Letter of Alejo Vidal-Quadras-VP European Parliament on Camps Liberty and Ashraf to UN Secretary General
Honourable Ban Ki-moon
The United Nations
New York, NY 10017
In a letter on May 24, I shared with you my concerns and those of my colleagues in the European Parliament and in the International Committee ‘In Search of Justice’ (ISJ) regarding the deeds of Ambassador Kobler, your Special Representative for Iraq (SRSG), towards Iranian dissidents in Camps Liberty and Ashraf, and conveyed to you their minimum and urgent demands for continuing their transfer to Liberty.
In early June, I received a response from Mr Lynn Pascoe, the UN Undersecretary General for Political Affairs that unfortunately left my concerns unanswered and repeated Mr Kobler’s known arguments. Surprisingly, Mr Kobler sent this response, which is dated May 29, to the representative of Ashraf residents outside Iraq on June 1st, and the main letter reached my office a few days later.
Nevertheless, the reason for writing this letter is not because of Mr Pascoe’s disappointing reply, but because of a new report by Mr Kobler which I received recently from EU sources and which shows that the SRSG’s failure to correct his conduct could result in irrecoverable damage to Iranian dissidents and the UN’s reputation. (Attachment no. 1)
The document in question is the report of Mr Kobler’s visit to Camp Liberty on May 27. Below the report, it states that copies would be distributed to various UN agencies, the U.S. embassy, the EU Delegation, the Government of Iraq (GOI) and others who might be involved in the matter. However, when I asked Liberty representatives about the May 27 visit, I discovered they had received a copy of Mr Kobler’s report from their sources inside the Iranian regime. Moreover, they reminded me that on May 27, the residents’ legal advisor had sent a report on that visit along with urgent demands to Mr Kobler and U.S. and other UN officials and had sent me a copy too. (Attachment no. 2 &3)
Mr Kobler’s report is totally biased and leaves no doubt that, so far as Ashraf is concerned, he is pursuing a special political agenda which is by no means in service of the residents’ rights. I wrote in my letter of May 28 to the High Commissioner António Guterres, “Mr Kobler’s mandate seems to be, first and above all, closing Ashraf at any price and piling up the residents in Liberty Prison. This has caused us all frustration and dismay.”(Attachment no. 4) Now after that report, I feel I was still optimistic about Mr Kobler’s goals and programmes. Mr Kobler’s visit was following his return from his trip to Tehran.
Briefly, the written or non-written parts of the report give the impression that Iraq behaves with understanding and patience and provides enough necessities, but the residents are maximalists who have irrational demands, refrain from talking with Iraqi officials, create crisis, and make trouble for those willing to leave the camp. European Parliament, ASP 11E205, 60 rue Wiertz, B-1047, Brussels, Belgium 2
This is nothing but a fabrication and distortion. This is the first time I am using such words about a UN official or an official in a democratic state; so far, I have used them only for officials in totalitarian regimes. If you go over what has happened to Ashraf residents over the past six months, and if you just enumerate Mr Kobler’s violations of his pledges, and if you just review his unrealistic reports, you wouldn’t reprove me.
After this preface, let me address some details of the report:
Mr Kobler’s relations with the Iranian regime and the problem of lack of transparency
1. As I mentioned above, a copy of the report has been sent by Tehran’s embassy in Baghdad to the terrorist Quds Force and Iran’s Foreign Ministry. Mr Kobler should answer the question about how a report about the arch-foe of a fascist regime has reached that very regime. Has Mr Kobler given it to the regime’s ambassador through his known communications with him, or has the regime received it through the GOI, or is the Iranian regime among the “other interested stakeholders” that have been referred to at the end of the report?
2. Amazingly, the report has made a very brief reference to the first demand of the residents on May 27. The residents explained their demands to Mr Kobler in 18 articles and sent them to him in writing the same day. Their first demand is:
“The Special Representative of Secretary-General shall not allow any meddling of the Iranian regime against its opposition in Camp Liberty.”
In the meeting and before and afterwards, the residents explained all examples of involving the Iranian regime, but they neither got any answer on the spot, nor does the report make any reference to it.
