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Speech by Struan Stevenson, European Parliament, Brussels 10th DECEMBER 2014

Thursday, 11 December 2014 18:56

Speech by Struan Stevenson, European Parliament, Brussels
10th DECEMBER 2014

On Human Rights in Iraq


Let me start by reading you a direct quotation from the United Nations Website:

“The UN General Assembly proclaimed 10 December as Human Rights Day in 1950, to bring to the attention ‘of the peoples of the world’ the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as the common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations. This year’s slogan, Human Rights 365, encompasses the idea that every day is Human Rights Day.”

Sadly, as we all know, not every day is Human Rights Day in Iran and Iraq. In June this year, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights issued a statement condemning human rights violations in Iraq. She said: "Violations of international human rights law continue to occur in complete impunity, including unlawful killing, gender-based violence, attacks on civilians and attacks on protected buildings such as medical units." Her statement was made before the sudden rise of ISIS - the Islamic State - since when things have become even worse. The US, Iran and some EU nations have subsequently conducted airstrikes against ISIS targets and have supplied weapons to Peshmerga forces in Kurdistan. Iraq is now in a state of war.

But all of this was as avoidable as it was predictable. Nouri al-Maliki’s second term as Prime Minister, insisted upon by Iran and aided and abetted by the US, was a tragedy for the Iraqi people, for the region and for the world. His pursuit of a merciless "iron fist" policy along Shiite sectarian lines has caused mass campaigns of arbitrary arrests to become the rule rather than the exception; whereas execution rates rose to record heights and an increasing number of political opponents found themselves faced with trumped-up charges of terrorism. These issues, along with the already devastated state of Iraq, added greatly to the staggering casualties and destruction following the illegal invasion and occupation in 2003. But we stood aside and allowed Maliki, as a puppet of Tehran, to remain in office and now we are witnessing the results of this catastrophic policy.

For too long, the international community has remained silent towards human rights violations in Iraq and Iran. When I was Chair of the European Parliament’s Delegation for Relations with Iraq, I was told repeatedly that my job was to cement better relations between the EU and that country. When I pointed to the death, destruction, torture, corruption and serial violation of human rights under Maliki, much of it inspired by Iran, I was told to shut up. I was told that the West’s policy of appeasement to dictators like Maliki in Iraq and Khamenei in Iran should not be disturbed in this way. The EU, US and UN were just not prepared to protest against the indiscriminate bombings, shelling and murder of innocent civilians, all of which have resulted in over a million deaths since the 2003 US invasion and occupation of Iraq. 

But mine was almost a lone voice. Maliki even called a press conference in Baghdad to denounce me as a liar and an enemy of Iraq. He sent an envoy to Brussels to ask me what it would take to get me to shut up. I told him that the only thing that would make me shut up would be his resignation and indictment for crimes against humanity.

As I highlighted again and again, Maliki utilised the claim of fighting a war against terror to secure his grip on power and the West fell for it, even although his war on terror was, in fact, a war against his political opponents. The sudden emergence of ISIS became a convenient focal point enabling Maliki to accelerate his sectarian campaign against his political foes. Indeed the reason ISIS made such rapid and spectacular gains across large tranches of Iraq was because they faced little or no resistance from the Sunni tribes, who often preferred the Islamic State to the brutal Iranian-led militias that had been terrorizing them for years. 

When Maliki came to power, step by step his government distanced itself from Washington and got closer to Tehran. A clear indication of this was Maliki’s approach towards the main Iranian Opposition, members of the People’s Mojahedin Organisation of Iran. 3500 PMOI members had lived in Iraq for almost 25 years. 

They had built a small, modern city called ‘Ashraf’ out of the desert in Diyala Province. But from the first day after the fall of Saddam, Tehran had conspired to massacre their arch foe and to annihilate Ashraf and in Nouri al-Maliki they found a willing tool.

As the U.S. withdrew from Iraq, it handed over the protection of Ashraf to Maliki’s government, having first signed an agreement with each and every individual resident of Ashraf, guaranteeing their safety and security in return for the surrender of their weapons. This amounted to signing the death warrant for these defenseless residents. 

