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 Whistleblowers Need Protection


Stop Development of Camp Ashraf Tragedy

By Hon. David Kilgour
Demonstration at Iraqi Embassy
20 April 2009

Before appealing once again to the Iraqi government to stop the development of a terrible tragedy at Camp Ashraf, permit me to pay tribute to Lord Slynn of Britain, who fought heroically on behalf of Ashraf's 3500 Iranian refugees and all other supporters of the Iranian opposition.

The Rt. Hon. Lord Slynn of Hadley GBE, who passed away last week from cancer, was a renowned British jurist and former judge of the European Court of Justice and Lord of Appeal in Ordinary. A fierce defender of the rule of law, he led a long battle to help the PMOI, Iran's main democratic opposition, be taken off the list of terrorist organizations by the 27 European Union governments.

As we honour his memory, we extend our sympathy and love above all to his wife and family. As we remember his respect for all and humanitarian values, we also pledge today to continue his unceasing work in support of the Iranian people's quest for peace, rule of law and democracy.

Camp Ashraf Betrayal

In the words of Christopher Booker of the London Telegraph, “Were Lord Slynn, who twice visited Ashraf, still alive, he would again be playing a leading role in trying to alert the world to the terrible betrayal which now seems in the making.”

What Booker is referring to, of course, is the situation facing the peaceful residents of Camp Ashraf, whose protection was transferred to the Iraqi government in January of this year.

Under what appears to be a murky deal with Tehran's regime, Iraq`s government has been systematically bringing every kind of pressure, short of force, to close Ashraf down. Residents have been denied supplies, medical attention and contact with the outside world, and are terrified that they will be handed over to Tehran, many to be tortured or executed as tens of thousands of PMOI supporters have been in the past by the regime.

It cannot be stressed too strongly that the PMOI today advocates a nuclear-weapons-free Iran, equal rights for women and minority ethnocultural communities and religions, separation of church and state, the rule of law and independent judges, representative democracy and good relations for Iran with its neighbours and the world.

In June 2001, the PMOI renounced violence against the regime in Tehran, which had executed--and continues to murder-- PMOI supporters and other Iranians. Seven judgements by independent European courts have looked carefully at this issue and found decisively in the PMOI's favour as a non-violent opposition movement. Both houses of the UK parliament accordingly voted to delist the PMOI in the spring of 2008 after its Court of Appeal, which considered both classified and unclassified evidence, reached the same conclusion. The 27-member EU Council of Ministers voted to delist it in January, 2009. The Canadian and American governments should do likewise without further delay.

Zahra Kazemi and Roxana Saberi

If the regime in Tehran would sentence Roxana Saberi, a journalist and American citizen, to eight years in prison for spying after a closed-door trial, as it just did, what would await the residents of Ashraf in Tehran? Any independent journalist is a spy to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad; the current Iranian legal system is a sham.

I should also stress that another journalist with dual citizenship, Zahra Kazemi, a much-loved Canadian photo journalist, was tortured and murdered in Tehran`s Evin prison on July 10th, 2003. The rule of law means nothing to the mullah-run courts in Iran.

In a chilling report about Camp Ashraf, which has been effectively under siege since early March, Lara Logan of CBS News recently quoted Iraqi journalists as saying that "trying to go to Ashraf is a death sentence – “do not expect to come back.” The government stopped fuel supplies, cut off logistic trucks – allowing only limited shipments of food to the camp. Iraqi soldiers reportedly beat several residents of a building that used to house Iranian women, until U.S. forces stepped in. Family members who have travelled from Iran to visit camp residents are denied entry to the camp. Many have been held in the desert area beyond the camp by Iraqi authorities and forced to wait for weeks with no shelter.

Mouwaffaq al-Rubaie, the Iraqi National Security Advisor has ordered the denial of medical attention, including surgery for a cancer patient, by Iraqi physicians for previously approved appointments. Since the closure prevents Ashraf residents from leaving the camp to visit Iraqi hospitals, denying entry to the camp by Iraqi doctors is a violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which obligates the Iraqi government to protect Ashraf residents. In fact, these development could be seen as in support of the Iranian regime, which has made no effort at hiding its intention to wipe out Camp Ashraf and its residents.

This latest development followed a pattern by al-Rubaie, who has repeatedly made clear his intention of forcing Camp Ashraf resident to return to Iran's control. In an interview with Al-Forat TV on April 1, al-Rubaie explicitly said, "We will gradually make their presence in Iraq intolerable for them."

Canada, the US and all members of the international community must heed the warning of the PMOI and many of Camp Ashraf's international supporters about the grave risks to residents. We must all take action to stop a human disaster in the making. Failure to respond to Al-Rubaie's latest action and the continued isolation of Camp Ashraf will point to a dangerous prospect and embolden the dictators in Tehran, who have demonstrated time and again their willingness to impose ruthless oppression, including murder, on dissidents.

Appeal to Governments

All of us here today appeal to the governments of Canada and US to follow the lead of the 27 EU countries and de-list the PMOI as a terrorist group, recognize their contribution in exposing Iran's nuclear program and support their pursuit of a rule of law democratic system in Iran.

Immediate efforts must be taken to end the siege of Camp Ashraf and restore the situation there to the pre-January 2009 situation, when the Ashraf residents were under U.S. military protection. The U.S. has an obligation to the resident of Ashraf. In July 2004, the United States Government recognized PMOI members as Protected Persons under the Fourth Geneva Convention, meaning that they should not be deported, expelled or repatriated, or displaced inside Iraq. The United Nation and all other relevant International organizations, including the International committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), must intervene now.

Silence, indifference and inaction can also kill! The women and children of Camp Ashraf are crying for help. To save their lives, we must act now!

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