3. The residents raised with him what the Iranian regime’s ambassador had quoted Mr Kobler against residents on 22 and 24 January (ISJ statement on January 27- Attachment no. 5); the remarks of Faleh Fayyaz, Maliki’s National Security Advisor, after his return from Tehran on April 24 about Mr Kobler’s communications with Iranian regime’s officials on the issue of closure of Ashraf (NCRI statement on April 25- Attachment no. 6); and the meeting between officials of Iranian regime’s Ministry of Intelligence with Mr Kobler in Hotel Laleh in Tehran discussing the trial and extradition of a number of residents (NCRI statement on May 11- Attachment no. 7)
We remember that Mr Kobler had explicitly told European officials during his visit to Brussels early February2012 that the Iranian regime had told him that it would not grant him any visa to Iran until Ashraf residents had been transferred to Liberty; in practice, he received his visa after two thirds of the residents had been transferred.
4. The report specifies that the report’s contents are discussed with the residents’ leaders. Why is this report not given to them if they are the main subject of the report? Whereas the residents have specified that even the contents of this report, including none of its untrue issues, have been shared with them; this while in light of Mr Kobler’s lack of trustworthiness, the residents have repeatedly asked him to check his reports, or at least what he is quoting the residents, with them. SRSG reiterates in the report that he has asked the residents not to accuse UNAMI of partiality and inaction. However, this report and hiding it from the residents and its emergence in the hands of the Iranian government is the best proof of his partiality.
Tarnishing the residents’ image and paving the way for ominous objectives
5. Tarnishing the image of residents has been a known method of Mr Kobler from the outset. He launched an extensive campaign to represent the residents as responsible for the destruction of the infrastructures. In a letter on 27 February to the UNSG, Secretary Clinton, Mr Kobler and other relevant authorities, the residents of Liberty wrote (referring to the awful situation of the infrastructure), wrote, “To cover up this scandal, we are facing a demonising campaign with the aim of blaming us, the victims, for “lack of cooperation” or even “sabotage”. This is paving the way for the next steps of conspiracy. It is the continuation of a demonising campaign started 33 years ago by Khomeini, when he said the PMOI torture its people to tarnish the image of the “Islamic system”. The Iraqi government, when it killed 36 of our sisters and brothers on April 8, 2011 blamed us for the crime.”(Attachment no. 8)
6. This misinformation campaign continued extensively in Washington DC, New York, Geneva, Brussels and Baghdad. On February 28, the SRSG contacted European Parliament representatives including me, and the President of the Delegation for Relations with Iraq Struan Stevenson and repeated the same false claims. In this regard, ISJ wrote in a statement on March 1st, “Investigations show that propagation of lies against residents of Liberty is not only sheer lies, but despite lack of resources they have not hesitated at any effort to improve the situation at the camp in the past 10 days” and added “ISJ asks the Secretary General of the United Nations to appoint an independent investigation committee who would also be trusted by the residents to investigate about the misinformation and not allow the demonization campaign and partiality of UN officials to set the ground for forcible displacement and another massacre against the residents of Camp Ashraf. Additionally, we ask the Secretary General and the Special Representative, to extend the visiting possibility of Ashraf and Liberty, at the first opportunity, to a delegation from the European Parliament so they can directly see the situation and the truth”.(Attachment no. 9)
7. The American publication ‘Foreign Policy’ wrote on 8 March 2012, “the U.N. has reported that MEK members at Camp Liberty have been sabotaging the camp, littering garbage and manipulating the utilities to make things look worse than they really are”
Stating half of the truth and hiding the other half
8. The report states several times that the residents refrain from talking to the GOI; this is a sheer deception. Mr Kobler knows the background better than anybody else. My colleagues and I wrote to you and Mr Kobler several times that the GOI has appointed a person by the name of Sadeq Mohammad Kazem as the manager of the camp who was involved in both massacres in Camp Ashraf and is responsible for the murder of 47 residents and injury of 1,000 others and is under prosecution by the Spain’s National Court. (Attachments no. 10 &11)
I wrote to Prime Minister al-Maliki on 2 December 2009 that Sadeq is an agent of the terrorist Quds Force and copied that to you. (Attachment no. 12) Nevertheless, the residents, upon Mr Kobler’s request, participated in daily meetings headed by him for three months; the meetings that not only did not resolve any problem but aggravated the hostilities. After three months, the residents announced that they would not attend those meetings any longer unless the GOI were to appoint a representative who had not been involved in the massacres. Is this a “maximalist” approach that you do not sit at a table with the murderers of your sisters and brothers? Before the transfer of the first group to Liberty, Mr Kobler had promised the residents, both in Paris and Ashraf, that he would not let that person intervene in residents’ fate. He well knows that right now the residents participate in the meetings with Mr George Bakoos and COL Haqqi, two other representatives of Iraq, when these two go to Liberty.
