NCRI – Addressing a seminar in Toronto in defense of the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI, aka MEK) on December 18, Warren L. Creates, B.A., LL.B., Legal Counsel to several members of the PMOI in Camp Ashraf, the home of thousands of PMOI members in Iraq, reiterated on their status under the fourth Geneva Convention as protected persons. His speech in full is as follows:
I am the legal counsel for many of the residents of Camp Ashraf. I am your lawyer, representing you, your family members, your loved ones, friends and compatriots. It is a very high honour that you have selected me to represent this case, and I am grateful for what you have trusted me to do.
In December 2003, the most urgent objective for us was to overturn the expulsion order issued against the residents of Ashraf by the Interim Governing Council of Iraq. This expulsion order was unlawful. Paul Bremer, the then Civil Administrator, acknowledged the unlawful nature of the expulsion order after many protests by you and your colleagues, as well as the many interventions by lawyers throughout Europe and in Washington and Ottawa. Our collective voice was heard. We prevailed. I salute you.
I visited Camp Ashraf in February 2004. I will tell you more about my profound and wonderful experience in Ashraf shortly.
In July 2004, the Multi-National Forces announced that the residents of Camp Ashraf are protected persons under the 4th Geneva Convention. This recognition came after a very long process. At Camp Ashraf, every individual was intensively screened during 16 months by various U.S agencies. On the international scene, many lawyers and experts wrote legal opinions and held conferences to advocate for their rights under international law.
The Multi-National Coalition forces also determined, rightly, that there was (and is) no evidence or basis to bring any charges against any member. If no member has ever committed any crime or any act of terror, how is it possible, either logically or lawfully, for the group itself to be a terrorist organization?! It makes no sense. It is both illogical and unlawful.
Nevertheless, even these days some Iraqi officials with close ties to Iran make statements contravening international law and the rights that the residents of Camp Ashraf under the Geneva Convention must enjoy. They still talk about expulsion. This is unlawful.
Two members of the PMOI, who are protected persons, were abducted by special forces of the Interior Ministry this past summer. The Multi-National forces in Iraq condemned this act and said they are investigating. As recently as December 12, they reiterated that these people are protected persons and they condemned their abduction.
Today here in Toronto we stand together to support the goals and the commitment of the residents of Ashraf who stand strong to prove that the Mullahs’ fundamentalist regime is not only a human rights abuser but also a threat to the establishment of peace and democracy in the region. The PMOI is at the forefront of the global fight against Islamic fundamentalism and we all recognize that.
We also remind Iraqi authorities that they have to recognize international law. Now, more than ever, the test of their commitment to basic human rights values and sovereignty is watched by the international community. There has been a parliamentary election in Iraq this week, which means that the new Iraqi government will inherit the legal obligation to protect the residents of Ashraf.
The PMOI believes in freedom of expression, freedom of assembly, freedom of political opinion, tolerance and democratic values. The PMOI advocates the separation of church and state. It advocates a secular, democratic government for Iran.
The PMOI are located in Iraq because of geographic and political realities. It is there, because it needs to be, in close proximity to Iran.
The PMOI armed themselves against the clerical regime of Iran merely as a last resort and only after every last possible avenue of political participation was removed by the brutal dictators of Iran, who permit no political opposition such as what is enjoyed in any true democracy. The right to arm themselves in these circumstances is a right recognized by international law.
Camp Ashraf (Ashraf City) is a well-endowed, beautiful oasis built in the desert.
Every person I met, hundreds in number, were proud, dignified, professional people, each of them making the greatest of sacrifices, only so that their homeland next door can someday soon achieve freedom, democracy, and a respect for individual and group human rights.
Each member of the PMOI has sacrificed a comfortable lifestyle, and has put themselves in harm’s way, in order to join the resistance movement and to free their country from oppression.
This is a city of individuals, brought together by a shared goal. Many of the residents are young, who recounted to me their reasons for leaving their lives in the West to volunteer and to join the resistance.
I was particularly impressed by the number and the courage of so many young people in Ashraf who are devoted to the righteous cause of defending human rights. I see that same commitment here in Toronto today, as many amongst you are the youth who are interested in advocating human rights. I encourage you to continue the struggle as you are an inspiration to all of us.
Outside the entrance to Ashraf, a political chaos unfolds throughout Iraq. Inside Ashraf, the determination and commitment to remain and advocate for freedom in Iran is most impressive to me.
I also met with at least 80 Iraqi intellectuals and leaders of community and political organizations, all of them neighbours of the residents of Ashraf. Each one unconditionally supported the need to have the PMOI present in Iraq in order to oppose and resist the spread of Islamic fundamentalism from Iran to Iraq. Now there are petitions signed by 2.8 million Iraqis supporting the residents of Ashraf.
POLITICAL PREFERENCES AND LEGAL RIGHTS
There is enormous pressure on every member of the PMOI. Despite their protected status, there continues to be threats of deportation and extradition to Iran, in violation of international law, also in spite of the clearances and the lack of any evidence of wrongdoing. These threats are obviously political in nature. We must not let politics interfere with the lives of these people.
Politicians make laws, but lawyers like me make sure that governments acknowledge and safeguard individual rights. Politicians can, should and (the best like those 4 members of our Canadian Parliament here with us today) advocate for human rights. Politicians can acknowledge human rights, but they can’t take rights away.
Politics cannot determine the lives and the human rights of people who live in democracies like Canada. Laws do. Constitutions do. International humanitarian law does. Charters of Rights do. Bills of Rights do. These are what bind communities together and what protects the human rights of individuals. This is why I continue to stand shoulder to shoulder with you and with my professional colleagues throughout the free world to denounce the oppressive regime that rules Iran today.