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 Whistleblowers Need Protection



Hon. David Kilgour
Statement Prepared for Press Conference
National Press Building
22 June 2010

As co-chair of the NGO Canadian Friends of a Democratic Iran and being on the international pro-bono legal team for Camp Ashraf, I offer some words about an urgent situation. Ashraf in Iraq holds about 1100 women and more than 2000 male long term refugees from Iran, including about eleven who are Canadian citizens.

All are supporters or members of the PMOI/MEK (People's Mujahedeen of Iran), which is unfortunately still on the terrorist organization list for Canada. In contrast, all member nations of the EU removed it from their lists last year, following fully seven court decisions in Europe saying it cannot be considered a terrorist organization. Is it not both disrespectful of the rule of law and bad security policy to continue to accommodate the regime in Tehran by listing the largest opposition group in Iran?

On July 1st, the US military presence at Ashraf will end when its base, the FOB Grizzly, is transferred to Iraqi forces. The American government asserts that the protected person status for Ashraf residents ended in June 2004, but has continued to treat them as such to the end of 2008. Claiming the US will continue to monitor the situation closely to ensure that the government of Iraq abides by its assurances and obligations to protect the residents, it admits that the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq, known as UNAMI, will relocate its observing mission from Ashraf to Baghdad following the base closure. If UNAMI considers its situation unsafe once American soldiers leave, one can imagine how grave the risk would be for Ashraf residents.

All these steps seem likely to offer a green light for prime minister Nour al-Maliki, who is strongly under the influence of Tehran, for his next attack on Ashraf soon and/or if he forms a new government. On July 28 and 29, 2009, eleven unarmed residents were killed by Iraqi police, many were injured and 36 were taken hostage for 72 days under severe conditions.

Under the Geneva Convention, if a successor party receiving protected persons does not abide by its obligations, the previous one must correct the situation or take back the protection. During the past 18 months, the al-Maliki government has made it abundantly clear that it does not recognize any rights of residents. According to resolution 1883 of the UN Security Council, U.S. forces are responsible for the security of UNAMI. Ashraf residents are declared targets of the Iranian regime, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, the terrorist Qods force and the Iranian regime's Ministry of Intelligence and Security (MOIS).

Since this issue is so 'time sensitive', I'd urge you as journalists to watch this situation carefully until the next Iraqi government, hopefully a stable and independent one, takes office so that UNAMI's monitoring team would not be forced to leave Ashraf prematurely. Presumably, it would be preferable politically to have an international force replace American soldiers at Ashraf. Time is critical for either option.

Thank you.

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