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Iraqi forces attack Camp Ashraf

Tahar Boumedra At British Parliament

This is the testimony I am making and I would do it or not, where Ashraf is well actually deprived, denied access to hospitals, and yet our staff tap on the shoulder and said give us the letter. So this is the kind of environment we dealt with the Ashraf issue, the Ashraf file. Let me say from the very beginning that the UN, including my office, the office of UNAMI, the Human Rights Office, was the office directly concerned with the situation in Ashraf and we were there to monitor human rights and the humanitarian situation. We did create and did contribute to disseminating or rather sticking the stigma to the Ashrafis. This stigma was first created in certain reports, of course, with two governments behind it, the Government of Iran and the Government of Iraq.

Then you all know about those reports that came out, one by the Human Rights Watch, the second by the RAND, the commission committee by the Pentagon to sort of enlighten Pentagon about the situation in Ashraf, but in fact these two reports, together with the UN report,  have perpetrated this stigma against the Ashrafis. All the concepts that were put to the Ashrafis from being a cult, to be terrorists and to be this and that, and believe me that is when I first took the position of Chief of Human Rights Office in Baghdad, I went through that direction. I was briefed and during all my induction is that be careful, you are dealing with a group of terrorists and I started my job really with this kind of perception, that I had in front of me a file of terrorists, and I kept following the issues for three years and a half. During the three and a half years I never received any allegation from the Ashrafis that did not turn true and I had never dealt with an allegation from the Government of Iraq that did not turn to be false, including when I went to do the body count when the massacre of 36 people happened.

I went to Ashraf, I did the body count and went back to Baghdad. Together with the US Ambassador Butler, we went to the Chief of Staff of Al-Maliki, together with his National Security Advisor and Political Advisor plus the Office of Human Rights within the Prime Minister's Office. I showed them the file and I said to them there are 36 bodies, 36 people killed, and they looked at each other as if I'm fabricating the story. I showed them the film. They didn't want to see it. I requested an inquiry; they said to me we will do the inquiry our way. What is their way of inquiry? I sat down with them in the Prime Minister's office and they showed me a number of grenades pictures and some light weapons, pistols and Kalashnikovs.  Pictures put on the table, they showed me that picture as evidence that there are weapons in Camp Ashraf and those weapons have been used to kill the Ashrafis themselves.

Those pictures, I know that they were not properly done, it was just a picture you could collect from any resource, but never mind. Those pictures were used and distributed to the embassies in Baghdad, together with some statements, those statements were the statements of security forces who were involved in the incident, in the attack and that was the investigation made by of the Government of Iraq.

And that was the investigation made by the government of Iraq, and the United Nations was very happy. They called for an investigation, there is an investigation, there is a report and that was the end of the matter. The United Nations have never requested again a report; they have never tried to do anything about it. And I kept reminding the Secretary General Special Representative that we have to be consistent in our practice; we have to be consistent in our reports. When we requested an independent inquiry we can't just forget it, it has to take place, but it never took place.

Thirty-six people were hurt.  And also another testimony that I had to do is that the thirty-six people were kept  41 days and buried in a make shift morgue and at the kind of temperatures you know in Iraq. So I kept every day asking the Iraqis to give permission to bury them and here again I was asked to deliver a letter to the Iraqi security forces that it's the Ashrafis who are refusing to bury them. After 41 days the bodies started decomposing and I kept telling them this is not the Islamic teaching. In Islam a body has to be quickly buried, as soon as possible, and yet they were kept 41 days and then when it came to burying them I was asked to give a letter that it's the Ashrafis who refuse to bury them. And that was again the kind of issues that the United Nations report never mentioned and even if I mention it, it will never go beyond the office of the Special Representative of the Secretary General the SRSG. So, this is, this is, let me be frank. It's Kobler and also the previous ones, also contributed into setting this kind of perception about the Ashrafis and perpetrated the perception and also the stigma. Of course since the arrival of SRSG Kobler, things became so flagrant, so blatant that United Nations is there to close down Camp Ashraf and that was clearly done by the MOU, the Memorandum of Understanding, but before the arrival of the SRSG Kobler the previous one was clearly saying, and I could remember exactly on the 17th May 2010 in a gathering of all the ambassadors in Baghdad, he told them that the UN agenda is so big in Iraq, and we don't want such a little item to undermine the whole business of the United Nations in Iraq. That was absolutely, it’s on record, and it's documented. So, the issue of why everybody stands against this is because Al-Maliki has made it really a condition for any diplomat to sort of have access to him or to the whole administration, to have access to anything in Iraq you have to go inline of the government's policy on Ashraf. So, when an SRSG stands before all the diplomats and tells them a small issue like Ashraf is not going to be, well, I'm not going to allow it to undermine the whole agenda of the UN, you will see what injustice is done and how it's been perpetrated.

