Since the Islamic Revolution of Iran in February 1979, the MEK’s militia has killed over 12000 Iranian civilians. The group’s long record of crimes has been corroborated by a number of reports and documents published by Iranian and international organizations. On one hand MEK has been forced to work under the cover of political processes, but on the other hand it’s natural tendency for radicalism drives it to violence. That’s why the group is forming terror cells throughout the Iranian cities under various names to prove its existence for its supporters and disappointed rank and files. What follows is an interview with Dr. Salman Omrani, faculty member of Imam Sadiq University Law School.
Habilian: As you know, MEK has been forming and expanding terror cells for acts of sabotage in recent years under the name of “rebel centers”. These terror cells are on a mission to launch arson attacks on the government and private buildings. MEK actively uses internet to provoke unrests and provide trainings for group attacks on police forces or demolition of power lines, etc. What’s your take on these activities?
Dr. Omrani: Needless to say, the primary basis for the establishment of this group before the Islamic Revolution was political change through violence, assassination, killing, destruction and terrorizing civilians and government officials and they kept the strategy after the Islamic Revolution. Although, the group has tried to represent a political face in the recent years, it made no changes in its organizational activities and it has tried to keep its armed capability. In fact, the reorganization of the forces in the form of rebel centers is an effort to retrieve the former strategy and declare power as an armed group. Regarding the behaviors you mentioned, training and inciting people to violence is an act of crime in all the legal systems and will be dealt with decisively. Without a shadow of a doubt these behaviors are criminal offenses.
Habilian: MEK leaders have repeatedly supported their terror cells and released videos of their activities in their media, showing that they are keeping pictures of the MEK leaders. Moreover, some high-ranking MEK members as Mehdi Barai has quite openly referred to their “rebel cells” as their former militia known as the National Liberation Army. They are apparently moving towards violent and terrorist acts. Would you please explain the potential legal consequences of these activities for the MEK?
Dr. Omrani: The groups’ strategy for not being listed as a terrorist group has made them adopt more meticulous stances towards terrorist activities. They have made a great deal of effort not to take credit for terrorist behaviors lest they suffer legal consequences. However, as you mentioned, the key members of the group have acknowledged the formation of these centers to prove themselves over other opposition groups. This matter is of critical importance as the attribution process and assessing the criminal responsibility of terrorist groups are extremely complicated in legal proceedings. Sometimes, attributing a criminal act to an organization is quite impossible owing to the group’s terrorist nature and its complex organizational communications and the judge can only deal with the crimes committed by the people at the scene. Since the well-known members of the MEK have openly took responsibility for the creation of these [terror] cells and their criminal sabotage acts, the ground has been prepared for criminal prosecution of this group in the courts of other countries. Based on these positions, the IRI government can file a lawsuit in every country hosting the organization. In other words, classifying the political and militant wings of the MEK in these countries is well within the capacity [of Iran]. Additionally, their assets will be frozen and given to victims of their criminal attacks through a litigation in hosting countries. Finally, their members will be tried and expelled from those countries.
Habilian: How about the governments providing support for the group? Would they be prosecuted as well?
Dr. Omrani: Backing and facilitating terrorist crimes constitute a crime under international law and the domestic laws of most countries and the governments are obliged to block all the possible pathways to terrorism. Proving the group’s terrorist nature paves the ground for condemning their political and financial supporters as their accomplices in terror acts or promoting terrorism. There is also potential that the group’s supporting countries ask for compensation fund caused by the group’s crimes.
Habilian: A few weeks ago, MEK leader’s account in one of the social media platforms had been temporarily suspended for promoting terrorism and violence. It indicates the group tends to turn back to its violent and extremist nature, despite its claims of pursing a political and democratic path, which can be under the influence of Trump administrations’ coming to power in 2016 and their hope for him taking his seat again in the Oval Office. What’s your take on this?
Dr. Omrani: Indeed! Unfortunately upholding a law and implementing justice in the international sphere is more related to political matters than legal rules and regulations and MEK has regulated his activities in full knowledge of this reality. This is also probable that following the changes in the US administration, the group’s crimes and stances undergo changes, refraining from taking credit for the operations. However, this will not erase their recent activities and there is still potential for prosecuting the group in their hosting or other countries.