Skurka's Spin: Spotlight on Iran's human rights record not easy to shun
Steven Skurka, CTV legal analyst, appears in this file photo.
Published Tuesday, October 23, 2012 9:55AM EDT
Last Updated Tuesday, October 23, 2012 10:04AM EDT
The final U.S. presidential debate on foreign policy Monday was marked by a recurring theme that Iran is a state sponsor of terrorism, set on a firm course of nuclear power that must be halted.
In one exchange, President Barack Obama touted that the U.S. has organized the strongest sanctions against Iran in history, which are “crippling” their economy, while Republican hopeful Mitt Romney called a nuclear-capable Iran “unacceptable” to Americans.
But earlier in the day, Canada was accused of meddling in Iran’s affairs by citing the country's human rights abuses and religious intolerance. At a meeting of the Inter-Parliamentary Union in Quebec City, the Iranian delegation responded to the claim in a fit of pique, asking about Canada's likely reaction if Iran were to use an international forum to support Quebec sovereignty.
It is obvious why a regime like Iran would attempt to shift the focus from its own repressive path.
Iran would prefer that Canadians didn't highlight, for example, the symbolic case of Iranian human rights lawyer, Nasrin Sotoudeh, who is currently serving a six-year prison sentence for acting against national security and spreading false propaganda.
Her actual crime was to dare to challenge the Iranian regime by providing legal representation to a number of political activists and dissidents in the country and for publically speaking out against the execution of juveniles.
Sotoudeh continued her advocacy for the disaffected despite the tortuous obstacles she faced in her country. As she explained, prior to her captivity: ''What makes me feel helpless, desperate and bitter is that our attempt to help our clients is doomed and in vain.''
And so, on a day when Iranian officials offered a hollow challenge to Canadian interference in their nation's affairs, Nasrin Sotoudeh is marking the fifth day of a hunger strike under the harsh conditions of Evin Prison in Tehran protesting restrictions placed on her family visits. Her health is waning.
Foreign Minister Baird was fully justified to publicly confront Iranian officials about human rights violations in their country and not to be dissuaded by idle threats.
It was a proud moment for Canada.
Listen to Steven's radio show, Closing Argument, every Sunday afternoon at 4:00ET on NewsTalk 1010. You can also follow him on Twitter at @LegalAnalyst