7th Annual Iran Accountability Week held in Canadian Parliament

The Raoul Wallenberg Centre for Human Rights (RWHCR) — in partnership with the House Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development, the Subcommittee on International Human Rights and leading Parliamentarians from all parties — organized the 7th Annual Iran Accountability Week in Canadian Parliament, standing alongside Iran's top human rights leaders and dissidents.

This year’s Iran Accountability Week initiatives and meetings were endorsed by Iran's only Nobel Peace Laureate Shirin Ebadi, and her Nobel Women's Initiative, an association of all women Nobel peace Laureates pursuing justice; likewise, they were anchored in the RWCHR’s recent landmark report, Realizing Rights Over Repression in Iran: the Case for Canadian Magnitsky Sanctions, which calls for impunity to be quashed and accountability pursued by imposing Magnitsky sanctions on the architects of Iranian repression, persecution and prosecution.

Expert Witness Testimony

As part of our annual Iran Accountability Week, the House Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development and the Subcommittee on International Human Rights held hearings on the human rights situation in Iran. Expert witnesses included, among others:

  • Payam Akhavan: RWCHR Senior Fellow. Renowned international human rights lawyer, McGill Law Professor, 2017 Massey Lecturer;

  • Masih Alinejad: Founder of the White Wednesday campaigns for women's freedom in Iran, the country's largest and most effective civil disobedience campaign.

  • Ladan Boroumand: Iranian public intellectual and human rights advocate. She is the co-founder and research director of the Abdorrahman Boroumand Foundation for the Promotion of Human Rights and Democracy in Iran;

  • Shirin Ebadi: Iran's only Nobel Peace Laureate. She is an Iranian human rights activist, lawyer and former judge;

  • Richard Ratcliffe: Husband of unjustly imprisoned British-Iranian charity worker Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, and advocate on behalf of hostage victims;

  • Shaparak Shajarizadeh: RWCHR Senior Fellow. Sentenced to 20 years in prison for leading women's rights protests in Iran, she fled to Canada where she is now living in exile;

  • Maryam Shafipour: Former Iranian student leader and political prisoner, advocate on behalf of imprisoned women human rights defenders in Iran;

Videos of testimony before the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and the Subcommittee on Human Rights available herehere and here.

Press Conference

Iranian dissidents and human rights defenders stand alongside leading Parliamentarians from all political parties in a press conference at the National Press Gallery.

Iranian dissidents and human rights defenders stand alongside leading Parliamentarians from all political parties in a press conference at the National Press Gallery.

Our press conference [pictured] brought together leading Members of Parliament from all parties and top human rights experts — Iranian dissidents, human rights defenders, and the family members of the unjustly imprisoned — to call for Canadian leadership on Iran.

Speakers highlighted the ongoing mass domestic repression and human rights abuses in Iran, and how Canada can challenge the culture of impunity that underpins it, specifically through targeted Magnitsky sanctions on the individual architects of repression, and the whole in solidarity with the people and publics of Iran.

 In the words of Professor Irwin Cotler: ”These courageous activists have put not only their livelihoods, but their very lives on the line in the pursuit of justice and the peaceful protection of fundamental rights. Their call for support is as clear as it is compelling, and we should heed it. In implementing targeted sanctions, Canada could help them realize rights over repression in Iran."

To watch our nationally televised press conference: click here

Meetings with Political Leaders

The RWCHR convened meetings with Canada’s political leadership, wherein Iranian human rights defenders shared their struggles for justice and how Canada can play a leadership role in that regard. In particular, dissidents joined the RWCHR in encouraging Parliament and Government to act on our landmark report calling for the sanctioning of top Iranian government Ministers, Judges, Prosecutor Generals and Heads of Prisons who are responsible for the arbitrary arrest, imprisonment, torture and execution of leaders at all levels of Iranian civil society. 

In addition, witnesses called for the release of Iranian-Canadians, which include Saeed Malekpour, now in his eleventh year of imprisonment and Maryam Mombeini, whose environmentalist husband, Canadian Kavous Seyed-Emami, died while unjustly imprisoned in the notorious Evin prison. They also called for the release of courageous political prisoners with Canadian connections — whose cases and causes have been taken up by the Wallenberg Centre and Canadian Parliamentarians — including iconic human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh, and women's rights champion Narges Mohammadi.

These human rights heroes also underscored the urgency of mobilizing the community of democracies against hostage diplomacy — as exemplified by Iran's imprisonment of British-Iranian Charity worker Nazanin Zaghari Ratcliffe — and to support the grassroots movement for women's rights in Iran and the release of its imprisoned leaders and activists.

Pictured, from right to left: Professor Irwin Cotler, Masih Alineajd, and Shaparak Shajarizadeh.

Pictured, from right to left: Professor Irwin Cotler, Masih Alineajd, and Shaparak Shajarizadeh.

Meetings include:

  • Office of the Prime Minister of Canada and Privy Council Office

  • Office of the Foreign Minister and of the Minister of International Development and Women's Empowerment

  • Chairs of the Foreign Affairs Committee and Human Rights Subcommittee

  • Foreign Affairs Leadership of the Official Opposition (Conservative Party)

  • Foreign Affairs Leadership of the New Democratic Party

  • Leadership of the Green Party

Statements in the House and Senate

Members of Parliament and Senators were so moved by the courage and compelling testimony of these human rights heroes, that they issued public statements of solidarity and support. In particular, the Hon. Judy Sgro tabled a petition in the House of Commons on behalf of unjustly imprisoned Canadian permanent resident Saeed Malekpour. Prior to Iran Accountability Week, the RWCHR submitted a complaint to the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention to investigate Saeed's arbitrary arrest and detention, which is in flagrant violation of international law. As well, the Opposition Deputy Shadow Foreign Minister raised the landmark RWCHR Report and read it into the parliamentary record, joining the foreign affairs leaders of every party in affirming the needs for targeted Magnitsky sanctions against Iran's architects of repression. Click here to read his statement.

Panel Discussion

Pictured, from left to right: Professor Irwin Cotler, Masih Alineajd, Shaparak Shajarizadeh, Ketty Nivyabandi, Maryam Shafipour and Richard Ratcliffe.

Pictured, from left to right: Professor Irwin Cotler, Masih Alineajd, Shaparak Shajarizadeh, Ketty Nivyabandi, Maryam Shafipour and Richard Ratcliffe.

The Wallenberg Centre in partnership with the Nobel Women's Initiative hosted an afternoon public panel on the human rights situation in Iran. The panel was probably the most important gathering of former Iranian political prisoners and their supporters that has ever taken place in Ottawa.


Learn More about the Centre’s work to promote democracy; Learn More about the defence of political prisoners.