9. Mr Kobler’s intention behind this distortion is unveiled indeed in another part of the report where he writes, “not much progress was currently being made, with the residents refusing to talk to the Iraqis and the Government of Iraq delaying important decisions “. Clearly the residents should be represented as responsible and the GOI is the one to be exonerated!
10. Mr Kobler wants to pretend that he has been able to prevent bloodshed in Ashraf and secure the residents’ rights. This is a reversed picture of the reality. The truth is that the GOI and al-Maliki were under an extensive and growing international pressure after the massacre of 8 April 2011. By making Ashraf residents homeless and by sending them to Liberty prison, Mr Kobler surely provided the mains service to the Iranian regime and al-Maliki and not to the residents. In a session in the European Parliament on June 6, Struan Stevenson said he feels guilty that by believing Mr Kobler’s words, he European Parliament, ASP 11E205, 60 rue Wiertz, B-1047, Brussels, Belgium 4
encouraged Ashraf residents and their leadership to go to Liberty; whereas Liberty is a prison with unacceptable conditions.
Residents’ relations with UNAMI
11. The report writes, “During the afternoon visit, Camp Hurriya was very quiet. The usual interlocutors neither made themselves visible to the visiting UN monitors nor sent the daily utility statistics requested by the UN.” He wants to give the impression that the residents are not cooperating with UNAMI and its monitors.
Prior to this, the SRSG, surprisingly, had said both in Paris and Liberty that the UN monitors in Camp are monitored by “usual interlocutors” and they prefer to commute alone in the camp. He was referring to the residents who were serving the monitors as interpreters or guides. Subsequently from the beginning of April, the residents informed UNAMI that in order to prevent any misunderstandings, from that point on these interlocutors will not be present in UNAMI representatives’ movements and the monitors can go where ever they want, and if they need help they can inform them in advance so the interlocutors would accompany them. On May 27, the monitors did not give any request for the presence of those interlocutors.
The issue of not providing the daily utility statistics is not true either and the representative of the residents, like other days, provided daily utility statistics of the camp to UN monitors.
Presenting the minimum rights as maximalist and a decree for another massacre
12. The report alleges the residents to have maximalist manner. The summary of the report asserts : 'While the SRSG pledged UN support on humanitarian necessities such as water, electricity and facilities for the disabled, he appealed to the residents to prioritise their demands and show flexibility on issues of minor importance' In another place the report writes: 'Several demands were phrased in such a general, sweeping, maximalist manner (culminating in ’we all demand to return to Camp Ashraf) that even reasonable limitations would allow the camp leaders to claim non-fulfilment. While the SRSG thanked the camp leaders for the update, he also urged them to be realistic, prioritise their demands and raise them directly with the Government of Iraq.' Anyone who has the least familiarity with Liberty residents will find out what ominous intentions are behind these descriptions.
13. In the meeting on 27 May, the residents’ representatives asked the SRSG to urge the Iraqi government to stop preventing the residents from having access to specific amount of water that they need at their own expense. This was the residents’ word from the day of their arrival in Liberty. If Mr Kobler lived in Liberty for two days he would realize that residents want the minimum amount of water for washing, bathing and minimum cleansing of the environment. And to this end, they have presented several plans to the GoI to be implemented at the residents’ expense, but the GoI has practically opposed them.
14. In his report, the SRSG does not mention anything about the expenditure by the residents over the past three months to provide water and electricity. For the past three months, the residents have paid more than 770,000 dollars for fuel to generate electricity, 272,000 dollars for hiring septic tankers to dispose of black water and more than 101,000 dollars for hiring water tankers. The documents are available and Mr Kobler is aware of them.
15. The report claims that the way the police are stationed is not “a serious breach of 16 March agreement” and it refuses the residents’ claim that the checkpoints are not screened. Whereas comparing the current photos of police positions in the camp and March 16 agreement leaves no ambiguity that 80 per cent of the agreement has not been implemented, and the Iraqi government has continuously violated the agreement. Complete implementation of this agreement was the prerequisite for the transfer of third group and the groups afterwards. European Parliament, ASP 11E205, 60 rue Wiertz, B-1047, Brussels, Belgium 5
16. Mr Kobler knows well that time and again, the camp leadership and the residents’ representatives outside Ashraf and specifically Mrs Rajavi have relinquished their minimum rights on Mr Kobler’s request. They have yielded 25-years of stay in Iraq and have an absolute right to asylum in this country, Ashraf their home where they lived for a quarter of a century, a right to freedom of movement in Ashraf and Liberty, free access to lawyers, friends’ and family visits in Ashraf and Liberty and dozens of other certain rights. They have not asked Mr Kobler to defend their certain rights. I wish that Mr Kobler would name what he believes is a maximalist manner. Which one of the 18 items that the residents have presented to him in writing and orally and which have been written in his report very briefly and mutilated are maximalist?
