What is raging in Ashraf is an experiment of mental torture – Juan Garcès, international lawyer

Mr. Juan Garcès, distinguished international and human rights lawyer and the legal advisor to the late Chilean President Salvador Allende, addressed the threats and pressures facing Camp Ashraf residents in Iraq at the International Conference in Brussels on January 25. He described the use of 180 loudspeakers against the residents of Ashraf as “mental torture” and commended the residents for not reacting in retaliation and violence in face threats and inhumane treatments by agents of the regime and Iraqi forces.

Excerpts from his speech follow:

Very clearly, the conference got your attention during many hours. Very important things were said. They covered international order and suffering of Iranian people in particular the residents of Ashraf. I would like to add to all that was said, something which is pretty interesting to me to mention to the US State Department when it has to decide on removal of PMOI from the list of the terrorist organizations. What is raging in Ashraf, and I try to follow it day to day, is an experiment of mental torture. We have distinguished Americans here. I wish to remind them that mental torture is not less than physical torture.

I want to point out a well-known case, that of the American Senator McCain who was once asked to answer a question. He knows what he is speaking about since he was tortured in Vietnam. The question was: If ever you must choose one day between physical torture and mental torture, what would you choose? McCain immediately answered: I will choose physical torture. This is to say to what point mental torture is horrible. 

And I knew the facts of what is happening in Ashraf. I know what is going on. It is an experiment of destructing personality; which is the goal of torture. But what is important to remember is that the reaction to this torture, this suffering, has not been to answer with violence. Ashraf residents are provoked on daily bases, day and night. It would be normal for humans to burst and resort to violence after all this. Some people may know this, particularly those who are not in Iraq. Generally, nobody resorted to violence to face this torture. On the other hand they asked what law could do to relieve, to solve and put an end to this suffering.

The answer, that we have to keep in mind is that if law is not accompanied by a legitimate force, it is impotent. Applying force, without legitimacy that should be practical, leads to despotism and tyranny. It is thus necessary to mix two dimensions that of law and that of coercion to be articulated and in support of law. This is what you are trying to do.

I am very pleased to tell you that you’ve been heard in a first court, but it should not be the only court, since what you’re asking for is the international law, an obligation that was freely assumed by all the states which signed the Geneva Convention or the convention against torture. And they are the majority of the countries of the world. What is required of the countries is to put in practice these obligations they freely chose. And since these two conventions, particularly the convention of Geneva, planned jurisdiction for all signatory States, and that other courts of justice join the Spanish court to require the respect of these engagements and if this respect is not applied, to ask for responsibilities. This is what we started to do in Spain, by summoning the Iraqi general who led the attack on Ashraf in July 2009. He has been summoned to the court for March 8 to defend himself on charges pressed against him. Other courts should follow very soon.

We are talking about international law. International law would be of a better use if law was serving states’ commitments and behind it, the goal in which the international law wants to reach. I must tell you, and you know it but I remind it, that independence of the court of justice must be a respected mean everywhere. And it is the judiciary’s seriousness that is at stake.  As far as we are concerned, I believe that you will understand and you will respect the court of justice’s neutrality and independence, just as the timing of this court of justice which is different from the political timing. But it should be done.

We do not have an international court with the possibility of acting on Iraq; Iraq is not a signatory of the Rome Treaty. Consequently if we speak about responsibility in a court of justice for the very serious violations of the international law which take place at this moment in Ashraf, it is necessary to look towards national courts, since there is no other.

A first step was taken and I and others will help you, so that others can follow. We will offer to the human rights community, particularly institutions linked to the United Nations, the opportunity of suiting what they are doing, reports, considerations, to what occurs in Iraq and particularly in Ashraf, to fit them to the action of international law.

We also will take initiatives to offer this possibility to other countries under the rule of law. They will have an opportunity of doing so. We will see their response. We hope and wish they follow the first steps and the step that was taken in Spain that should not in any way be the last. Because and I will conclude by saying: if these things were done and the results successively were similar to each other, one could measure to what point Mr. Rajavi’s words that I have heard a few minutes ago, are right and I totally agree: as long as there will be a little bit of law and a drop of blood for freedom, the outcome will be positive.

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