International Conference: Peaceful Solution for Camp Ashraf in Iraq

NCRI – In an international conference held in Paris on Friday, January 6th at the invitation of the CFID (French Committee for Democracy and Human Rights in Iran), dozens of distinguished American and European dignitaries warned of obstructions and non-cooperation by the Iranian regime and the Government of Iraq in guaranteeing a peaceful solution for Camp Ashraf in Iraq, where members of the Iranian opposition reside.

Below are excerpts of speeches delivered by some speakers at this conference:

Gov. Ed Rendell, Chair of the Democratic National Committee (1999-2001) and Governor of Pennsylvania (2002-2011)

And then we didn’t ask a second question, why relocate out of Camp Ashraf at all? Why? What was wrong, what harm was

being done to the Iraqi government by having these 3,400 people live peacefully, controlling their own destiny, paying for their own expenses, living peacefully, endangering and threatening no one in this camp? Why was it necessary to move them? Why couldn’t the UNHCR have done its work in Camp Ashraf? We were told that was unacceptable but nobody told us why. And think about it. What possible reason was relocation necessary? Why couldn’t the goals, if the Iraqis are honest that they want these people out, why couldn’t it have been done in Camp Ashraf? Why didn’t we ask that question? And getting no good answer, why didn’t we just have a little backbone and say, “No, they’re staying in Camp Ashraf until the relocation process is done.” We didn’t ask that question. But it’s time to ask the Iraqis why. Why we went from a 40-kilometer base to a less than one kilometer base.

governor ed rendell
Gov. Ed Rendell

What was the reason for it? Was there any good reason? Was it necessary to protect Iraqi security? Was it necessary for intelligence purposes? What was the reason that we reduce the size? There is no good answer. What was the reason, even though the MOU specifically lays out the fact that the residents have the right to take all of their movable assets and adequate vehicles to Camp Liberty, what’s the reason that they’re saying no now? They’re saying no now. Did we ask? Did the U.N. ask? Did the State Department ask? Did anybody ask, “Why? Why are you doing this in violation of the MOU that the Iraqi government signed?” Nobody’s asking why. Why are there inadequate facilities? Why did the Iraqi police have to be inside the gates? We understand that the Iraqis want sovereignty over the camp but that sovereignty could be assured by having the police stand at the gates to the camp. There’s no way out of the camp; there’s no escape and certainly the residents don’t want to escape. Why is it necessary to have the police inside? Why is it necessary to not have adequate facilities? The answer is there’s no good answer. And it is time for us to show some backbone. But if in fact the Iraqis’ goal is to turn this into a prison, if in fact their actions are no more than punitive to the residents of Ashraf, if in fact that punitive action is no more than an attempt to appease Tehran again, if in fact that’s the case, then the U.N. and the United States of America have to use the word “no” to relocation.

john bolton at un
John Bolton

John Bolton, the former US Ambassador to United Nations and former Under Secretary of State

The United Nations has a culture of its own. I know how it operates. I understand why there are difficulties with dealing with the UN Assistance Mission in Iraq, in part because it sees itself as accredited to the government of Iraq. Part of its objective is to make sure it gets along with the government of Iraq.

What needs to be done to persuade the ambassador Kobler and the UN bureaucracy in New York that their principal responsibility is not making the government of Iraq happy, it’s protecting the residents of Camp Ashraf.

Camp Ashraf, in the world of the UNHCR, Camp Ashraf is not a problem. Camp Ashraf is an interim solution and how, how tragic it would be, what a stain, what a stain on the reputation of this Nobel Peace Prize winning agency to preside over a degradation in the living status and freedom and welfare of refugees. I just really don’t think if the West and others put appropriate pressure on UNHCR that Commissioner Guterres really wants that to happen. And I think it’s important that he understand that..

howard dean
Howard Dean

Howard Dean, The former Chairman of the Democratic National Committee

Let me make it clear as we have in our discussions, that the United States of America is not only morally but legally responsible for what happens to the 3,400 unarmed civilians in Ashraf. Each one of those civilians has a signed piece of paper by the Commander of the United States Armed Forces which disarmed them in exchange for that piece of paper which says that we will guarantee their safety.

