Thursday, 12 January 2012

Philippe Douste-Blazy: Camp Ashraf Residents Doubly Persecuted in Iran and in Exile

NCRI - In an international conference held in Paris on Friday, January 6, at the invitation of the CFID (French Committee for Democracy and Human Rights in Iran), dozens of distinguished American and European dignitaries warned of obstructions and non-cooperation by the Iranian regime and Government of Iraq in guaranteeing a peaceful solution for Camp Ashraf, where members of the Iranian opposition reside in Iraq.

The conference speakers were Maryam Rajavi, President-elect of the Iranian Resistance; Gov. Howard Dean, former Governor Vermont, Chair of the Democratic National Committee (2005-2009) and US presidential candidate (2004); Gov. Tom Ridge, former Governor of Pennsylvania and the first US Homeland Security Secretary (2003-2005); Louis Freeh, Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (1993-2001); Gov. Ed Rendell, Chair of the Democratic National Committee (1999-2001) and Governor of Pennsylvania (2002-2011); Judge Michael Mukasey, US Attorney General in the Bush Administration (2007-2009); Ambassador Mitchell Reiss, former Director of Policy Planning at the US Department of State; General James Conway, Commandant of the US Marine Corps (2006-2010); Rep. Patrick Kennedy, Member of US House of Representatives (1995-2011); Gen. Chuck Wald, former Deputy Commander of US European Command; Gen. David Phillips, Commander of U.S. Military Police (2008-2011); Prof. Alan Dershowitz, one of the most prominent advocates of individual rights and the most well-known lawyer in criminal cases in the world; Ambassador Dell Dailey, Head of the State Department's counterterrorism office (2007-09); Col. Wesley Martin, former Senior Anti-terrorism Force Protection Officer for all Coalition Forces in Iraq and Commander of Forward Operation Base in Ashraf; Prof. Ruth Wedgwood, Chair of International Law and Diplomacy at Johns Hopkins University; Philippe Douste-Blazy, Former French Foreign Minister and to the UN Secretary General; Alain Vivien, former French Minister of State for European Affairs; Rita Süssmuth, former President of German Bundestag; Günter Verheugen, European Commissioner (1999-2010) and former Advisory Minister in German Foreign Ministry; and Sen. Lucio Malan, Member of Italian Senate.

Below is speech by Hon. Philippe Douste-Blazy:

Dear Mrs. Rajavi, Governors, Ladies and gentlemen, today we all have mixed feelings. On the one hand, of course, a sense of relief, but also a tremendous sense of anxiety. On the one hand we found that together we could form a force capable of preventing a massacre announced a long time ago, because our powers of persuasion made it clear that the Maliki government had no benifit in maintaining its December 31 deadline for the closure of Camp Ashraf.

On the other hand, we still feel this concern, since the danger continues to loom over the residents of Ashraf.

Yes, I am against an unjustified relocation of the residents of Ashraf to another location in Iraq. Yes, I denounced the waste of time that the Iraqi government has imposed on the High Commission for Refugees, as it was prepared to start the status determination of every resident of Ashraf since September to prepare for transfer to a third country. And finally, yes, I have called the insistence of the Iraqi government unintelligent.

But now, I cannot hide my surprise when I learned that Mrs. Rajavi and representatives of the residents of Ashraf had accepted to move to Camp Liberty in order to make way for a peaceful solution to this serious humanitarian crisis. I admit, I was amazed. This reflects the deep trust the Iranian Resistance has in the United Nations agencies and the commitments given by countries, starting with the U.S. about the safety of the residents of Ashraf.

This responsible attitude of Mrs. Rajavi also increases the responsibility of the UN in seeking a peaceful solution. I wish, dear Mrs. Rajavi, pay tribute to your courage, your determination, and tell you that I join you in calling for a major international conference on this painful subject. As Assistant Secretary of the United Nations, I certainly feel a certain pride, I thank you.

I can only rejoice at the progress and the efforts of United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. And especially his special representative in Iraq, Martin Kobler. We are all aware that the terms of the MoU signed with the Iraqi government did not meet the minimum requirements of safety for the residents of Ashraf. It is only as a result of commitments made by the Special Representative to Ashraf which was stated in his letter to the residents that they could finally agree to leave the place that was, let us not forget, for 25 years, their homes and where they made their lives.