I don't know if time will allow me to say a few words about the reporting process. The reporting process, and which has also contributed to perpetrating the stigma against Ashrafis. We go on a weekly basis to visit the Ashrafis. We will find a group of Iranians outside the gate, outside Ashraf – we refer to them as the visiting family, Iranian visiting families. And this visiting families was lead by a lady called ?Soraya? In fact most people refer to her in that Ashrafi refuge as 'Captain' Soraya because she has such a powerful sort of dominance on the Iraqi army. So she actually instructs the Iraqi army to do things and the Iraqi army do it. We go on a weekly visit to camp Ashraf, we find this group under the leadership of Soraya Abdullah and she will ask me to address the visitors. I said to her repeatedly that I am mandated to come and monitor the situation in Ashraf. Outside Ashraf it's outside my mandate so I will not address people outside Ashraf, but my mandate is to go to the Camp, verify all allegations from all sides, whether the allegations are coming from Ashrafis or from the government. Whoever makes an allegation we go and verify on the ground. The issue of fuel: the Iraqi government has always said we deliver, we give them enough fuel. The Ashrafis say we don't receive fuel, so I need to go and visit and inspect the reservoirs and, as I said from the very beginning, the Ashrafis always turn out to be the right one in their allegations, which are not allegations, it's reality. So, this is, when we go back to report, there is also, we are employees of the United Nations and most of us try to keep the job, they're not there to defend human rights, we're there to defend our jobs! So, before I do anything I have to make sure that my report will satisfy the SRSG. And I know that whatever I report the report will be rewritten at what we call the front desk of the SRSG. So, he's got his own staff who have never been out of that office, his staff don't know the situation on the ground, his staff never met any Ashrafi, and yet their words on those reports preferred from my report coming form the ground. So, whatever I report it never reaches New York, it never reaches Washington. And what I am saying applies to my counterparts within the American embassy because we visit the Camp together, we report objectively what we saw and what we heard and yet New York and Washington never receive the reports that reflect the reality on the ground, simply because of the level of the United Nations, the SRSG office, Special Representative of the Secretary General office, will reshape the whole thing and put it the way it should be done because we are there to report and to keep everybody happy. When Al-Maliki is happy, the Secretary General of the United Nations is happy. This is the reality and Kobler has been congratulated during the Arab League Summit in Baghdad and he said to us that he is my best SRSG because he is, to the word, he said because he is keeping Al-Maliki happy! So, now the United Nations has become an instrument in the hands of the government of Iraq to fulfil their policies the way they see them and the way they conceive them. We are there as an instrument, and this an instrument that is not, sort of, hidden. The Security Council resolution 1770, 2007, said clearly that UNAMI  is there to assist the government of Iraq upon its request. So, it's only when Al-Maliki say I need your help on that issue, then a little bit, and this is why Ashraf, we have do exactly what Al-Maliki needs to do and if Al-Maliki is not happy the SRSG will go, and this is what happened to Merlkert, Ad Merlkert his contract was not renewed because he stood for himself about the the elections and Al-Maliki wanted to recount those elections and he was not happy that Ayad Allawi had more seats than him. Ayad Allawi had 91 he had 89 so he wanted to recount them. SRSG Melkert said no, the Electoral Commission said it's fair and just and we are not going to recount. That was the end of the SRSG  and Al-Maliki told Ban Ki Moon he doesn't want to see him again in the mission and that was the end. So, now, of course, Kobler, with his ambitions, he will do exactly what Al-Maliki wants, if he does otherwise he has his predecessor’s experience in front of him as a guide.

So, just to probably conclude, I would say that we contributed into perpetuating the stigma against the Ashrafis. The other thing is, one of the fundamental issues that the UNAMI has perpetrated and violated is the presumption of innocence.

My office is the office that is there to defend the fundamental human rights of everybody, and everybody is presumed innocent until condemned by court of law and went through all the necessary procedures that is called the due process of law. In the case of Ashraf we have reversed this fundamental principle. And I could tell you any report, any employee of the United Nations in Iraq, presumes that Ashrafis are terrorists and they're left to prove their innocence. So, if that is done by a government we would say that is probably the practice of that government, but for the United Nations to reverse the rule and make the presumption of guilt as a fundamental rule, that is unacceptable and we did report everywhere saying that this has to stop. Presumption of guilt has to stop. And after all, the Ashrafis when they were delisted from the list, whether in Europe or America, they were delisted by courts of law. It was not a political decision, it was a judicial one, which means that the presumption of guilt has been removed by a court of law and this is where the Ashrafis have been victorious because wherever the issues are put to a court they were the winners.

Thank you very much.