A number of non-governmental human rights organizations, European parliamentarians, and international lawyers met on Wednesday September 21 at the UN European Headquarters in Geneva and warned about another imminent Srebrenica-like massacre at Camp Ashraf and called for an urgent measure for protection of its residents.
The speakers to the conference were: Maryam Rajavi, the President-elect of the Iranian Resistance; Dr. Alejo Vidal-Quadras, Vice President of the European Parliament; Struan Stevenson, President of the Delegation for Relations with Iraq in the European Parliament (presenter of European proposal for Ashraf crisis); Ruth N. Wedgwood , jurist; Sid Ahmed Ghozali, former prime minister of Algeria; Nontombi Tutu, human rights activist and the daughter of Archbishop Desmond Tutu; Madeleine Rees, Secretary General of Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom; Christiane Perregaux, co-President of the Legislative Council in Geneva; Gianfranco Fattorini, Co-Chair of Movement against Racism and for Friendship among the Peoples (MRAP); Marc Falquet, Member of Geneva Parliament; and Daniel Neeser, pastor. The conference was presided over by Michel Joli, Secretary General of Mitterrand Foundation (France Libertés).
Below is speech by Struan Stevenson, President of the Delegation for Relations with Iraq in the European Parliament:
Thank you very much, Chairman. I am sorry, we have upsetted the running order, but I have to leave very shortly to the airport to get back to the European Parliament this evening in Brussels. But thank you Mrs. Rajavi for your usual very powerful presentation.
We are all here because we share a very great and deep concern for the people of Ashraf. Yesterday when I arrived, I spoke to a young lady who is here in the audience. She told me that her sister is in Ashraf. I said I really hope your sister was not one of the people injured during the massacre on the 8th of April, during that violent, horrific attack.
She said to me that she was sprayed by high-pressure boiling water and scalded. I had not heard that this had occurred.
So when 2,000 military personnel with armored vehicles attacked these 3,400 unarmed civilians, and shot them down like rabbits, ran over them with tanks, crushing them to the ground, and spraying girls with boiling water, they went there to murder, to maim, to cause maximum disfigurement and injury and death. And there has been no remorse from Nouri-al-Maliki and his government.
I went to Bagdad two weeks after that massacre with a small delegation from the European Parliament to remonstrate with President Talebani, Foreign Minister Zabari, al-Najafi, the speaker of the Parliament, with the leaders of the Iraqi government. Nouri-al-Maliki was absent, he was in South Korea. And we said this kind of behavior is absolutely unacceptable. We, in European parliament are trying to help the rebuilding of Iraq, and this is how you repay what we are doing – by a massacre of unarmed civilians!
I am delighted to say now that Antonio Gutierrez, the High Commissioner for Refugees, is taking a real active role in this issue. As Mrs. Rajavi has just outlined, he has asked for the 3,400 residents to apply for individual asylum. And immediately, 3,400 applications arrived on his desk. The capacity for organization of the PMI should never be underestimated. And these people now are protected persons under international law. And Nouri-al-Maliki should pay attention to this. We will not tolerate any further violence or attacks on the people of Ashraf.
But it’s time that the OHCH take some action. We need a combined strategy from the UN. We need protection for these people while UNHCR carry out their individual interviews, and the registration process of all these refuges continues. We need the blue flag of the UN to fly above this refugee camp, because that’s what it is! And until we get that level of protection, these people continue to be at risk.
I was handed today a statement taken from the official website of the Foreign Ministry of Iraq by the deputy foreign minister stating Iraq is determined to close Ashraf by the end of this year. They are far from expressing remorse about what happened in April. They’re sticking to this ridiculous deadline, which is unacceptable, unachievable and must be cancelled. We are doing our utmost to rescue these people, to give them refugee status, to provide them with countries where they are able to be resettled as genuine, bonafide refugees. We do not need threats, we do not need intimidation, and we do not need the continued psychological torture going on around Camp Ashraf with the loudspeakers that Mrs. Rajavi spoke about. We need the cooperation of the Iraqi Government. And it’s about time we got some.
So, Ladies and Gentlemen, I have been engaged in this issue, we have variously heard all of the misinformation, all of the stories and the lies. I have at various times been told, “but wait a minute, these people are terrorists”. Well, repeated court cases in Europe have said that they are not terrorists. And now the federal court in Washington DC has said they are not terrorists.
Mrs. Hillary Clinton, please take notice of what your courts are telling the State department. We have repeatedly been told “this Camp Ashraf, these people are part of a cult”. These people are not part of a cult! They are freedom fighters who want to restore freedom and democracy to their homeland of Iran. We have repeatedly been told that they wish to permanently remain in Ashraf. Demonstrably, that is untrue. Already we’re making progress, with some of them having already left for various countries in Europe, outside of Europe, even to Australia, even here in Switzerland. Already, the process of resettlement has begun. So the lies and misinformation which has dogged our policy and our strategy all of these years and the time for negativism is over. The time for action has arrived. We only have three policies now that we need to implement.
First of all, cancel this ridiculous and threatening deadline of evacuating Ashraf by the end of this year. Secondly, provide protection for camp Ashraf now and place the blue flag over this refugee camp. And thirdly, all the EU Member States, all of the countries that love freedom and praise democracy and human rights must help with the resettlement of these 3,400 people. This is not a lot to ask, but it’s what we are all here today asking for.
Thank you very much.