To be as brief as possible on a cold day, permit me to refer to excerpts from only two pieces in responsible media:
First, columnist Christopher Booker in the Sunday Telegraph (UK) on Dec 21, who wrote in part:
"Our (UK) Government reluctantly obeyed (the court and removed the ban on the PMOI), but last July President Sarkozy, as EU president, moved that the EU's ban should nevertheless remain. In October and again this month, the Court of First Instance ruled that the EU must stop acting illegally…
"Earlier this month, the EU court moved with unprecedented speed to publish its latest ruling, but Sarkozy asked for permission to delay in complying. This plea was strongly opposed in a letter to Sarkozy signed by 1,160 mayors from all over France. Last Wednesday, the court brusquely rejected the plea, stating that the EU must comply with the law without any further delay.
"The same day, in the European Parliament, in the presence of Maryam Rajavi, the leader of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (of which the PMOI forms a major part), a senior MEP, Alejo Vidal-Quadras, backed by 2,000 parliamentarians from all over Europe, warned the Council of Ministers that obstructing implementation of the court's ruling would place it "at odds with the EU's judicial system and the European Parliament" and could "lead to a constitutional crisis within the EU". He sent a letter to President Sarkozy to warn him of "the dire consequences of France's disobeying the rule of law in Europe".
Canada and PMOI
Things are incidentally almost as incomprehensible here in Canada. The government of Paul Martin added the PMOI to its list of proscribed entities in May 2005. The only explanation by government officials at the time was that it "met the threshold of being a listed entity". The timing seemed bizarre in that the regime had brutally murdered Canadian photo-journalist Zahra Kazemi in Evin prison two years earlier after she attempted to photograph a student protest in Tehran.
Only weeks ago, a Canada-led campaign won a major victory at the United Nations. A General Assembly committee defeated Iran's call not to consider a long list of human rights abuses alleged against it. The vote on censure, which highlighted abuses, including flogging and amputations, passed 82-71. Forty-two countries were co-sponsors of the measure.
Despite all this, the Harper government recently decided to continue listing the PMOI as a terrorist organization in Canada. It is not at all clear whether the department responsible for reviewing the list examined the landmark British court judgments cited above.
The time for democratic change in Iran by the Iranian people is long overdue. Canada's long-term political and economic relations are best served by standing with its people. The time for appeasing the ayatollahs and suppressing the Iranian opposition must end. A first step is for the Harper government to delist the PMOI for Canada with all deliberate haste.
Whither Camp Ashraf's PMOI Refugees?
Second, The Washington Post reported the other day in part as follows:
"BAGHDAD, Dec. 21 -- Iraqi officials say they intend to expel members of an Iranian exile group living in a camp north of Baghdad that is protected by the U.S. military. The expulsion, which the Shiite-led government has long sought, is expected to become feasible once the U.N. mandate that regulates the presence of U.S. troops -- and which gave the Iranian opposition group protected status -- expires at the end of the year."
The 3500 residents of Camp Ashraf, some of whom have been refugees from the terror of the clerical regime in Tehran since 1981, and others since the mid-1980s when they were as refugees expelled from France, will become victims of a humanitarian disaster in the making unless the American government continues to deploy its soldiers for the protection of the camp.
Why International Protection is Needed
Here are three only among many reasons why personnel from outside Iraq must continue to protect Camp Ashraf with Iraqi soldiers for as long as coalition forces are in Iraq:
1-The UN Secretary-General raised his own concerns about Ashraf refugees in part of his report to the Security Council on November 6th. His report referred to the intention of the Government of Iraq to take full control of Ashraf in the "near future." I quote from what is then said by the Secretary General: "In a letter dated 15 October, 2008, to the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Iraq, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights urged the Government of Iraq to protect Ashraf residents from forcible deportation, expulsion, or repatriation in violation of the non-refoulement principle, and to refrain from any action that would endanger their life or security. It is also important that the humanitarian needs of the camp's residents, including access to food and medical care, be met by those protecting the camp."
2-Informed sources indicate that, as long as at least some American or other coalition personnel are involved in the daily patrols around Ashraf, agents of the Iranian regime are less likely to attack residents of the camp or the camp itself.
3- A major part of the Ashraf residents' problem lies in the fact that a number of governments in Europe and North America, including the US and Canada, continue to list the PMOI as a foreign terrorist organization. It is now up to France and other EU governments to respect the rule-of-law and deproscribe the PMOI.
Despite declarations to the contrary by some ministers in Iraq, the good neighbour practices of Ashraf residents have resulted in growing support for its presence in Iraq. In June 2006, I understand that more than 5 million Iraqis, including 14,000 lawyers, presented a petition in favor of Asfraf's continued presence in Iraq. On June 17, 2008, more than three million Iraqis Shiites presented a petition, which I am told favors both Ashraf's continued presence and the PMOI. Both of these petitions are today available for inspection at Camp Ashraf.
In conclusion, President Sarkozy and other EU leaders should respect the finding of the EU court and remove the ban on the PMOI forthwith. That would demonstrate both respect for the rule of law in Europe and possibly assist in preventing a humanitarian catastrophe otherwise in the making for Ashraf residents, who seem now barred from taking refuge in another country because they are members of a proscribed organization.