Human Rights Watch pushes a discredited political agenda under the smokescreen of a “human rights report”
– Procedure and sources used in the Human Rights Watch report on People’s Mojahedin and its content unveil a political agenda serving the Iranian regime
– In flagrant breach of recognized norms of all human rights organizations, Human Rights Watch did not make any enquiries with the Mojahedin to substantiate its accusations
- A report by Human Rights Watch released yesterday ("No exit: human rights violations in People’s Mojahedin Organization’s camps") accuses the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran, a member of the National Council of Resistance of Iran, of mistreatment of its members. Joe Stork, Washington director of Human Rights Watch’s Middle East division claimed: "Members who try to leave the MKO pay a very heavy price."
The report cites remarks by a number of agents of the mullahs’ Ministry of Intelligence and Security (MOIS), who identify themselves as former members of the People’s Mojahedin. They claimed that they were imprisoned and subjected to maltreatment by the PMOI. But they have provided no evidence to back their claims. The report is a scandal for the Human Rights Watch in the way it was prepared, the sources used, the content and the procedure it has adopted.
1. The PMOI strongly denies the claims made by Human Rights Watch in this report. These accusations only serve as a license to the mullahs’ regime to continue the execution and suppression of PMOI members and supporters in Iran.
2. Contrary to the recognized methods by all human rights organizations, HRW has made not a single contact with the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran in the course of preparing the report and has not raised a single allegation with the PMOI prior to the publication of the report. This contradicts the modus operandi of all human rights organizations and United Nations human rights rapporteurs. Had it wished to investigate the allegations instead of using them in a vitriolic attack on the Iranian opposition group, Human Rights Watch could have easily contacted PMOI officials in Camp Ashraf in Iraq or, at the very least, Paris-based officials of the National Council of Resistance of Iran, the coalition that includes the PMOI among its members. This flagrant failure to give the right to respond to the organization facing these allegations clearly unveils the political nature of the report.
3. Similar accusations against the Iranian Resistance were made by Human Rights Watch in 1994 in collusion with the clerical regime. In a letter on October 28, 1994, Mr. Massoud Rajavi, President of the National Council of Resistance of Iran, invited HRW to send its representatives to visit PMOI bases in Iraq. But HRW, which was not concerned over the PMOI’s human rights practices, never responded to the invitation. The accusations by the HRW in that year appalled many human rights organizations and personalities, particularly the British Parliamentary Human Rights Groups.
4. The report solely relies on oral claims with no proof by 12 agents of the mullahs’ regime who identify themselves as former members of the Mojahedin. The report admits that all the interviews with these people were made over telephone in a short period between February and May 2005. This is while the report concludes that: "These witnesses provided credible claims that they were subjected to imprisonment as well as physical and psychological abuses because they had either expressed criticism of the MKO’s policies or had requested to leave the organization’s military camps." It is not clear how HRW managed to verify claims made over telephone by these individuals, especially allegations of physical torture? How were their identities verified over the telephone? It is noteworthy that several telephone interviews were carried out on May 6, only 12 days before the release of the report in four languages, English, French, Arabic and Farsi.
5. The HRW report is a highly politicized invective against the Iranian resistance movement. This has nothing to do with an impartial and objective human rights report and clearly smacks off a political agenda. Referring to growing support for the PMOI in the U.S. and calls by members of Congress and political figures to remove the PMOI from the State Department’s list of foreign terrorist organizations, HRW official Joe Stork is quoted as saying, ""The Iranian government has a dreadful record on human rights. But it would be a huge mistake to promote an opposition group that is responsible for serious human rights abuses." These remarks constitute a clear political statement to justify keeping the PMOI in the list of foreign terrorist organizations. Demonizing Iran’s main opposition group is an old tactic to justify the policy of appeasement vis-à-vis the clerical regime in Iran by advocates of this policy. Being unable to defend the mullahs’ record of widespread atrocities, the protagonists of appeasement seek to discredit the legitimate alternative to the religious tyranny in Iran in a bid to impose their policy as an unavoidable reality.
