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A report that deflects attention from the crimes of the Iranian government

ImageMalcolm Fowler
International Human Rights Committee and Law Reform Board
Law Socitey of England and Wales
The content of the baseless and unsubstantiated allegations made by those interviewed did not surprise me, as I have read their allegations and the Iranian Mojahedin’s responses in various publications before. However, what concerned me was the fact that Human Rights Watch decided to publish such a report without carrying out the most basic checks to ensure the accuracy and truth of the testimonies provided and without giving the Iranian Mojahedin an opportunity to respond.
Director of Human Rights Watch
350 Fifth Avenue, 34th floor
New York, USA

Dear Sir

`No Exit: Human Rights Abuses Inside the MKO camps’

I am a lawyer practicing in Birmingham and a member of the International Human Rights Committee of the law Society. I am familiar with the political situation in Iran and the position of the Iranian Mojahedin, having attended many international conferences of lawyers and Parliamentarians on the subject.

I must say that I was amazed when I heard about the publication of the above referred to report. The content of the baseless and unsubstantiated allegations made by those interviewed did not surprise me, as I have read their allegations and the Iranian Mojahedin’s responses in various publications before. However, what concerned me was the fact that Human Rights Watch decided to publish such a report without carrying out the most basic checks to ensure the accuracy and truth of the testimonies provided and without giving the Iranian Mojahedin an opportunity to respond. As a human rights organisation, you must understand that your failure to afford the lranian Mojahedin an opportunity to respond to the appalling allegations made against them shows your utter disregard for general principles of fairness and justice. It would be akin in a criminal trial to a Judge hearing the evidence of the prosecution and accepting its case without any scrutiny whatsoever, writing his judgment and publishing it, leaving the Defendant who did not even know that he was ever on trial to find out through the media that he had been found guilty.

The most important part of my above analogy is the acceptance by Human Rights Watch of the testimonies f those interviewed without the most basic checks on their motives and the truth of what they say. By way of example, the report states that the method of interview used was short telephone calls. Astonishingly, the report then goes on to state, "Each witness was interviewed separately several times between February and May 2005…More than twelve hours of testimonies were collected." Bearing in mind that there were 12 interviewees, the average total time devoted to the interview of each individual was approximately one hour. During this one hour, each individual was interviewed ‘several times’. How is it possible to interview in an hour an individual who alleges severe mistreatment spanning over several years, locations and events? In my experience as a criminal advocate, in order to conduct proper interviews of those involved, with the aim of ascertaining the veracity of their stories, the interviews would have needed to be carried out face to face and lasted many hours, if not days. Unfortunately, the methodology used in the report gives the impression of a conclusion being reached and attempts then being made to find information to justify the conclusion.

Without wishing to go into too mach detail; I should also point out that even on their, own testimonies, as published in your report, the interviewees’ statements do not stand up to scrutiny. I therefore very much hope that Human Rights Watch will reflect on its report, the manner of its compilation and its breach of the most basic rights of an organisation, its sympathisers and supporters. Upon such reflection, I hope that Human Rights Watch and its officers will find it within themselves to correct the injustice that has been done by withdrawing the report – a report that does nothing but attempt to deflect attention from the crimes of the Iranian government both at home and abroad.

I look forward to receiving your response.

Malcolm Fowler
International Human Rights Committee and Law Reform Board
Law Socitey of England and Wales