SCC to hear case about Foreign State Immunity in torture cases

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Ottawa – On Tuesday, March 18, the Supreme Court of Canada will hear arguments in The Estate of Zahra Kazemi et al. v. Iran, et al. The BCCLA is an intervener in the case.

This case considers whether a Canadian court has jurisdiction over a civil suit for damages arising from the torture of a Canadian citizen by a foreign state.

Zahra Kazemi was a dual Canadian and Iranian citizen, who lived in Montreal and worked around the world as a journalist and photographer. She was tortured and killed in Iranian custody in July 2003 after being arrested for taking photographs of protestors in front of Evin prison in Tehran.

In 2006, Ms. Kazemi’s son Stephan Hashemi instituted proceedings against the Islamic Republic of Iran and other Iranian officials alleging that Ms. Kazemi was tortured and killed by Iranian authorities. The claim sought damages on behalf of Ms. Kazemi’s estate and for Mr. Hashemi. In March 2011, the Quebec Court of Appeal dismissed the claim. The Plaintiffs now appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada.

The BCCLA argues that cases involving torture must be exceptions to the laws granting immunity to foreign states. The BCCLA says that any legal interpretation that prevents access to justice and imposes barriers to redress for the most serious human rights violations is contrary to Canada’s commitment in Article 14 of the Convention against Torture and to the values and principles underlying section 7 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

The BCCLA is represented by Ward K. Branch and Susan M. Precious of Branch MacMaster LLP.

The BCCLA’s argument in this case is available here >>