6. Referring to the PMOI on March 15, 2005, Ali Younessi, Iran’s Minister of Intelligence and Security, said: "Those individuals who fell into their hands were subjected to torture … I instructed my deputy today to inform international organizations of the [PMOI’s] crimes immediately, so that people know what kind of crimes they committed in Iraq…" It appears that the mullahs’ intelligence agency has been successful in its efforts with HRW.
7. Allegations of human rights abuses by the PMOI against its "dissident members" have been churned out by the Iranian regime’s Ministry of Intelligence and Security for years. PMOI members in Iraq, contrary to HRW’s unsubstantiated and arbitrary claims, are all volunteers who have chosen to go to Iraq to fight for the liberation of their homeland. In the four decades of its struggle for democracy, the PMOI has never incarcerated or tortured anyone, even though 120,000 of its own members and supporters have been executed. The PMOI has even released under the supervision of the International Committee of the Red Cross all the members of the mullahs’ Revolutionary Guards, who were captured when they attacked PMOI bases. The PMOI has not even punished undercover terrorists sent by the MOIS to infiltrate and murder PMOI members and has sent them to Iran, even though some of them had killed several PMOI members.
8. In the past two years, every single PMOI member in Camp Ashraf in Iraq has been thoroughly interviewed and screened by seven agencies of the United States government. These investigations exonerated all PMOI members and led to the announcement that "a 16-month review by the United States has found no basis to charge members of the [PMOI] in Iraq with violations of American law" and the statement by senior U.S. officials that "extensive interviews by officials of the State Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation had not come up with any basis to bring charges against any members of the group." (New York Times, July 27, 2004). HRW’s deliberate omission of such extensive investigations is another indication that the only purpose for raising such allegations is to aid the religious dictatorship ruling Iran.
9. Human Rights Watch has not only failed to raise any questions with the PMOI in preparing this report, but has found it unnecessary to corroborate these grave allegations by contacting the American officials who have interviewed and screened all of PMOI members. Even if it has raised the question with American officials, it has not found it expedient to reflect their views in the report. Meanwhile the report cites the number of the individuals who are present at Camp Ashraf according to remarks "of an American military source." Clearly, Human Rights Watch has had no problem in approaching American officials. Why did it not ask the same American sources about the purported prisons, torture chambers and the torturers claimed by the one dozen members of the Ministry of Intelligence?
10. The report claims that members of the organization are barred from leaving it. The Knight Ridder news agency reported from Camp Ashraf on March 19 2005 (at the same time that the report was being prepared): "The U.S. military has investigated claims that the Mujahedeen were keeping people in Ashraf against their will, but found no solid evidence." It further quotes one senior U.S. military official as saying that "they are not prisoners. They are reasonable and physically free to leave."
11. The report acknowledges that four of the individuals who have been interviewed, Karim Haggi, Tahereh Eskandari (Khoram), Mohammad Reza Eskandari and Habib Khoram have left the Mojahedin in early 1990s. All of these individuals have been working for the Iranian Ministry of Intelligence in the Netherlands since the mid-1990s. In the first years, they were briefed in Far Eastern countries and Turkey by senior officials of the mullahs’ Ministry of Intelligence, including the notorious Saeed Emami. But subsequently they began making trips to Tehran to receive their directions there. In a number of statements, Karim Haggi has acknowledged that he was interrogated by the Dutch police for his contacts with and receiving money from the MOIS. Habib Khorami was sentenced by a Dutch court for abducting an 11 year-old boy from his legal guardians in Canada and sending him to Iran. This criminal act was carried out on the orders of the Ministry of Intelligence and with the cooperation of the Iranian ambassador in the Netherlands.
