Travesty of Justice in Zahra Kazemi case

Tuesday, July 20, 2004

The Honourable Pierre Pettigrew
Minister of Foreign Affairs
Lester B. Pearson Building
125 Sussex Drive
Tower A, 10th Floor
Ottawa, ON K1A 0G2

Dear Sir,

I am writing on behalf of Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE), a non-profit, non-governmental organization that works to promote and protect press freedom and freedom of expression around the world.

CJFE wishes to express its outrage at the travesty of justice perpetrated by the Iranian government in the case of Zahra Kazemi. International observers were barred from attending the third and final day of the trial of the man accused of killing Iranian-Canadian photojournalist Zahra Kazemi who was killed while in custody in Tehran in July 2003. They were barred from the proceedings in spite of assurances by Iranian officials that Canadian observers, including Ambassador Phillip MacKinnon, would be allowed in. In addition to shrouding the proceedings in secrecy, the presiding judge ended the trial before several prosecution witnesses could give their testimony.

Iranian authorities have failed to meet international standards of justice in the prosecution of this case, as evidenced by the lack of transparency in the investigation into Ms. Kazemi's death, the refusal to publish the results of their investigation, the backroom machinations of the state ministries in identifying those responsible for Ms. Kazemi's death, the arrests, accusations and ultimate release of low ranking public officers in the case, and finally, the sham trial concluded July 18.

The Iranian justice system has failed to bring those responsible for Ms. Kazemi's death to justice, and therefore we urge the Canadian government to pursue all other avenues available through international legal bodies. Iranian authorities must be held accountable for their actions, from Ms. Kazemi's unjustified detention, the fatal torture inflicted upon her while in custody, and for the complete disregard for the rule of law in the conduct of the ensuing investigation and trial.

Canada is the lead sponsor of the Resolution on Impunity at the United Nations Commission on Human Rights. It is imperative that Canada do all in its power to ensure that Iran does not allow those responsible for the murder of Zahra Kazemi to escape justice. As a first course of action, we call on the Canadian government to pursue this matter with the International Court of Justice (ICJ). The ICJ can determine if Iran violated its commitment to the Vienna Convention of 1963 by not informing Canadian consular officials of Ms. Kazemi's arrest and by denying these same officials permission to communicate with her while she was imprisoned shortly before her death.

CJFE calls on the Canadian government to bring this case before the International Court of Justice and pursue all options available through international legal bodies to ensure that those responsible for Ms. Kazemi's death are brought to justice.

I look forward to receiving your prompt reply.

Yours truly,

Arnold Amber

Case file number: PL-O418

C.C.: Mr. Philip MacKinnon, Ambassador, the Canadian Embassy to the Islamic Republic of Iran
His Excellency, Dr. Mohammad Ali Mousavi, Ambassador, Iranian Embassy to Canada