The predictable outcome materialised in the form of six brutal massacres during the years 2009 to 2013. We warned the US, UN and EU again and again that these massacres would take place. But our cries fell on deaf ears. We were told not to rock the boat and not to do anything that might upset the delicate nuclear talks in Tehran. What an utter joke. It was the PMOI who first revealed the fact that the mullahs were enriching uranium and building a nuclear weapon and 12 years later we are still talking, extending deadline after deadline so that the mullahs can buy time and achieve their final goal of domination of the Middle East.

We must also strongly condemn the direct interference by Iran in Iraq. The US Government last week confirmed that Iranian jet fighters had participated in attacks on ISIS targets inside Iraq. We also have irrefutable proof that the terrorist Iranian Quds force is currently fighting in Iraq on the false pretext of protecting the Shiite Holy Shrines. Such Iranian military intervention will further increase the already catastrophic humanitarian situation in Iraq as it will be seen as supporting the sectarian military campaign started by al-Maliki against the Sunni population.

Shiite militias like al-Qara’a and Asaib Ahl al-Haq were trained by Hezbollah in Beirut and have largely taken the place of the deeply corrupt and incompetent Iraqi army. The Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi estimates that there are around one million armed Shiite militia fighters now engaged in the war against ISIS inside Iraq. These fiercely religious zealots take no prisoners and kill and displace Sunni civilians in a way that borders on ethnic cleansing. They are financed, armed and often led by the Iranian Quds Force whose main objective is to foment ethnic tension inside Iraq. Even if ISIS is eventually defeated, the sectarian divisions that will be left behind in Iraq could fracture the country.

The West must wake up to the fact that any cooperation and alliance with Iran to fight ISIS is extremely dangerous and will turn this war into a sectarian war between the Shiites and Sunnis, and even if it is temporarily suppressed, it will again surge and will encase the region for decades. To overcome the Islamic state, it needs a cultural and religious alternative that can defy the violent, fanatic and extremist view of Islam, be it of the Sunni type like ISIS or the of the Shiite type like the Iranian regime and its affiliated groups. The PMOI and Maryam Rajavi's democratic and tolerant version of Islam, can play a vital role in isolating the Iranian regime and its twisted Islamic Ideology inside Iran.

Lawlessness, terrorism, corruption and the systematic abuse of human rights are each a daily feature of life in Iraq. The World Bank lists Iraq as having one of the worst qualities of governance in the world. ‘Transparency International’ lists Iraq as one of the world’s most corrupt countries. It has a dreadful human rights record and now is in third place after only China and neighbouring Iran in the number of people it executes. In spite of vast oil revenues, per capita income is only $1,000 per year, making it one of the world’s poorest countries. The situation for women in Iraq is dire. Women are subject to rape, attack and violence. Iraq has 5 million widows and 5 million orphans, but only 120,000 receive state aid. A widow's average benefit is in any case only $85 per month and average rent is $200 per month. 

The world now looks to Haider al-Abadi to take control and restore order inside Iraq. He must begin by rounding up the savage militias associated with the Iranian regime such as the Badr, Asaib and Kataib terrorists, as well as other criminal gangs that have played a significant role in Maliki’s rule and instigated the sectarian war in Iraq. He must purge the army of Iranian mercenaries and all those that Maliki recruited under his sectarian policy, restoring patriotic officers and turning it into a professional and national army. Only such an army, supported by the tribes and the people will be able to confront extremist and terrorist groups like the Islamic State (IS). 

The new Prime Minister should also disclose to the Iraqi people the names of those who carried out the executions, massacres, bombardment and rocket attacks against innocent people and those responsible for poverty and state corruption; all should be held accountable in the courts. He must re-establish the independence of the Judiciary, dismissing those who have turned Iraq’s justice system into a political tool wielded by Maliki. He must also arrest and hold to account the perpetrators of the six massacres at Camps Ashraf and Liberty; lifting the inhuman siege, especially the medical siege, against Iranian refugees in Liberty and guaranteeing their rights and security and their right to ownership of their property at Liberty and Ashraf.

The new government should prepare the ground for an early free and fair democratic election under UN supervision to restore true sovereignty to the people’s representatives. I certainly hope that Dr al-Abadi will take rapid steps towards implementing these measures to fulfil the wishes of all the people of Iraq. This way, he will enjoy the full support of the world community and particularly the EU. He now has in his hands the historic role of saving Iraq or presiding over its total disintegration.

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