The conditions at Camp Liberty are not satisfactory by all accounts, by the United Nations Ambassador Kobler, their special representative, by the UNHCR, by the United States, by all accounts. We cannot afford a delay anymore. As Madame Rajavi said, we delayed five months. Fortunately we were able to extend the deadline, the execution deadline that was given by Prime Minister Maliki. I don’t want to be in that situation when this deadline expires, which is the end of April. And so I now call on the United States and the United Nations to begin processing refugees in Camp Ashraf so there’s no further delay by the Iraqi government.

iran international conference

Tom Ridge, the first Secretary of Homeland Security

The first theme they may want to write about is the deception that has occurred over the past four or five months in relationship to some of the negotiations, or all of the negotiations that have gone on under perhaps the well-intentioned efforts of a lot of people involved, either from the United States or the United Nations, but the very unsuccessful, timid efforts. The deception I speak of begins with the notion at least I think many of us who have been on this conference calls and in communication with your leadership of the MEK have been under the impression that once that artificial deadline was established the UN special envoy was announced, that there would be a legitimate effort to negotiate a mutually satisfactory agreement between the leadership of the MEK and the United Nations and the Iraqi government to provide for the safety and security of the residents of the camp. That was the impression that was given. Many of us felt there would be shuttle diplomacy back and forth. The camp, Paris, Baghdad, back and forth, negotiated settlement. Well that hasn’t happened. There has been no negotiation. There has been talk.

But the final agreement was not signed by or signed off on even a rhetorical way by the leadership of the MEK. It’s a rather deceptive practice to say one thing and do another. Let history record, although there were verbal assurances of the safety and security of the residents, it is not embedded in the agreement. There was one trip to Paris, one trip to Baghdad, and then it was a fait accompli. “Here’s the memorandum of understanding, take it or leave it.” Mrs. Rajavi, courageous, principled leadership on your part convincing the residents to rely on you, and I might say to rely on the word of the United States, as unsatisfactory as that memorandum of understanding may be, as disingenuous as they may have been in suggesting that it would be negotiated, you have called upon them to trust you, trust us, trust the International community, trust the UN and trust the United States, take the agreement to live by it.

Principled, courageous. But there’s still more work to do. That theme, deception. It’s supposed to discuss in good faith if you’re really interested in the kind of principled, righteous outcome that we all believe is absolutely essential in this matter. I think the historians will probably talk about some of the legitimate demands that the residents are calling upon the broader world community to support. They made the single largest concession possible in order to avoid another massacre.

They’ve agreed to be relocated at Camp Liberty. At one time they thought it was a military camp, they thought it was of massive size. And all of a sudden it has been compressed to a small area around which they are building walls, which doesn’t sound like a resettlement camp; it sounds more like a prison. And we must demand that the U.S. and the UN live up to those promises made early on in the discussions about humane conditions at Camp Liberty. The preservation and protection of privacy. We do have 1,000 women. We have been told there will be a robust U.S. presence there to observe, which we think is very important. But we’re still unsure what that means. We’re told that there will be UN observers there, but we don’t know whether they’re going to be intermingled with the residents or whether or not they’re going to be outside the prison walls or gates and only allowed access when the Iraqi government chooses to allow them access. We see no reason whatsoever, it’s not an unreasonable demand to keep the Iraqi police and the Iraqi army outside of Camp Liberty. It’s a matter of sovereignty, it’s on Iraqi soil. We appreciate that. There’s no reason for them to be involved and have personnel inside camp Liberty, none whatsoever. And you know why we’re concerned about that? Let history not record that this panel said publicly that there was an incident or two inside the camp precipitated by either the police or by the Iraqi Army and used as an excuse for the humanitarian massacre and onslaught that all of us are working so hard to resist. The demands are reasonable.

