Alan Dershwiz: We must act to protect these vulnerable individuals in Camp Ashraf,if we fail to do so, the blood of innocents will be on our collective hands

On Saturday December 10, on the International Human Rights Day, and on the eve of U.S. President Barack Obama’s meeting with Iraqi prime minister Nouri al-Maliki in Washington DC, in a call to President Obama, American and European dignitaries urged annulment of the December 31 deadline on Ashraf and the forcible relocation of its residents inside Iraq, warning of an impending massacre and human catastrophe in Ashraf

Speakers to the meeting were: Maryam Rajavi, President-elect of the Iranian Resistance; André Glucksmann, author and a member of New France Philosophers; Andrew Card, President Bush Chief of Staff (2001-2006); Bill Richardson, New Mexico Governor (2003-2011) and former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations; Mitchell Reiss, U.S. State Department Head of Strategy Development (2003 – 2005); Alan Dershowitz, one of the most prominent advocates of individual rights and the most well-known criminal lawyer in the world; Geoffrey Robertson QC, prominent British jurist and former appeal judge at the UN Special Court for Sierra Leone; Sid Ahmed Ghozali, former Prime Minister of Algeria; Patrick Kennedy, U.S. Congressman (1995-2011); Senator Ingrid Betancourt, Columbian presidential candidate; General David Phillips, U.S. Military Police Commander (2008-2011); Jean-François Le Garrett, Mayor of Paris 1st District; Aude de Thuin, the founder of Women’s Forum for Economics; Cynthia Fleury, West contemporary philosopher.

Below is speech by Hon. Alan Dershwiz :

A human being can have no greater honor, privilege, or responsibility than to prevent the death of a fellow human being.  Usually as lawyers, our job is to react to something that’s already happened.  Here today we have an opportunity to proact, to act in a preventive capacity to do something to prevent a horrible, horrible crime from occurring.  My religious tradition as well as the Islamic tradition share in common the statement that he who saves even a single human life, it is as if they have saved the entire world.  Imagine what honor we would have here today if we could participate in the saving of more than 3000 innocent human lives.  Now after the fact, when crimes have to be proven the way, for example, the past crimes that have been committed against the people in Camp Ashraf have to be proven, the rule is proof beyond a reasonable doubt.  But when the issue is preventing a crime, when we’re seeking to act before the crime has been committed, then the criteria is not proof beyond a reasonable doubt, it’s substantial possibility or probably cause, and if anyone doubts that there is today probable cause for believing that a great crime is about to be committed unless we can act preventively, let them simply look at the reports done by others here on this panel, relating to the events of 1988 and relating more recently to the events of April 8th 2011.  There is more than probably cause for believing that unless we act preventively a terrible crime against humanity will be perpetrated.

These rules are especially true when the crime is as great as the crime that’s potentially involved here and when the preventive steps are so obvious and so simple as was stated previously by people who know more than I do.  What the United States can do is so simple and so obvious.  We have the power to prevent this from happening.  We have the power to prevent the camp from closing.  We have the power to make the Iraqi government act responsibly.  You know, this is not like the very difficult decision faced by the United States, Israel, and other countries of the world as to whether to take military preventive action to prevent the Iranians from developing nuclear weapons.  Those are very, very difficult decisions because the cost of action and the cost of inaction are equally grave, but that’s not the case here.  The case here is that the cost of inaction is monumental and the cost of action is relatively limited.

And so Elie Wiesel taught us that the major lesson of the Holocaust is always believe the threats of your enemies more than the promises of your friends.  And we’re seeing that presented so dramatically here today, the threats of the enemies of the residents of Camp Ashraf are so clear they’re not trying to hide anything.  Listen.  Listen to the loudspeakers.  Listen to what they’re saying.  They’re not hiding their intentions.  And then what about the promises?  The United States made promises.  Great countries keep their promises.  Moral people keep their promises.  We have an obligation to keep our promises that we made to those people who we disarmed when we told them that they had to give up any kind of arms.  We promised them protection.  There are obligations that come with promises—obligations under law, obligations under diplomacy, obligations under morality.