But I would say to Ambassador Bolton, if the United Nations has a responsibility, and I will return this subject, the United States also has a responsibility. And Mr. Ambassador, you know that my country has not always shared the same positions as your country on Iraq. And for being a member of the Security Council of the United Nations as foreign minister of my country, I know the Secretary General of the United Nations’ positions is only the result of what countries want. So, ask your ambassador and ask our French ambassador to pressure the Security Council that the UN should exert even more pressure on the Iraqi government.

This evening I want to focus on what happened after the agreement. I note that since December 30, 400 residents of Ashraf said they were willing to travel with their vehicles, with their property, to Camp Liberty. We are on January 6, and to date, the Iraqi government is still an obstacle to the move.

So the international community has only one question to ask: Why? Why do we require of the residents of Ashraf not to take their vehicles? Why do we require of the residents of Ashraf not to use their right to take facilities related to infrastructure of the new camp? Why are they not even allowed to go to visit the new camp and to assess the priority needs? Why? Let us ask ourselves this question. And we should, if there is no answer, be wondering if this does not look like a forced displacement to a prison camp.

Is the Iraqi government trying to divert the world attention and shirk commitments given to the UN? In any case the suspicion remains on those who have violated their words and commitments in the past and have never treated residents of Ashraf humanely and have even committed terrible massacres in July 2009 and April 2011. Do not forget; do not allow the Iraqi government to exploit the UN agencies.

And then, dear friends, one word more personal. As a physician, I am outraged by the fact that on January 2, the transfer of three patients in a hospital was prevented by the Iraqi authorities, while the hospitalization of three patients was accepted at first. It was denied in the final minutes. It has been three years since the Iraqi government prevents, impedes the resident-patients of Ashraf from seeking treatment. That to me is an arbitrary attitude, an inhuman attitude, which has also killed twelve people in recent months. That's something for me absolutely unacceptable. These are rights, essential to seek treatment.

I am here tonight with you, with you, Madam President, along with Ashraf, who I am sure, hear me. Alongside these prominent personalities who fought against the slowness of their administration and sometimes against their comfort to save these lives. So I say to you tonight that you were right to fight, we will never abandon even one of the residents of Ashraf.

I am also with you tonight, because I do not want the agreement signed by the UN to be misused by the Iraqi government as yet another instrument of repression of Ashraf, as a justification for forced displacement. For this, history will never forgive us. So if I'm here tonight to say that if we, collectively, want to avoid such a disaster, it is necessary that the international community made it clear to the authorities in Baghdad to make them understand that we cannot ignore the minimum security required by these refugees. The Iraqi government must understand that, by imposing draconian restrictions on Ashraf residents, it takes personal responsibility in derailing the agreement and will be in international pariah.

Ashraf residents have suffered too much, they have made enormous concessions. We say firmly: that is enough. In the 21st century, we cannot accept to see so much injustice. So if I'm here tonight with you is to help open the eyes of the world on all these risks, and I thank the journalists who came because they were much more numerous at the beginning of this fight.

Finally, I would say the time has come to say four things:

- First, that the United Nations and Special Representative, as he is engaged in his letter to the residents of Ashraf, will do everything to ensure the safety and welfare of the residents. It goes without saying that the UN could support a plan that does not take into account the basic rights of these refugees.

- Second, it is with the guarantees of the United States, and I am very happy to find here the Governor Dean and Patrick Kennedy. But with the guarantees of the European Union and the United Nations, that the residents of Ashraf agreed the move to Camp Liberty. They accepted the move. This is because they had faith So we are all responsible for ensuring their safety and their situation during transfer to the camp Liberty. There is no question of condoning leaving for a camp turned into a kind of prison.

- Third, we must recognize the right of refugees to have their private space and to avoid interference and police actions, and harassment in their everyday life, especially in the new camp. The area must be at least five square kilometers for it to be respected.

- Fourth, there must be no interference with their right to property. They have the right to transfer their vehicles, their assets to Camp Liberty. That is what we are asking tonight.

So yes, I am more than ever on the side of brave heroes in Ashraf who have suffered so much in the quest for democracy, in the pursuit of liberty and pursuit of peace. You have suffered too much, you were doubly persecuted in your country and in exile, and you have been so maligned in your courageous fight. Know that we are here today to put an end to your suffering and support your legitimate demands. I say this to Secretary General of the United Nations in whom I have great confidence.

Now, the UN has a great responsibility too. Do not doubt our determination. Tonight, the Iraqi government must understand that there is an end to its excessive demands and illegitimate actions.

Dear Mrs. Rajavi, we are at your side, we stand with these women, these children of those men who suffer. I want to tell them they are not alone. And those who terrorize them let them know that we will not let go.


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