NGO should facilitate safe MKO exit from Iraq

Iraqi Ministry of Human Rights: NGO should facilitate safe MKO exit from Iraq As concerted moves are getting underway in Iraq to deal with the foreign terrorist organisation Mojahedin-e Khalq in that country, Iran-Interlink was invited to attend a meeting at the Ministry of Human Rights in Iraq today. In a visit to Iraq this weekend, Massoud Khodabandeh from Iran-Interlink met with senior officials at the Ministry to talk about the future of the Iranian Mojahedin-e Khalq cult in that country.

During the three hour meeting, Massoud Khodabandeh expressed concern for the human rights situation of people involved in the Mojahedin cult. The American Forces in Iraq have been given notice to evacuate Camp Ashraf and its surrounds before the land is returned to its rightful owner by a court. This means that over 3,000 people must be urgently re-located. American Military Police have already begun to empty the Temporary International Presence Facility (TIPF) which had been established adjacent to Camp Ashraf to house individuals wishing to dissociate from the terrorist group. Around 800 former MKO members have been processed through TIPF. Over 500 have successfully accepted voluntary repatriation to Iran. Those who rejected this option were granted UN refugee status.

In December last year the American Military Police began to remove the remaining individuals from TIPF, driving them in small groups to nearby residential locations to make their own way. Mr Khodabandeh told the Iraqi Human Rights officials that although more difficult to achieve it would have been more effective to have removed the MKO members from Camp Ashraf first. This would allow anyone who wished to leave the cult to find a place of safety in TIPF and to seek refuge under US protection.

Mr Khodabandeh requested that the individuals involved in the evacuation of TIPF be provided immediate help. They must be afforded a safety net and not allowed to fall through the system to fend for themselves, he said. This would include around 100 people who remain at TIPF as well as those who have already left – some of these individuals are now in Iraqi prison, some in Turkish prisons and the remainder are fugitives whose whereabouts are unknown.

It was suggested that a NGO be established under the patronage of personalities and human rights charities in Europe and the Iraqi Human Rights Ministry. This would offer the US military appropriate help in dealing with the evacuation of TIPF and also Camp Ashraf within the framework of Iraqi law.

The officials at the Ministry of Human Rights gave a very clear answer saying that under no circumstances whatsoever would any member or former member of the Mojahedin-e Khalq Organisation be allowed to remain on Iraqi soil. They gave two main reasons for this decisive position. Firstly, that the MKO have been responsible for the murder of many Iraqi citizens. Respect for the rights and memories of the families of these victims make it impossible for the MKO to continue any presence in the country.

Secondly, and perhaps more urgently, the MKO remains directly attached to the Baath Party and former members of Saddam Hussein’s regime. Should amnesty by given to any MKO and they escape, they would pose a danger to Iraq. They have been trained by Saddam Hussein’s Republican Guards and maintain the potential to perform terrorist acts anywhere in Iraq.

To compound this decision, officials pointed out that the case of the Mojahedin has now been moved from the jurisdiction of the Government of Iraq to the Iraqi Judiciary which now has the task of making ruling judgements on the group and its members.

This is a highly significant step as it takes the MKO out of the political arena and places the future of the group in a legal framework. In this framework judgement has already been reached by several judges which has resulted in indictment papers and arrest warrants being issued against the three leading MKO members in Iraq, Abbas Davari, the MKO’s political liaison official in Camp Ashraf, Mozhgan Parsaii, the Commander of Rajavi’s army in Iraq and Sediqeh Hoseini, the Secretary General of the MKO, in three separate courts including the Baghdad Criminal Court.

The Human Rights Ministry officials said Iraq’s Government will demand the US hand over these individuals, stressing that US refusal to comply with Iraqi law will not reflect positively on the US presence in that country. This would not be a political decision but is based on the separate findings of three Iraqi judges. The Judiciary will send police to arrest the individuals concerned.

The meeting concluded with the Iraqi Human Rights Ministry again stressing that the Iraqi Government would under no circumstances have any direct contact with anyone from the MKO or even former members of the MKO in Iraq. All of these people must leave Iraq. However, Ministry officials conceded that they are willing to work with appropriate human rights organisations as well as Iran-Interlink and its representatives to provide temporary help and to facilitate the safe removal of these people.

The officials gave permission for an NGO to be established to offer humanitarian emergency aid to those who will be evacuated from the camps. The Ministry of Human Rights would work with the NGO to de-brief individuals from the MKO and to help reunite them with their families. Temporary places of refuge will be established to help these people. For any who request repatriation to Iran, the Ministry and the International Committee of the Red Cross would jointly guarantee that their human rights would not be violated. However, if third countries were sought, the NGO must find these itself.

January 27, 2008

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