12. HRW carried out a series of interviews with Karim Haggi and a number of other agents of the MOIS who claimed they were former members of the Mojahedin in person in Cologne in Germany in early 1997. But it seems as though the political setting was not suitable for publishing interviews at that juncture. Karim Haggi and a number of other agents of the MOIS met with Prof. Maurice Copithorne, the U.N. Human Rights Commission’s Special Rapporteur on Iran in 1996 in order to get Prof. Copithorne to write a report against the Mojahedin but they failed in their attempt.
13. The report claims that eight of these individuals who were interviewed had left Iraq between 2002 and 2004, but it keeps silent on the fact that all these individuals had gone abroad from Iran. Five of these people make similar claims by saying that they were in the Mojahedin prisons in Iraq and were handed over to the Iraqi prisons and the Iraqi government handed them over to the mullahs’ intelligence and were imprisoned in Iran. They later succeeded in fleeing prisons in Iran and get out of the country. Indeed, how many people have been able to run away from the medieval prisons of the regime in the past quarter century? But now we see them fleeing one after another. The other three with almost the same scenario claim that they had managed to run away from the Mojahedin and go into Iran and then later come out of the country. The fact is that these people were sent to Germany for activities against the Iranian Resistance after receiving special training by the Intelligence Ministry in Iran. For instance, Mohammad Hossein Sobhani is an already-exposed agent of the Ministry of Intelligence and Security. His brief, while working as an infiltrator in the PMOI for the Iranian intelligence, was to deal a blow to the PMOI in Iraq. When his terrorist mission was uncovered, he returned to Iran. In 2002, the MOIS sent Sobhani to Europe on a new mission against the Iranian Resistance. The PMOI’s weekly Persian journal exposed the activities and mission of Sobhani in issues 590 and 592 in July 2002. The weekly, in its August 8, 2002, issue, exposed a document which clearly showed that Sobhani was a team leader of the MOIS and had been given the task of training several MOIS members on a new mission against he PMOI. The MOIS used Hotel Laleh in Tehran for these instructions.
14. Most of the persons interviewed by Human Rights Watch as "dissident members" of the PMOI are now in Germany and the Netherlands. The reports by the official security agencies in these two countries are revealing with regard to the way these agents operate for MOIS. In its latest annual report, published in May 2005, the German security agency, the Office for the Protection of the Constitution (BfV) wrote that the PMOI and the National Council of Resistance of Iran "remain the focus of the activities of the Iranian intelligence agency in Germany." The report adds, "The Ministry of Intelligence and Security of Iran uses a network of agents to collect information and carry out espionage. These agents are former members of the People’s Mojahedin and are invited to go to Iran to be briefed."
15. The Dutch security service, BVD, wrote in its 2001 report, "Supporters of the most important [Iranian opposition] groups, namely the Mojahedin-e Khalq, are more than anyone the focus of attention of the Iranian secret service. The Ministry of Intelligence and Security tries to collect as much information about this group as possible through the ‘former members’ of the MeK. Agents of MOIS are instructed to spread negative information against the MeK and its members. The MOIS thus tries to undermine the MeK and end its social and political activities by demonizing the image of the MeK in host countries." The BVD report in 1999 also noted, "An important job of Iran’s secret services is to trace and recruit members of the opposition abroad, particularly past and present members of the MeK."
16. HRW’s rehash of old accusations regarding human rights violations by PMOI have been rebutted time and again in PMOI or NCRI publications in Farsi, English and French. In addition to countless publications in Farsi on this issue, the Iranian Resistance has published dozens of books or essays in English on the subject, all of which have been at the disposal of HRW. "Human Rights Betrayed" (1995), "Legacy of a Misguided Policy" (1997), "Enemies of the Ayatollahs" (2004) are among the English and French publication which have dealt with this issue. That HRW’s report has not dealt with any of these replies reflects the organization’s pressing political objective of keeping the PMOI on the blacklist. The main beneficiaries of this, of course, are the mullahs ruling Iran.
Secretariat of the National Council of Resistance of Iran
May 19, 2005