Does Mr Kobler believe that not allowing any meddling of Iran, transferring 6 utility vehicles and the remaining cargo of the fifth group, implementing the previous agreements, setting a date for connecting the water and electricity to the city grid system, providing facilities for a green environment, determining the properties, access to fuel at regular price, freedom to use fork lift truck and backhoe, constructing pavements, spraying poison, repairing the water and electricity systems, making shades etc … are maximalist?
17. The report implies that the residents have blocked the Refugee Status Determination (RSD) process and that the SRSG has appealed to the residents three times not to allow the RSD process to be derailed and to reaffirm their commitment to this process. In the meeting on 27 May, the residents’ representatives denied the SRSG’s remarks and reiterated that the residents are the ones who by all means want the continuation of the RSD process and the resettlement to get rid of Liberty prison. But, unfortunately, the GoI’s lack of commitment to its agreements in the MoU, in the letters and the SRSG’s agreements have derailed the process and have brought the Temporary Transit Location (TTL) project to failure. But these remarks have been censored in the Monitoring Report. Despite all the problems and hindrances, the residents have not neglected cooperating with the UNHCR.
18. Mr Kobler deliberately turns a blind eye on the suppressive actions and inhumane restrictions of Iraqi forces. We hope the United Nations receives Mr Kobler’s answers to hundreds of questions, including the following:
• Why has the body of Engineer Bardia Mostofian not been returned to his relatives in Liberty and Ashraf after 70 days? He passed away on March 20, at Iranian New Year, following three days and nights of strenuous activities for relocation to Liberty. He passed away after arriving at Liberty.
• Why does the Iraqi government prevent the construction of canopies for the trailers in Liberty? (NCRI’s statement Attachment no.13)
• Why did Iraqi forces return 6 utility vehicles from midst of the fifth convoy in a bandit manner and why did UNAMI monitors not pay attention and then not protest and why contrary to Mr Kobler’s promise were these vehicles not transferred to Liberty later?
• Why is the transfer of special trailers and vehicles of handicapped residents prevented?
• Why does the Iraqi government prevent the transfer of residents’ air conditioners to Liberty?
• Why does the Iraqi government prevent the referral of Iraqi merchants to buy the assets of Ashraf residents?
• Why is Mr Kobler reluctant to present a request to the International Organization for Migration (IOM) to accept responsibility in resolving the problems of residents’ assets?
• Why, despite continuous requests by Ashraf residents, was a group of Ashraf engineers not allowed to visit Liberty in advance?
European Parliament, ASP 11E205, 60 rue Wiertz, B-1047, Brussels, Belgium 6
• Why was permission not given to prominent U.S personalities like Mayor Giuliani and General Phillips (who previously was in charge of protecting Ashraf) and also to Mr Struan Stevenson, President of the European Parliament’s Delegation for Relations with Iraq?
• What was the story of photos processed by Photoshop that were sent to the residents on Jan 18, 2012 and why is it that those photos were so different from the reality?
• Why is it that the area of Camp Liberty was decreased from 40 square kilometres to 2.5 sq. km and subsequently to 0.5 sq. Km? Was Mr Kobler deceived by the Iraqis?
• And hundreds of questions about water, electricity, sanitation and paved roads etc. … which we leave them.