judge michael mukasey
Judge Michael Mukasey

Judge Michael Mukasey, former attorney general of the United States

And as we have all come to know, even the physical accommodations at Camp Liberty are not yet adequate to sustain anyone, with such elementary facilities as electricity and running water are not yet available. And the Iraqis keep reducing the size of the available space that the residents of Ashraf may occupy, and it’s now down to less than two kilometers from the 40 originally suggested. And it’s become increasingly apparent that the accommodations at Camp Liberty will most closely resemble those of a prison. The residents of Ashraf are being increasingly restricted in the possessions that they can take with them.

luis freeh fbi director
Louis Freeh

Louis Freeh, former Director of the FBI

The implementation of the agreed plan to move the Ashrafis to Camp Liberty and then to transit them on to safe havens outside of Iraq, everyone seems to agree on that principle now, which is an extraordinary development, a development which was accelerated by Madame Rajavi’s very prompt and I think surprising volunteering of moving 400 people immediately to Camp Liberty. But, you know, there’s an expression in English, the devil is in the details, and the details here are quite deficient. We have been speaking, as you’ve heard, at a very high level with the State Department, some of us on weekly, even bi-weekly calls. And it’s clear from those conversations that there is no plan, that there is an idea and an objective but there is no plan. For instance, we asked why can’t the U.N. interview these refugee candidates in Camp Ashraf? And we get the amazing and preposterous response back that the U.N. won’t conduct the interviews there because they think it’s an intimidating atmosphere. Well, if you look at what they’re doing at Camp Liberty I can’t conceive of a more intimidating atmosphere, with police inside the compound, UN observers outside the compound, no U.S. observers, a small, tiny facility with no infrastructure. When Ambassador Kobler signed that MOU on December 25th, did he not know that there was no infrastructure in Camp Liberty? There was no plumbing; there was no electric; there was no basis to move anybody in there even if you were creating a prison. He was there yesterday apparently to inspect the facilities. Hopefully, as we asked, the U.S. representative was there with him. But the bottom line is there is no plan, there were no details. All the things that the other speakers have said and will say just underscore the fact that there’s been no thinking; there’s been no activity with respect to the implementation of this plan, which means that the safety of these 3,400 men and women is still immensely at risk.

gunter ferhugen eu
Gunter Ferhugen

Gunter Ferhugen, formerly European commissioner

I fully support what was said here already, that a memorandum of understanding must be renegotiated and that it must contain the most important elements, safe and, safety for all the people from Camp Ashraf moving to Camp Liberty, safe transportation. Safety and protection in the camp itself and no harassments. No police presence within the fenced part of the camp. Respect of all the human rights, including property rights of the residents. And of course, creating decent living conditions according to international standards. I feel it is important here to organize an international conference that would discuss and negotiate and would come to a binding agreement. It has to be an internationally binding agreement that can be enforced if there is a need to do it.

general david phillips
General David Phillips

General David Phillips, Commander of U.S. Military Police (2008-2011)

We promised to protect the over 3,400 residents of Camp Ashraf when they turned in their arms in 2003. I was there, I witnessed it. I also witnessed the extensive background investigations into each member of the MEK at Camp Ashraf. I waited for the smoking gun, the piece of evidence that would rationalize to me why in my mind are we keeping them confined? That evidence didn’t exist. When we gave each and every person at Camp Ashraf a written promise of protection and security, just like the Judge Mukasey showed, and he raised the ID cards that was my unit. The patch on here is the 89th MP Brigade, and I commanded that unit when we issued over 3,400 ID cards showing the United States says you are a protected person, and by gosh we’re going to protect you.

colonel wesley martin
Colonel Wesley Martin

Colonel Wesley Martin, former Senior Anti-terrorism Force Protection Officer for all Coalition Forces in Iraq

