Quebec Court of Appeal upholds immunity for Iran, Ayatollah Khameni

Son can’t sue for alleged torture and killing

By Robert Frank

Calling Montreal photojournalist Zahra Kazemi’s death a “difficult and sad case”, the Quebec Court of Appeal nonetheless says that her son cannot sue for her alleged torture and murder in Iran, because a Canadian law grants other countries immunity.

Kazemi was arrested in Iran in 2003, after she took pictures of a demonstration outside Evin Prison in Tehran. After two weeks of alleged torture, beatings and sexual assault, her body was buried in Iran, despite her family’s wish to repatriate her remains. Her son and executor of her estate, Stephan Hashemi, filed a lawsuit against Iran and its leader, asking for $10 million in compensation.

Last year, Quebec Superior Court justice Robert Mongeon ruled that although the Kazemi’s estate could not sue, a loophole in Canada’s State Immunity Act meant that Hashemi could. 

However Iran and co-defendants Ayatolla Khameni, Saeed Martazavi and Mohammad Bakhshi appealed that ruling allowing the trial to go forward, which was reversed in a lengthy Quebec Court of Appeal judgment, Aug. 15.

“On the facts as alleged, Zahra Kazemi, a blameless Canadian, fell victim to a pattern of vicious misconduct by the agents of a rogue state,” wrote Justice Yves-Marie Morissette, supported by fellow justices Richard Clément and Gascon Wenger.

“Such a situation causes instant revulsion in anyone who adheres to a genuine notion of the rule of law. But these acts took place in Iran and what consequences they had in Canada do not set in motion the exceptions to state immunity,” the judgment concluded.

On July 30, the Iranian Students’ News Agency reported that Mortazavi had been fired by Iran’s president, Ahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Besides allegations of his involvement in Kazemi’s death, Mortazavi was accused of persecuting dissidents and shutting down pro-reform newspapers. The report said that conservative lawmakers had opposed Ahmadinejad giving Mortazavi a post in Iran’s labour ministry last year.

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