WORLD

Little faith in the Iranian justice system

KATE LUNAU December 10 2007
WORLD

Little faith in the Iranian justice system

KATE LUNAU December 10 2007

Little faith in the Iranian justice system

KATE LUNAU

Iranian-Canadian photojournalist Zahra Kazemi died in Iranian custody on July 11, 2003, just days after her arrest while photographing outside a Tehran prison. Now—three years after the Iranian judiciary blamed an accidental fall for her death (in sharp contrast with earlier findings that she died after a brutal beating)—Iran’s Supreme Court has ordered a new probe into the matter. As it was determined the original court failed to deal appropriately with the case, “[it] has been returned to a competent court which, God willing, will take the final decision,” said judiciary spokesman Ali Reza Jamshidi.

Iran’s latest probe is little more than a “public relations ploy,” says McGill University law professor Payam Akhavan, who has advised Prime Minister Stephen Harper on matters relating to the Kazemi affair. “The Iranian judiciary is a notorious instrument for the suppression of dissidents,” he continues. “To suggest it can now conduct an impartial investigation lacks credibility.” Kazemi’s son, Montreal resident Stephan Hachemi, 30, would agree. “I’m not waiting for anything from them,” he says. Hachemi recently launched a $ 17-million civil suit in Quebec against the Iranian government.

Akhavan notes that Iran’s apparent willingness to reopen the Kazemi case should be viewed within the context of its increasing diplomatic isolation. In March, the House human rights subcommittee recommended that Ottawa launch its own investigation (the Commons has yet to endorse this proposal, says Akhavan). Iran’s probe “may be a way of pre-empting any move on the part of the Canadian judiciary to investigate the case,” he says. And while Kazemi’s case is important, Akhavan emphasizes it’s by no means unusual. “The torture of dissidents goes on unabated,” he says. “We just don’t hear about them because [unlike Kazemi], they don’t have the good fortune of dual citizenship.” M