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The sanctity of human rights must be safeguarded

Political SupportIn a conference, in British Parliament, several Parliamentarians released a joint statement condemning the Human Rights Watch Report’s on People Mojahedin Organisation of Iran (PMOI) and called for removal of the PMOI from the list of terrorist organizations.

Joint Statement
The sanctity of human rights must be safeguarded and kept free of
political manipulation

Human rights groups, Parliamentarians, jurists and Iranian communities around the world are dismayed by the recent report of the New York-based Human Rights Watch alleging serious human rights abuses by the Iranian opposition group, the People’s Mojahedin (PMOI), against its own members.

1. The allegations are not new. Parliamentarians in Britain and in other European countries have often found themselves targets of the Iranian regime’s disinformation strategy, as it attempts to tarnish the image of its principal opponents.

2. We are concerned that Human Rights Watch has published such serious allegations against the PMOI without a proper investigation. Twelve hours of telephone interviews with 12 individuals are simply insufficient to produce an authoritative report. HRW conducted no face-to-face interviews, no physical or medical examinations, and no on-site inspection of the camp where the alleged abuses are said to have occurred.

3. It demeans the standing of Human Rights Watch that it has accepted at face value the claims of individuals whose ties to the Iranian secret police, the Ministry of Intelligence and Security (MOIS), have already been exposed. Security services in several European countries, including the Netherlands and Germany, where all the 12 “witnesses” cited in the report are based, have been sufficiently alarmed by these activities to question and warn these individuals about their ties to Iranian intelligence. In its latest annual report, published in May 2005, the German security agency (BfV) wrote that the PMOI and the National Council of Resistance of Iran “remain the focus of the activities of the Iranian intelligence agency in Germany.” The report adds: “The Ministry of Intelligence and Security of Iran uses a network of agents to collect information and carry out espionage. These agents are former members of the People’s Mojahedin and are invited to go to Iran to be briefed.” The PMOI unveiled a secret MOIS memorandum in August 2002 that showed Mohammad-Hossein Sobhani, a key “witness” in the HRW report, was a team-leader and veteran agent of Iranian intelligence. It showed that most of those interviewed by Human Rights Watch were sent from Iran to Europe for the purpose of demonizing the PMOI. The activities of another MOIS agent, Karim Haqi, were documented in the 1990s by the British Parliamentary Human Rights Group.

4. Human Rights Watch, contrary to normal practice, did not ask the PMOI to comment on the allegations.

5. The PMOI and the National Council of Resistance of Iran have several times invited Human Rights Watch to visit PMOI camps in Iraq, including in a letter to Human Rights Watch on October 28, 1994, by NCRI President Mr. Massoud Rajavi. In a letter to the British Parliamentary Human Rights Group on November 4, 1994, the then-HRW Executive Director Christopher George acknowledged this invitation. Hundreds of Western journalists, Parliamentarians, jurists, and human rights activists did visit PMOI facilities in Iraq. None found evidence to support the allegations in the HRW report.

6. The HRW report makes no mention of the fact that in the past two years, every PMOI member in Camp Ashraf in Iraq has been interviewed and screened by seven agencies of the United States government. These investigations led to the announcement that “a 16-month review by the United States has found no basis to charge members of the [PMOI] in Iraq with violations of American law” and a statement by senior U.S. officials that “extensive interviews by officials of the State Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation had not come up with any basis to bring charges against any members of the group.” (New York Times, July 27, 2004).

7. Human Rights Watch’s report fails to mention that U.S. officials at Camp Ashraf have denied that individuals have been barred from leaving. The Knight Ridder news agency reported from Camp Ashraf on March 19 2005: “The U.S. military has investigated claims that the Mujahedeen were keeping people in Ashraf against their will, but found no solid evidence." It quoted a senior U.S military official as saying: "They are not prisoners. They are reasonably and physically free to leave."

8. Human Rights Watch ignores the fact that a majority of members of the House of Commons and more than 100 Peers, in a January 2004 statement, called for removal of the PMOI from the list of terrorist groups. After listing the growing Parliamentary and Congressional support on both sides of the Atlantic for an end to this blacklisting, HRW felt able to consider “it would be a huge mistake to promote an opposition group that is responsible for serious human rights abuses.”

9. Iran’s state-run media and press have used the HRW report as a vindication of their brutal repression of PMOI activists and supporters in Iran. One government-run website (Iran-Didban), known as a front for the Ministry of Intelligence and Security, had two dozen stories on the HRW report, including fresh calls on the Iraqi government to hand over the thousands of PMOI members in Iraq to Iran.

10. We call on Human Rights Watch to withdraw this unsubstantiated report. It would better live up to its name by concentrating on the real human rights abuses by the mullah who rule Iran.

Lord Corbett of Castle Vale
Chairman, British Committee For Iran Freedom