Speech in the international conference in Paris
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The presence of distinguished personalities as well as eminent scholars and jurists in this conference presents me with the opportunity to underscore the legal responsibilities and commitments of the United States and the international community with respect to protecting the lives of the residents of Camp Ashraf as well as preventing another massacre.
A week after the Iranian Resistance’s major rally here in Paris, the central banker of terrorism, the regime in Tehran, staged an absurd sideshow dubbed as the “anti-terrorism” conference. There, the mullahs reissued their previous orders to the Iraqi government with respect to closing down Camp Ashraf and cracking down on the Iranian opposition. Subsequently, the Iranian regime’s Intelligence Minister declared that “Iraqi officials promised to undertake actions in this respect as soon as possible.”
On June 30, the daily Az-Zamman International reported that the Iraqi President Jalal Talabani had delivered a message regarding Camp Ashraf and Syria from the Iranian regime’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei to the U.S. Ambassador in Iraq.
Two days later, we heard the bewildering remarks by Ambassador James Jeffery in Baghdad, proclaiming that the residents of Ashraf should forget about being part of this movement and accept relocation from Ashraf to somewhere else in Iraq that is a ‘bit safer’ and farther from the border.
Several days later, on July 13, the Iraqi Ambassador in Tehran, notorious for being in the service of the mullahs, shed all pretenses and told the Iranian regime’s state-run news agency using the mullahs’ lexicon that with the departure of the Americans, the Iraqi government can no longer prevent the outpouring of Iraqis’ “anger against the Monafeqin [Mojahedin] grouplet.”
Previously, on July 4, some 8,500 prominent European and U.S. lawyers and jurists had warned in a statement that the Iranian regime and Nuri al-Maliki enthusiastically welcome the remarks by the U.S. Ambassador to Iraq, because such statements pave the way for the perpetration of a far greater crime against humanity in Ashraf.
General Hugh Shelton, who I believe expresses the sentiments of the American people, leaders and heroes, spoke out in Washington, DC, a few days ago, characterizing the notion of disbanding the Mojahedin as disgraceful and scandalous. He said such remarks were irrational, while emphasizing that the U.S. Ambassador should have the moral courage to acknowledge the commitments the United States had previously made to the residents of Ashraf.
Members of the Iranian Resistance, in particular the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran, will under no circumstances abandon the ideal of democracy and the fight for the freedom of their people and homeland; in the same vein the pioneers of America’s war of independence and the authors of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights never abandoned their ideals.
A humanitarian and profoundly democratic ideal cannot be destroyed and neither can the pioneers who pursue such ideals. It is the mullahs’ corrupt dictatorship that will inevitably disintegrate.
Perhaps the Ambassador has forgotten that 23 years ago around this time, in 1988, Khomeini presented our prisoners across Iran with exactly the same choice: the choice between repenting and surrendering or living in a location that was a ‘bit safer’. Thirty thousand political prisoners refused to submit to what the regime’s first Prime Minister Mehdi Bazargan had described as a “degrading and treacherous life.” They all welcomed the henchman’s noose around their necks.
Several thousand names and pictures of the victims have been published so far. As the Iranian Resistance’s Leader Massoud Rajavi once said, “They have been pathetically dreaming of disintegrating, dissolving and destroying the Mojahedin. But, the Mojahedin continue to march forward on the path of honesty and sacrifice and will have to pay the price for attaining the freedom of our people. We must pay that price; we have paid it in the past and we will continue to pay that price in the future.”
We are speaking with one another today in France. I recall that when Mr. Sarkozy became the president of France, in one of his first presidential decrees, he ordered that the fallen French heroes who defied the Nazi occupation be honored in French text books.
There is a profound difference between standing firm against a dictatorship and repenting or submitting to it; one that is as profound as the difference between being eternal on the one hand and vanishing, destruction, and oblivion (dishonorable death) on the other.
On the anniversary of the French Revolution on July 14, the French President said: “Any dictator who sheds blood must be held accountable before the International Criminal Court. We cannot be content with words only. We must defend the innocent. We must carry forward these ideas. Otherwise, what purpose would it serve for us to be inheriting the 1789 revolution? What purpose would it serve for this country to be a democracy?”
Indeed, the National Court in Spain has summoned the criminals.
Just this month, the Court of Human Rights in Europe condemned the British government for its failure to investigate the slaughter of the residents of Basra, while a court in the Netherlands condemned the Dutch government for failing to protect the residents of Srebrenica.
