattered, and bodies are mutilated. Oblivious
to their surroundings, most they have lost their primary instinct
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
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.
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.
Action is the only way for a survivor to move forward A Legal
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
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
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
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
Now I have
sworn not to sit Idle while others continue to suffer as I have
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.
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
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.
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