A shameful lie
19. The allegation made in the report that the people are kept forcibly in the camp is unbelievable. Part of the report under 'physical integrity' mentions: 'The police commander confirmed that he knew of rumours that two would-be defectors had been stopped from leaving the camp by fellow residents and injured in the process. He said all he knew was that on 23 and 24 May one man each had been treated at Camp Hurriya’s clinic for serious but not life-threatening cuts to the left hand and face, respectively. He said both were likely to have been caused by sharp instruments, casting doubts on the claim of one victim that a brick had fallen on his hand'. But what is the story?
a) On May 24, Mr Abdollah Zarei, one of the residents, fell down while playing soccer and his face was injured. The injury was due to the gravel on the ground. His friends took him to the clinic and the Iraqi doctor examined him and sutured his wound and on May 30, the doctor took away the stiches. Mr Kobler is aware of the frequent and unanswered requests of the residents to construct asphalt or concrete roads and perhaps this is also due to ’maximalist’ manner of the residents.
b) On the same day, immediately after that incident, an Iranian regime news agency, Mehr, and the web sites affiliated to the Ministry of Intelligence (MOIS) wrote: 'Informed sources inside camp Liberty (no-one except for Sadeq and the plainclothes agents) close to Baghdad announced: Three members of the Monafeqin grouplet stabbed one of their members. The source announced: 'The person who was stabbed was attacked while he intended to leave the camp and to get refuge by Iraqi forces. Due to severity of the wound, he was transferred to Baghdad hospital and it is reported that he is in critical condition.'
C) On 25 May, this ridiculous lie was disclosed in the Liberty daily report which is regularly sent to Mr Kobler and his colleagues in UNAMI and for us in the European Parliament. While reporting about the incident, the report mentioned: “Dissemination of such lies by the Iranian regime in the past has been performed during their preparations for justifying more pressures and limitations on the residents or attacking them.' (Attachment no.14)
d) Therefore, on 27 May when Mr Kobler went to Liberty he was aware of this issue. Now, if he really thinks there are 'doubts about the claim of one victim that a brick had fallen on his hand' why didn’t he raise it with camp’s representatives? Why didn’t he say that he wanted to see the injured person?
e) So far 420 people have been interviewed by the UNHCR. All those who have been interviewed have been specified by the UNHCR. If such a person really wanted to get refuge by the Iraqi police, why did the UNHCR not announce his name for interview so that the supposed person could get rid of the rest of the residents?
Mr Secretary General, it is interesting that your frequent stances regarding the peaceful and voluntary displacement and a solution which is acceptable to Ashraf residents and the Iraqi government that has been European Parliament, ASP 11E205, 60 rue Wiertz, B-1047, Brussels, Belgium 7
mentioned in your reports to the Security Council in July and November 2011 and April 2012 and also in your statement on 26 December after the MoU was signed, have been totally set aside and replaced by an arbitrary phrase of peaceful displacement without hindrance. This intends to put the blame on the residents in advance, unless, on Mr Kobler’s request, they relinquish their properties, be deprived of freedom of movement that the UNHCR has recognised as their right, accept disdain and insult, carry loads on their shoulders like slaves at the time they were building the pyramids without the minimum tools for normal life and to go to prison on their own.
We know the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI) and the residents of Ashraf very well and rest assured that they are honourable enough not to submit to the pressures of the Iranian regime and the Iraqi government. These are the brothers, sisters, children and countrymen of 30,000 political prisoners who were massacred in summer 1988, just because they were not willing to condemn the PMOI.
Without a doubt, the manner of resolving the issue of Ashraf will remain as a historic record in the UN and your own file. Therefore on behalf of 4000 parliamentarians in both sides of Atlantic, once again, I would like to ask you to take immediate and necessary measures to prevent another catastrophe which the UN will bear more responsibility than before. Specifically, we ask to appoint a special representative, who is also acceptable to the residents, so that after talking to all the parties, including Ashraf and Liberty residents and their representatives abroad, he can provide a comprehensive and impartial report for you and assess the minimum demands of the residents which I articulated on my May 24 letter for you in 6 articles, so you can pursue a comprehensive and peaceful solution for this crisis.
As we have previously mentioned a number of times, the issue which has extremely complicated the situation is the engagement of Iranian regime in the file of Ashraf and Liberty residents and for this reason I suggest that in order to resolve this problem, Mr Kobler makes a simple and clear position in this regard and emphasizes the following vital point:
'As the SRSG I want to reaffirm the commitment of the United Nations and my office to will not engage in discussion with the government of Iran about the fate of the residents'.
I am sure you would confirm that if Mr Kobler evades this simple issue then it shows that he cannot be trusted by the residents and those of us who have relied on the UN to take a positive role for the sake of these refugees.
I seek your assistance that you called the year 2012 as the year of prevention and I hope that prevention will be implemented in this urgent case. We are ready to give any help we can.
Vice-President of the European Parliament
President of the international committee “In Search of Justice” (ISJ)