6 May 2011
Following my return from a high-level trip to Iraq last week and acting upon the request of the Special Representative of the UN Secretary General in Iraq - Ad Melkert - I held urgent meetings with Mrs Maryam Rajavi - President-elect of the Iranian Resistance and official representatives of Ashraf residents outside of Iraq in her headquarters in Paris, on Wednesday, May 4, 2011.
As President of the European Parliament's Delegation for Relations with Iraq, I visited Iraq from April 26-29 and met senior Iraqi, US and UN officials. The government of Iraq expressly forbade our delegation from visiting Camp Ashraf.
An international crime has been perpetrated in the form of the massacre of 35 unarmed civilians and the wounding of hundreds of others on 8th April by Iraqi military and security forces. An independent international investigation must be conducted and those who committed these crimes should be brought to justice.
However, my colleagues and I made it clear in our discussions in Iraq that we are prepared to seek a long-term and peaceful resolution based on negotiations involving all sides, accepting the position that the residents of Ashraf cannot stay in Iraq on a permanent basis and may be assisted to go to the 27 EU member states, in order to avoid further bloodshed and violence.
I informed Mrs Rajavi and representatives of the 3400 Ashraf residents that my colleagues and I are reviewing and preparing a realistic and practical plan to transfer Ashraf residents to third countries and I am hopeful that this solution will be announced in a press conference in Strasbourg on May 10.
As I stated in a press release issued in Erbil on April 29 - We can then begin to broker a deal with the EU, US, UNAMI, UNHCR etc., but this is totally conditional on the following demands being met, namely: The removal of Iraqi forces from the perimeter of Ashraf; an end to the siege of Ashraf; immediate access of the residents in particular those critically wounded, to medical services in public hospitals and private clinics in Iraq; and an independent inquiry about the incident of April 8, with those responsible for the killing of 35 unarmed civilians held to account.
The forcible transfer of Ashraf residents inside Iraq, as has been suggested by various sources and hinted at by the Americans, is not a realistic and practical choice and in practice could only set the stage for another massacre. If the real intention of the government of Iraq is to remove members of the People’s Mojahedin Organisation of Iran, who have lived in Ashraf for more than 20 years, from Iraq, it is better that instead of issuing deadlines that do not contribute to finding a permanent and peaceful solution, the Iraq government should provide the necessary assistance and actions to implement the solution offered by my delegation.
Forcible transfer of these 3400 unarmed refugees would be illegal and in violation of international standards and provisions of International Humanitarian Law. Meanwhile, a month after the raid, while the Iraqi armed forces equipped with armoured vehicles still prevent the burial of 35 victims of the raid in the Camp cemetery, the issue of forcible transfer is being raised as a cover to eclipse the April 8 massacre and to set the stage for a new vicious assault.
I hope to be able to present a definitive proposal for the long-term resolution of the Ashraf crisis to Mrs Rajavi and the Ashraf residents early next week. It will be challenging to get their agreement to a proposal which effectively ends their decades of association with Ashraf which they regard as their home. However, my delegation and I are prepared to work towards this goal if conditions of peace and normality can be returned to Ashraf in the immediate short-term. This means cool-heads all around and no pre-emptive efforts by the Iraqi security forces or anyone else to remove forcible the residents to another location within Iraq.
Struan Stevenson MEP
President of the European Parliament's Delegation for Relations with Iraq