UNAMI Proposal Fails to Resolve Ashraf Property Issues

Senator Torricelli and Professor Schneebaum visit Iraq

Upon UNAMI’s proposal, Senator Torricelli and Professor Schneebaum, legal representatives of Ashraf residents for solving Ashraf residents’ property, visited Iraq from January 1-4, 2013.

In correspondence between Ashraf residents’ representative outside Iraq, the residents’ legal representatives, US government and UNAMI officials, the framework of this trip was agreed upon beforehand.

It was to include meeting with US, UNAMI and Iraqi officials, visiting Ashraf and Liberty, instructing Iraqi lawyers to advise them on Iraqi laws, and negotiations on all movable and immovable property.

Iraqi Government Reneges On Agreement

However, no Iraqi government official met with them and they were not permitted to visit Camps Ashraf and Liberty. Senator Torricelli and Professor Schneebaum could only meet a group of seven from Liberty outside the Camp. They were ready to extend their stay in Iraq, had there been an opportunity to meet and discuss the issue with the Iraqi officials, but were told it would not be possible.

Before leaving the United States, legal representatives of the residents were told that most probably they would meet Faleh Fayad, Maliki’s National Security Advisor or George Bakoos, Maliki’s political advisor. But UNAMI in Baghdad said Iraqi officials would not meet with anyone who would represent the PMOI except Iraqi lawyers. Legal representatives considered this a betrayal of the previous commitment and urged UNAMI and the US government to intervene to facilitate the meeting.

Iraqi Government Broken Promises

This was the latest round of the sabotage by the Iraqi government in the past 14 months for stealing residents’ property and expropriation of their property, without compensation.

Initially, Iraqi forces prevented the entry of Iraqi businessmen who were interested in buying residents’ property and some of them were arrested and beaten.

Then in April 2012, residents signed an agreement with an Iraqi businessman to sell their movable and immovable property, but the Iraqi government prevented the implementation of the contract, thus wasting six months without any progress.

In September 2012, a British company signed a contract with the residents, buying all the property, movable and immovable. This contract was confirmed by the British Foreign Office, the Iraqi embassy in London and the British Arab Chamber of Commerce. But the Iraqi government, by threatening to kill the Iraqi representative of the company prevented the implementation of this agreement.

UN Representative Martin Kobler Acts For Iraq

In an effort to discourage the British merchant proceeding with the contract, Mr. Kobler, Special Representative of the Secretary-General, personally called him suggesting that part of the property might be stolen!!

Then, Martin Kobler on November 22nd sent a six point plan to the representative of the residents outside Iraq, with the approval of the Iraqi government, that the residents should instruct an Iraqi lawyer to list “sellable” property and transfer them to a small section of Ashraf, giving it to the Iraqi government and going to Liberty themselves, and the lawyer could sell them later.

The secretariat of the National Council of Resistance of Iran announced the same day that this arrangement was nothing more than a way to steal and expropriate residents’ assets.

Subsequently, Mr. Gyorgy Basztin, the Deputy SRSG contacted the representative of the residents outside Iraq on November 24, 2012 suggesting “a delegation of international lawyers and American friends or an American figure as a mediator, to go to Iraq and reach a joint agreement with the GOI, UN, US Embassy and American officials.” The representative of the residents agreed with this proposal in an email and wrote “I assume that you have the approval of the GOI.”

The representative of the residents outside Iraq wrote him on November 29: “Our legal representative in discussions regarding Ashraf residents’ property is Senator Torricelli at this point. Two lawyers advising him on legal matters will accompany him. These discussions should be without any preconditions and limitations and should include all movable and immovable property.”

The government of Iraq after one month of procrastination only issued entry visas for Senator Torricelli and one of the lawyers in the last days of December. They immediately flew to Iraq on January 1st.

Report On The Trip

The report of this four-day trip has already been provided to US and UN officials.

The report, among other things, stresses:

“UNAMI has concluded that the future development of Iraq is dependent upon the survival of the current government of Nouri Al-Maliki. Shoring up Maliki, and protecting him from any potentially avoidable disruption, seem to UNAMI to be the only alternative to watching Iraq descend into civil war along ethnic (Arab/Kurd) and sectarian (Sunni/Shiite) lines. Sadly, this pessimistic prediction of the future of the country may well be accurate. Contrary to UNAMI’s analysis, many observers consider Maliki to be the problem, not the solution.”

“In our view, much of the attitude of UNAMI toward the MEK file can be explained in light of this premise. We were explicitly told, for example, that the Maliki Government would literally not survive a decision to pay the MEK for its immovable property…”

“We fully understand that the Iraqi Government will erect all kinds of barriers to a legally correct and fair outcome. We are concerned that UNAMI must not act in a way to legitimize or to support baseless arguments. Rather, we expect UNAMI to take an impartial position, consistent with international law principles that have long been part of the United Nations system. If international and domestic law requires that the residents should be compensated for their property, saying so should be entirely consistent with UNAMI’s mandate.”

Legal representatives of the residents also met and negotiated with the US Ambassador in Iraq and a group of Iraqi lawyers. They investigated judicial solutions against expropriation of residents’ property inside and outside Iraq. There are effective international remedies should the current attempts reach an impasse.

Senator Torricelli and Professor Schneebaum concluded that “there is obviously a great deal of work yet to do to bring the property issue to an acceptable resolution. The crux of the matter is to reach an agreement on compensation for the immoveable property. Given UNAMI’s current position, it is vital for the United State to play its crucial role in order to resolve this problem.”

No Trust Of Iraqi Government

Legal representatives of the residents also express concern over the Iraqi government’s insistence to deal only with Iraqi lawyers. They notified UNAMI and Martin Kobler, that the Iraqi lawyers are in principle ready to introduce themselves to their Government.

The lawyers would do this only under strong and written assurances from the Iraqi government.

The assurances must indicate:

  • the lawyers will not be retaliated against
  • the negotiations will be held with respect to all property including movable and immovable
  • the main party negotiating and making decisions will be Bob Torricelli and Steven Schneebaum and ultimately the representatives of the residents in Paris.
  • If received, these assurances would demonstrate that Iraq is really seeking a solution.

    To the extent that Mr. Fayad sees the role of Iraqi lawyers to “facilitate” advancing the desire of the Iraqi government, “it is critical that he be disabused of the notion immediately.”

    Shahriar Kia

    Shahriar Kia is a member of the Iranian opposition (PMOI /MEK). He is a human rights activist and political analyst on Iran and the Middle East.