These judicial determinations reflect on the one hand the reaction by the conscience of human society against the trampling of human rights and on the other hand endorse the universal principle of the Responsibility to Protect (RtoP). They also are indicative of the definitive responsibility of governments as it relates to Camp Ashraf, and of the responsibility of the U.S. Government to protect the residents of Camp Ashraf and prevent their massacre.
What is really the crux of the matter when it comes to Ashraf, which has been turned into a beautiful city through the efforts of several thousand people who have resided there over a quarter of a century without causing trouble for any one? Several days ago, 525,000 residents of Diyala Province, some 60 percent of eligible voters in the Province, voiced support for the residents of Ashraf.
The religious dictatorship ruling Iran views this movement and our resistance for freedom as the engine for change in Iranian society and as an existential threat to the regime.
The existence of a democratic alternative, especially at a time when a power struggle among the ruling clique has been aggravated, and the fall of the mullahs’ strategic ally, Syria, is looming, will lead to the overthrow of the Tehran regime. The mullahs, therefore, want to destroy the organized opposition at any cost and using all means.
Iraqi sovereignty, which was bestowed upon its government by the United States at an enormous price, has been invoked to justify the atrocities and the carnage perpetrated against Ashraf.
It is common knowledge, as reported by the Agence France Presse on July 6th, that the Iraqi Prime Minister essentially owes his premiership to Iran’s rulers. According to Dr. Iyad Allawi, the leader of the winning coalition in the elections, Iraq’s new dictator has come to power with the help of the Iranian regime. “He imprisoned innocent people and brought corruption and human rights violations to new heights”, Mr. Allawi has said.
Now, you tell me: How could the residents of Ashraf be safe under the protection and responsibility of a government whose commander-in-chief, Prime Minister, as well as the Interior, Defense, Security and Intelligence ministers are the same person? A prime minister who, along with the commander of the Iraqi army’s ground forces and others, are under investigation by the judicial system of a democratic European country for perpetrating two massacres at Camp Ashraf.
The notion that the protection of a group of people should be given to their murderers is unjustifiable. It is unlawful, irrational, unethical, inhumane and unacceptable.
The international community cannot invoke the “sovereignty” argument to escape from taking deterrent action. Nor can it forego its responsibilities regarding Ashraf under the pretext of having signed a security agreement with Iraq.
In late March, President Obama said that the United States cannot “brush aside” its responsibility and “wait for the images of slaughter and mass graves before taking action.” To do so, he said, would be a “betrayal” of America’s values and identity.
The U.S. Government must not relinquish its responsibilities under the pretext of a security agreement with Iraq. Under what legal and moral standard would the signing of an agreement with another country nullify and render void U.S. commitments to others?
Why does the U.S. embassy in Baghdad not condemn the deadlines dictated by the Iranian regime to close down Camp Ashraf? This deadline is an attempt to circumvent the domestic, regional and international consequences of committing a crime against humanity and to overshadow the call by the international community for a “full, transparent and independent” inquiry.
Did Ambassador James Jeffrey not say recently that the terrorists who target U.S. forces in Iraq are made from the same cloth as murderous thugs of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps?
The United States is responsible for the current predicament of the residents of Ashraf. The current situation in Ashraf emanates from the occupation of Iraq. The residents of Ashraf handed over all their weapons, even their personal arms, to the U.S. forces, who signed an agreement with each and every resident, pledging to assume their protection until their final disposition.
The United States is, therefore, responsible for their protection consistent with international law and on moral and humanitarian grounds.
Unfortunately, all these commitments and responsibilities have been violated.
– In February 2009, the U.S. handed over the protection of Ashraf to a government, which it knew would crack down on the residents.
– In July 2009, after the first massacre, which proved Iraq is not qualified to protect Ashraf, the U.S. should have reassumed the protection of Ashraf in accordance with Article 45 of the Fourth Geneva Convention. But it did not do so.
– It did nothing to prevent the April 8, 2011 massacre, which had been “feared for long time,” according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.
– U.S. forces were present in Ashraf until a few hours before the April 8th attack and were fully aware of the Iraqi army’s mobilization for the attack, but did nothing to stop it.
– The U.S. has done nothing to alleviate the inhumane siege around Ashraf over the past two years, particularly the medical restrictions.
– Save for seven of the wounded, the U.S. refused to treat the other critically injured residents in the American hospital near Ashraf.