And so with those considerations in mind, last Friday I traveled to The Hague and met with the chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court.  And I presented him with a draft indictment against named and specific individuals in Iran for committed war crimes, crimes against humanity, [applause] incitement to genocide, solicitation of genocide.  And he took the indictment from me and he looked at it and he read it.  And then I said to him, “Mr. Ocampo, do you know who the witnesses to those crimes are?”  He said, “You have witnesses?”  I said, “Yes.”  And I presented him with 24 witness statements—statements of people in Camp Ashraf.  And I said, “Do you know what’s happening to these witnesses?”  Just like the mafia kills its witnesses, the Iranians (Mullahs), the Iranian mafia, have been killing the witnesses to the genocide that they’re planning, to the crimes against humanity they’ve committed, to the crimes that they have incited.  And that’s one of the reasons why there is such a great interest among the Iranian Mullahs in making sure that the witnesses, the witnesses to murder, the witnesses to torture, the witnesses to genocide, the witnesses in Camp Ashraf are never allowed to leave there alive.  And I said to him, “Mr. Ocampo, you have an obligation as a prosecutor to protect your witnesses.”  His response, of course, was the one I fully expected and anticipated.  “The International Criminal Court at this time does not have jurisdiction over individuals in Iran or the country of Iran ’cause Iran is not a signatory to the Rome Treaty.”  But the Rome Treaty states that its purpose is “To contribute to the prevention of crimes against humanity.”

And this Monday in New York, the signatory nations to the Rome Treaty are meeting and we’re trying very hard to get the Canadian government and the Canadian foreign minister to raise the issue under the treaty as to whether or not the treaty can be amended or expanded, whether or not other remedies can be taken, for example whether Iraq can be persuaded to become a signatory to the International Criminal Court.  There are many, many other remedies as well that can be practiced and I can tell you that I was encouraged by the chief prosecutor in The Hague to do whatever was possible to expand the jurisdiction of the court, to include potential horrible crimes, nothing that the court could do would be more important than to prevent an imminent killing, mass killing and crime against humanity.

And so what are the options that are now available to the international community?  The first and most obvious option is to persuade the United States to do the right thing.  And it’s interesting that Ambassador (Reiss) correctly mentioned Samantha Powers’ great book, A Problem from Hell.  Samantha was my student at Harvard Law School and I gave her leave to go off and go to various foreign countries when she was my student to gather the kind of information that she was gathering and I presented a copy of that book to President Clinton when it was first published.  And it was after he read that that he came back and told me how much he regretted not having done more to prevent those genocides.  And you know where Samantha Powers is now?  She’s in the White House.  She has the ear of the president of the United States.  She has the ear of the secretary of state.  And I promise you that when I leave here today, before Monday, before the meeting, I will call Samantha Power and I will remind her of her book.

I will tell Samantha Power that I don’t want to have to write a book called, A Problem from Nowhere, because this is not a problem from hell.  This is a problem that is easily solvable and the solution is in the hands of this administration.  It is in the hands of the president of the United States, who is meeting with the head of Iraq, and if the president of the United States sits silent during that meeting, the head of Iraq will leave that meeting thinking he has an imprimatur to go ahead and close Camp Ashraf.  Silence is not an option for the president.  Silence is complicity.  Silence is facilitation. Silence is permission.  And silence in some contexts can be a crime.

Let me explain.  The criminal law criminalizes omissions, criminalizes the failure to act when there is a responsibility to act.  Crimes are not only actions—they are inactions as well.  International law has previously been applied to those who by their inaction have allowed or facilitated massacres and the United States government is in a position whereby its silence, it may become complicit in a crime.  Our country doesn’t want to do that.  We are a great country.  We have a moral president, a moral secretary of state.  We have moral people in positions of authority.  We want to do the right thing.  It’s easy not to act, but failure to act clearly is a responsibility.  The Bible says, “Do not stand idly by the blood of your neighbor.”  It could have been describing Camp Ashraf today.  We cannot stand idly by [applause] the blood of the inmates of that camp.

There are other remedies that can be taken in addition to going to the Security Council and asking the Security Council to give jurisdiction over Iran in this matter to the International Criminal Court that’s permitted under the Rome Treaty.  And that would be encouraged, I believe, by the prosecutor in The Hague if that were to be requested by one of the signatory nations.  There is also universal jurisdiction for certain kinds of crimes and omissions and even non-signatory nations can be held responsible.  They can also be held responsible in their own domestic courts and I know there are lawsuits now being contemplated against the United States government in American courts, holding them responsible and asking them to comply with their legal obligations.  There could be a potential suit in the International Court of Justice against the United States, Iran, and Iraq—a preventive lawsuit seeking injunctive relief to require that the camp not be shut down.  And then of course ultimately there’s why we’re here today, the court of public opinion.

So we must not sit silently by.  We said, “Never again,” many years ago and what we seen is again and again and again.  We must not see it happen yet again.  We must act to protect these vulnerable individuals.  If we fail to do so, the blood of innocents will be on our collective hands.  There is no time to wait.  The clock of death is ticking.  If not now, when?  Thank you.


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