There may be a concentration camp at Camp Liberty. The residents will be under total Iraqi control at the bidding of the Iranian regime and they will be dependent upon the Iraqis for everything, even further psychological abuses than they have been going through. Maliki is no good friend. The rocket attacks show that the same exact tactics were used at Tahrir Square last year when demonstrations were being broken up. The Iraqi security forces pulled back and allowed adversaries to come in and attack the demonstrators.

ruth wedgwood
Ruth Wedgewood

Ruth Wedgewood, Chair of International Law and Diplomacy at Johns Hopkins University

Now on the matter of transfer to Camp Liberty, which is a title which could indeed become as worthy of the sardonic cynicism of George Orwell, the English satirist, as anything might be. It is indeed crucial that before anybody is taken there be a guarantee of adequate conditions. It simply against Geneva Conventions, human rights, to transfer people to a camp at which they will not be adequately taken care of. So for the moment it’s the transfer that’s being boasted of is simply a notional idea. It’s a theory, it’s not a practice, and it’s up to Martin Kobler and the U.S. and others to guarantee that there are adequate living conditions before anybody is asked to pledge their sons and daughters, husbands and wives, to make such a transfer.

ambassador mitchell reiss
Ambassador Mitchell Reiss

Ambassador Mitchell Reiss, former Director of Policy Planning at the US Department of State

I endorse, and I think we all endorse, a conference to be convened in Paris or Brussels or Geneva to be chaired by the UN Special Representative for Iraq and attended by Madame Rajavi and your representatives, Ambassador Dan Fried, Iraqi officials, U.S. Embassy Baghdad officials, Ambassador Jean de Ruyt the EU’s high representative, the UNHCR and other European Parliamentarians who have a strong interest in making sure that this project goes as safely as possible. The conference needs to draft a document that rectifies the serious shortcomings about the requirements, arrangements and implementation of this relocation. The conference should be convened as soon as possible. But even if the conference takes place this month, and we hope it will, we should not lose sight of the larger goal, the safe relocation of the Ashraf residents, not to Camp Liberty, but outside of Iraq so they can live their lives in peace and dignity. The single best way to achieve this goal is to have the United States delist the MEK immediately.

The conference speakers were Maryam Rajavi, President-elect of the Iranian Resistance; Gov. Howard Dean, former Governor Vermont, Chair of the Democratic National Committee (2005-2009) and US presidential candidate (2004); Gov. Tom Ridge, former Governor of Pennsylvania and the first US Homeland Security Secretary (2003-2005); Louis Freeh, Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (1993-2001); Gov. Ed Rendell, Chair of the Democratic National Committee (1999-2001) and Governor of Pennsylvania (2002-2011); Judge Michael Mukasey, US Attorney General in the Bush Administration (2007-2009); Ambassador Mitchell Reiss, former Director of Policy Planning at the US Department of State; General James Conway, Commandant of the US Marine Corps (2006-2010); Rep. Patrick Kennedy, Member of US House of Representatives (1995-2011); Gen. Chuck Wald, former Deputy Commander of US European Command; Gen. David Phillips, Commander of U.S. Military Police (2008-2011); Prof. Alan Dershowitz, one of the most prominent advocates of individual rights and the most well-known lawyer in criminal cases in the world; Ambassador Dell Dailey, Head of the State Departmentʹs counterterrorism office (2007-09); Col. Wesley Martin, former Senior Anti-terrorism Force Protection Officer for all Coalition Forces in Iraq and Commander of Forward Operation Base in Ashraf; Prof. Ruth Wedgwood, Chair of International Law and Diplomacy at Johns Hopkins University; Philippe Douste-Blazy, Former French Foreign Minister and to the UN Secretary General; Alain Vivien, former French Minister of State for European Affairs; Rita Sussmuth, former President of German Bundestag; Gunter Verheugen, European Commissioner (1999-2010) and former Advisory Minister in German Foreign Ministry; and Sen. Lucio Malan, Member of Italian Senate.

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