It is time the EU stopped closing its eyes to the realities and ended the praise of Iraq's government, when it is increasingly clear that the country has turned into a satellite state of the mullahs' regime in Tehran – claims MEP
The west has failed in Iraq. After the fall of Saddam Hussein, not only has Iraq not gone towards more democracy, but the situation of human rights has deteriorated day by day. The alarming rise of arbitrary executions is bringing the country closer to the model of neighbouring Iran, now more in charge than ever, after the United States withdrew its troops from the country at the end of 2011. The United Nations Mission in Iraq, similar to the one in Syria, is more concerned with satisfying the host government rather than caring for those who endeavour to create democracy. And the EU seems more present when trade partnership pacts are signed.
Recently the government officially carried out 21 executions, including three women in one day, on hollow charges of terrorism. It has gone so far that last week the country's elected vice-president Dr Tariq al-Hashemi was sentenced to death in absentia for alleged role in terrorism. Being a critic of the Iranian regime, he has sought refuge in Turkey since the beginning of the year and Nouri Al-Maliki's pro-Iran government has now issued an Interpol arrest warrant to have him returned for execution by hanging.
Days before his death sentence was announced, Hashemi had sent a letter to President Jalal Talabani requesting his intervention "to stop the arbitrary and ever-increasing rate of executions". Hashemi also claimed that several of his arrested body-guards, who had refused to make false confessions, were tortured to death in government custody. The Justice Ministry has confirmed 96 executions since the beginning of 2012, with another 196 people on the death row. Many Iraqis believe the real number is much higher and rights groups have raised alarms. The European Union's foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton has so far stopped short of condemning the death sentence against the vice-president.
Meanwhile, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's special representative in Iraq Martin Kobler has been criticised for allegedly helping the Iraqi government fulfill Iran's agenda against Iranian refugees. Last month, one of the UN's top officials in Iraq Tahar Boumedra - who had recently resigned in protest to what he saw within the UN mission in Iraq - revealed how his reports had been doctored by Kobler before being sent to UN offices in New York; in order to portray a better-than-real image of the realities.
Earlier this year, Kobler met a fiery reaction by members of the European Parliament when he tried to convince the EP's Foreign Affairs Committee that he had done a good job especially with regard to conditions at Camp Liberty near Baghdad airport, where several thousand Iranian dissidents evacuated from their home in Camp Ashraf had been relocated. With no freedom of movement for the residents and no access to visitors, parliamentarians and lawyers - Camp Liberty is nothing short of an "open-air detention centre," according to an independent report
by the UN working group on arbitrary detention.
Last week, the EU's envoy to Iraq Jana Hybaskova addressed the European Parliament's Foreign Affairs Committee to inform members on the situation in the region. Surprisingly, a major part of her speech was dedicated to attacking the residents of Ashraf. She complained that the parliament had paid too much attention to them. "People from Camp Ashraf, Mujahedin-al Khalq – or MEK/PMOI - are now being moved from Camp Ashraf to a far better camp called Camp Hurriya (Liberty) which is financed from the institute for stability, European money," she stated.
Her statement was not the whole truth. I have in detail followed the transfer of people from Ashraf to Liberty. No European government or EU institutions have paid a single dollar for the residents' needs. All bills have been paid by the residents themselves or their families and supporters abroad. Water, electricity, food, fuel and all other necessities are purchased with prices often much higher than the Iraqi market since much has to be ordered from abroad - as Iraq refuses the residents access to the Iraqi market. During the past few months, the residents have spent more than $6m on fuel to run power generators and on water, as the camp is not connected to the city water pipeline and water has to be brought in with tankers.
It really is immoral for an EU official to try to allegedly mislead the parliament in this way. I used to work with Hybaskova when she was a member of the European Parliament and had good memories of her. So I am even more disappointed by her presentation last week. Last year, under pressures from Tehran, Iraq launched a deadly attack on Ashraf and opened fire on unarmed refugees. Some 36 residents were killed including eight women. Hundreds more were injured, many permanently disabled. The European Parliament has passed several resolutions calling on Iraq to treat the residents humanely.
Ashton herself called on Iraq to hold an independent inquiry into that massacre. But that investigation never took place. Instead a new trade pact
was signed with Iraq and the government was praised for showing "flexibility" – in other words, for refraining from new deadly attacks on the refugees. It is time the EU stopped closing its eyes to the realities and ended the praise of Iraq's government, when it is increasingly clear that the country has turned into a satellite state of the mullahs' regime in Tehran.Ryszard Czarnecki MEP is a member of the European Conservatives and Reformists group in the European Parliament and a former Polish Europe minister