Elihu D. Richter

An open letter to Benjamin Netanyahu

Erev Rosh Hashanah, 5753 

Subject: Call upon nations of world to prosecute Iran’s leaders NOW for their crimes against humanity


Dear Mr. Prime Minister,

I am an epidemiologist researching the role of state-sponsored incitement and hate language as a predictor, catalyst and promoter of genocide and mass atrocities. On Nov 7, 2005, six days after Mahmoud Ahmadinejad first called for the erasure of Israel from the pages of history, I wrote to the UN special adviser for genocide prevention, calling upon him to investigate Iranian incitement to genocide, which is defined by the UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Genocide (1948) and the International Criminal Court Rome Statute (1998) as a crime against Humanity.

Thereafter, in early 2006, the International Association of Genocide Scholars and Scholars for Peace in the Middle East endorsed a resolution to hold Iran’s leaders accountable for violation of UN Resolutions on nuclearization and their crimes against humanity, including incitement to genocide. In July 2007, the US House of Representatives passed by a vote of 411 to 2 HConRes21, a resolution saying the same. In 2010, the International Report on “The Danger of a Nuclear, Genocidal and Rights-Violating Iran: The Responsibility to Prevent Petition,” signed by more than 100 jurists, parliamentarians, scholars, activists and Iranian activists, restated these points.

In March, five distinguished jurists (professors Ruth Lapid, Michla Pomerance, Amnon Rubinstein, Dr. Meir Rosenne and Judge Meir Shamgar) wrote you to urge that Israel approach the nations of the world to take action based on this report.

A week ago, the government of Canada cited Iran’s violation of UN Security Council resolutions forbidding nuclear enrichment, its promotion of terror and its incitement to genocide as the reasons for severance of diplomatic relations with Iran.

Canada’s citing Iran’s incitement to genocide is a landmark precedent in public policy and diplomacy; it should not become a non-event — like the proverbial tree falling in the empty forest. It is fundamental to a long-term strategy of prevention and deterrence because it advances the locus of intervention to actions which can be taken now. And it is the template for the prevention of all mass atrocity crimes in the future.

I am writing to request that you to call upon all nations to do the following:

1. Follow Canada’s lead in condemning Iran for inciting genocide and flouting of UN Security Council resolutions forbidding nuclear enrichment; for supporting terror and Bashar Assad’s butchery in Syria.

2. Additionally, condemn Iran for persecution of dissidents and minorities in its own country, and for having the highest per-capita execution rate in the world.

3. Promote the organization of a coalition of the willing to make use of the existing tools of international law to serve indictment notices to the leaders of Iran when they come to New York City for this year’s General Assembly.

Yes, those nations doing nothing to stop Iran’s march to nuclear capacity, and its crimes against humanity — its incitement to genocide, support for terror and suppression of human rights — forfeit the right to tell Israel what to do or not do to stop Iran. But that does not mean that the only alternative to inaction is military force. It is imperative to use the tools of international law to deter Iran from its continued pursuit of its demonic objectives.

Those nations failing to support this resolution will be complicit bystanders to Iran’s crimes. As a genocide scholar, I can firmly state that leaders inciting to genocide mean what they say and say what they plan to do. But I can also state that genocide and other atrocity crimes result not only from human choice, but from bystander indifference.

Implementing the foregoing actions will be a major step in advancing the locus of intervention from proof of intent to predict and prevent — hopefully without a war.



Professor Elihu D Richter MD MPH

Jerusalem Center for Genocide Prevention

About the Author
Dr. Elihu D Richter is a founder of the Jerusalem Center for Genocide Prevention