– The State Department prevented the publication of the report by a U.S. delegation, which examined the bodies of those killed at Ashraf. Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, Chair of the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigation, said during a July 7 Congressional hearing that, “The acquiescence by the United States and the United States officials in this crime is part of the story. Covering up wrongdoing is itself illegal.”
In addition, Maliki, just like the Iranian regime and its ambassador in Baghdad, is telling the Americans: You have put the PMOI on the list and we are essentially bringing your terrorist designation into effect in Ashraf.
Indeed, why should Members of Congress from the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigation not be able to visit Ashraf? And why has the U.S. embassy in Iraq invoked Iraqi sovereignty and joined Maliki as an accomplice to a cover up?
While the international community is hard at work to find a peaceful solution for Ashraf and the residents reluctantly accepted the European Parliament solution, the U.S. embassy in Baghdad, instead of helping to implement this plan, has been practically obstructing it and insisting that the residents be relocated in Iraq without providing any guarantee for their protection. This is while everyone is warning for the third time that such relocation would be a recipe for a catastrophe.
For over two months now, a U.S. delegation has been negotiating with the representatives of Camp Ashraf. Surprisingly, even during the talks, the Iraqi forces have pointed their guns at the residents and have maintained their combat formation. Moreover, 300 loudspeakers have been blaring threats and obscenities, especially against the woman in Ashraf.
Amazingly, the U.S. embassy has so much respect for the sovereignty of the Iranian regime’s proxies in Iraq that it does not even demand the allowing of the inflow of fuel, medicine and treatment for the wounded while negotiations are being conducted.
Under the circumstances, it is quite clear that relocation inside Iraq is a recipe for disaster.
In a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Struan Stevenson, head of the European Parliament delegation for relations with Iraq, who, in the course of a long discussion two-and-a -half months ago convinced us to forego the fundamental rights of the residents of Ashraf and accept relocation to third countries as stipulated in the European Parliament Plan, wrote,
“Unfortunately, just a few days after I announced this proposal in Erbil on 29 April 2011, the media quoted a State Department’s anonymous official that the U.S. wants Ashraf residents to be relocated inside Iraq. This dangerous plan, which will only result in the expedited massacre of Ashraf residents, has emerged from the outset as a major barrier to the European Parliament proposal.
“The people of Ashraf are not irresponsible or hard-headed. On the contrary, they are quite flexible and responsible… Although the residents of Ashraf were heavily bombed by U.S. forces resulting in dozens killed and injured, they did not fire a single bullet in retaliation and voluntarily surrendered all their weapons (even personal ones) to the U.S. forces. The U.S. recognized each and every one of them as ‘protected persons’ under the Fourth Geneva Convention and signed an agreement with all of them that in return for their disarming, it would protect them until their final disposition.
“Your nation, which led the Coalition Forces, and mine, which supported the Iraq campaign, will one day pass judgment on our actions and our response to the July 2009 and April 2011 massacres in which 47 residents whom the U.S. had given Protected Persons ID cards were killed and 1,071 injured.
“Tacit in the remarks by Ambassadors Jeffrey and Butler is the suggestion that those who are under the U.S. Government’s protection must pay with their lives for their beliefs and their affiliation to the organization to which they are devoted.”
For nearly three months, my compatriots and families of Camp Ashraf have been staging daily sit-ins outside the U.N.’s European headquarters in Geneva, as well as at the White House and the State Department in the U.S., and other cities in Europe.
Allow me to outline a practical solution and reiterate the responsibilities of the United States:
1. The United States, the European Union, the United Nations, the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees should support the European Parliament Plan, which calls for temporary protection of Ashraf until all residents are relocated to third countries.
2. A permanent United Nations monitoring team should be installed at Ashraf.
3. Investigations should be conducted into the April 8th massacre under the auspices of a representative of the U.N. Security Council to prevent a repeat of the attack.
4. The Iraqi government should be urged to normalize the situation at Ashraf by withdrawing its armed forces from the Camp and ending the siege and psychological torture of the 3,400 residents with the use of 300 loudspeakers.
Indeed, as the Iranian people watch, the manner in which Ashraf residents are treated symbolizes a test for all universal values to which President Obama has committed himself. Ashraf is a yardstick with which the Iranian people will determine on whose side the U.S. is standing. Is it standing with the mullahs’ dictatorship and its proxies in Iraq or with freedom-seekers and the people in Iran?
Thank you all very much.