Judge Michael Mukasey – No Basis To Send Ashraf Residents to a Concentration Camp

In the international conference held in Paris on Friday, January 20, 2012 in defense of Ashraf, Judge Michael Mukasey, 81st Attorney General of the United States made the following remarks: Click here for video

Thank you very much.  I should open by expressing gratitude to the French Committee for a Democratic Iran, and of course to Mrs. Rajavi for calling all of us together today to this extraordinary forum where we have been able to hear from some extraordinary people, including an extraordinary young woman named Sara Phillips who made me even prouder today to be an American than I usually am.  [applause] And her equally extraordinary father to protest—[applause] to protest against the failure by people who have the responsibility to act or at least the responsibility to speak against the developing humanitarian disaster for the residents of Ashraf.

As we’ve already seen, both the United States and the United Nations have bowed to the will of Nouri Al-Maliki, who imposed a completely arbitrary deadline of the end of 2011 for closing Camp Ashraf.  He relented only when the United Nations, in particular the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, entered into an agreement with the Maliki government, called a memorandum of understanding, to close Ashraf and to remove its residents to a military outpost abandoned by U.S. troops when they left Iraq, an outpost called Camp Liberty.  Mrs. Rajavi was pressured to approve this agreement, this memorandum, and she did so reluctantly and only on several explicit understandings including that no Ashraf resident would be forced to move until it was assured that Camp Liberty met minimum standards as a location for refugees who may have to spend an extended time there, including water, sewage systems, cooking, health facilities and recreational facilities in addition to suitable living quarters for the 3,400 residents of Ashraf.

The Iraqi government undertook in this agreement to establish such conditions.  The UNHCR undertook to monitor and assure that these conditions are completed and complied with, and if not at a minimum, at a minimum, the UNHCR is obligated, as is Ambassador Kobler, to notify the United Nations and the world community, as well as the Iraqis, that the conditions have not been met so that the residents of Ashraf are not taken to a facility that cannot house them under civilized conditions.

It is apparent from photographs and other evidence available that the Iraqis have not lived up to their obligation.  The facility itself does not yet have water and electricity.  The space allocated to Ashraf residents is tiny compared to the number of people who must be housed and cared for.  There’s no room for recreational facilities, nor are such facilities available anywhere nearby.

The location of the area to be staffed by UN personnel who are supposed to monitor Iraqi compliance with the memorandum of understanding, and to at least report on any violations of the rights of Ashraf residents by Iraqi security forces are located at a distance from where the Ashraf residents themselves are supposed to be housed.  Even though this facility—which is called Camp Liberty, that name is now taking on a cruelly ironic tone—is nowhere near ready to receive people and the UNHCR has not even begun to screen Ashraf residents for resettlement in other countries, Nouri Al-Maliki, who started this crisis by posing an artificial deadline, has made statements in the Iraqi press to the effect that the residents of Ashraf will be gone from Iraq within four months.

In addition, despite the obligation of the Iraqi government under the memorandum of understanding to safeguard the residents, the welfare of Ashraf residents, he has announced that about 120 arrest warrants have been issued for Ashraf residents.  The dates on those warrants are chilling evidence of what lies behind them.  As you’ve heard, some 80 of them were dated five days before the April 2011 massacre of Ashraf residents by the Iraqi military.  They obviously were prepared in Iran as a pretext for that massacre.  Another 38 were issued eight days before the July 2009 massacre of Ashraf residents by Iraqi troops and were obviously prepared in Iran as a pretext for that massacre.  Many of the names on those warrants are duplicates of one another.  Some of the names of people who are no longer in the camp.  In fact I have here one such warrant.  It’s a warrant for the arrest of Ibrahaim Zakeri.  Some of you may remember Ibraiham Zakeri, he was the head of intelligence for this organization.  He died in Paris in 2003, and yet this is one of the warrants that has been issued.  Better evidence that those warrants were issued in Iran can’t be forthcoming.  But the names are not the point.  The point is that those warrants have been a step preliminary to massacres in the past and they are clearly to be used as preliminary to massacres now.

Even though the Iraqi government is in obvious breach of its obligations, and Ambassador Kobler, who signed for the United Nations, and UNHCR and UNAMI have maintained a deafening silence.  The impression is growing that UNHCR means to certify Camp Liberty as being in compliance with necessary standards so as to shift responsibility to others and to suggest that any refusal by Ashraf residents to be taken to Camp Liberty is unreasonable and that the Ashraf residents themselves are to be blamed for any bad consequences.

Why is there—why do I so suspect the motives of a UN agency?  I’ve had the experience of meeting with the deputy to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights soon after the April 2011 massacre at Camp Ashraf, a man named Simonovic, who said that he was aware of the massacre and when asked what the high commissioner intended to do about it pointed with pride to a statement she had made.  And when I asked if that was his idea of doing something he said, “Well, it was a strong statement.”

This is from the head of a human rights organization that is supposed to be able to get the attention of the Security Council to attain help when necessary.  If the UNHCR intends to simply rubber stamp the violations by the Iraqi government and to improve Camp Liberty as a place that complies with international standards for long-term refugee facility to house Ashraf facilities, if that’s what the UN intends to do, then they should be aware that we are not going to sit idly and silently by and simply watch it happen.

We call upon UNHCR, Ambassador Kobler, UNAMI and the rest of the UN to rise to their modest obligations and at least report the truth of what is being prepared at Camp Liberty, which is no more and no less than a concentration camp.  We Americans call on our own government to use the power of the purse by withholding funds from the UN in general and UNHCR in particular if that agency does not do its job.  Finally, we point out to our own government the terrible effects of continuing to designate MEK as a terrorist organization when every other civilized country, the EU, the UK, have examined the evidence and removed this unjustified designation.

In every statement he makes and every threat he issues Nouri Al-Maliki refers to the designation as a justification for treating Ashraf residents and members of MEK generally as terrorists.  European and other countries that are asked to accept Ashraf residents as refugees use the U.S. designation as an excuse to decide to do so.  The Iranian regime itself cynically uses the designation to justify its attacks on MEK and to justify pressure on the Maliki government to deal harshly with the residents of Ashraf.  A federal court in Washington has already found that the State Department does not have a basis for continuing the designation and ordered the State Department more than a year and a half ago to reexamine the case.  The State Department shamefully has dragged its feet.  All we hear is that the matter is under consideration.

It is time for those like UNHCR and UNAMI and the rest of the UN bureaucracy whose responsibility it is to speak to speak and to let the world know what is happening at Camp Liberty so that there is no basis for sending Ashraf residents to a prison or a concentration camp.  It is also time for those with responsibility to act to act.  In particular the United States government should withhold funds unless and until UNHCR and UNAMI report openly and truthfully about conditions at Camp Liberty.  UNHCR should be encouraged to start screening ASHRAF residents immediately and our own government should act immediately.  And finally the unjustified listing of MEK on the State Department’s list of foreign terrorist organizations, which acts as both an obstacle to those who want to do good and an excuse for those who want to do evil must end.  When the history of this period is written you must make sure that the United States, which from the moment of its founding more than 235 years ago, has stood on the right side of history, remains on the right side of history, by delisting MEK and doing what it can to assure the safety of the residents of Ashraf.  Thank you very much.

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