Why the Government has got it wrong on the PMOI – by Brian Binley MP

portrait-brianbinley-22.jpgSalamalikom to you all but especially to those in Ashraf City

I want to strongly condemn the 8 February 2008 bombing of the water pumping station to Ashraf City, Iraq, where the PMOI are situated. This terrorist action was carried out by the agents of the Iranian regime’s Kudz (Qods) Force. On 6 March, Jean Ziegler, the UN’s Special Rapporteur on the right to food, issued a statement voicing deep concern about the deteriorating humanitarian situation in Ashraf and the surrounding area since the explosion. He said locals were now experiencing water and food shortages that had been made more critical by the increasingly hot weather in the region.

Mr. Ziegler said he had received reports that the explosion may have been intended to deepen the pressure on the members of the PMOI.

Mr. Ziegler said under an agreement signed by Iraqi authorities and the PMOI in 2003, the camp remains under the control of the Multi-National Force (MNF) in Iraq and in 2004 the United States recognized PMOI members as protected persons under the Geneva conventions, meaning that they should not be deported, expelled or repatriated, or displaced inside Iraq.

He said: “The Iraqi authorities have failed to protect the inhabitants of Ashraf City and its surrounding area from the actions of third parties, which are impeding the basic rights to food and water and creating a critical humanitarian situation.

“The competent authorities must urgently restore the water supply to all the inhabitants of the region affected by the explosion in the water pumping station [and] the affected population must be protected from violation of their rights by third parties.

“I call on the Iraqi authorities to take immediate measures to guarantee the rights to food and water of the inhabitants of Camp Ashraf and its surrounding area.”

The Iranian terrorists in Iraq are also now assassinating Iraqi supporters of the PMOI in record numbers.

I believe that the Coalition forces and the Iraqi government must take immediate steps to ensure the safety and security of the brave PMOI personnel in Ashraf.

Let me now move on to matters here in London and say just how ashamed I am that my government is ignoring two unequivocal court rulings calling for the de-proscription of the only force capable of bringing about democratic change in Iran. We all know that the Ayatollohs hold the people of Iran in an iron grip without a care for basic human rights yet the British government chooses to actively support the mullahs in the face of both the European Court of First Instance and its own Proscribed Organisations Appeal Commission.

It is well known that the regime in Iran has executed over 120,000 PMOI members basically for demanding freedom for the Iranian people. Yet still the British government continues to heavily restrict that organisation’s ability to wage a political battle against this corrupt regime.

The PMOI has regularly publicly stated its support for a democratic and tolerant interpretation of Islam. For three decades it has confronted the epicentre of Islamic fundamentalism proving again and again its opposition to the massively distored vision of that religion which is corrupting the minds of many young Muslims in the Muslim World. To accuse the PMOI of terrorism as implied by the continuation of the proscription gives legitimacy to the fundamentalists who pervert the image of Islam and is a massive blow to those Muslims who support democracy the world over.

When the 35 Parliamentarians launched a legal challenge to the government’s proscription of the PMOI, and I might say I am immensely proud to be one of those, the government made what many think to be a politically damaging decision to battle it out in the courts even though they must have known their case was wafer thin. When on 30 November 2007, the Proscribed Organisations Appeal Commission, handed down its landmark judgment stating that the PMOI was not involved in terrorism and ordered the Home Secretary to immediately lift and, I quote, the “flawed” and “perverse” ban on the PMOI, a sensible government would recognise the error of its ways.

In reaching their verdict, the three judges had closely examined the evidence by some 15 witnesses and scrutinised more than 20 files of documents. The 144 page judgment delivered by the court was the culmination of an 18-month legal process, which concluded with nearly two weeks of Court hearings, including several days of “closed hearings,” when the Court considered evidence that the Foreign Office said was “secret information.”

And what did POAC conclude? Its judgement stated that “intense scrutiny of the material requires the conclusion” that:

–           The PMOI has not engaged in terrorist acts in Iran or elsewhere since August 2001.

–          That the PMOI’s military structure inside Iran had ceased to exist by (at the latest) the end of 2002.

–          That in May 2003, the PMOI in Iraq disarmed.

–          That is no material which indicates that the PMOI has obtained or sought to obtain arms or otherwise reconstruct any military capability despite their capacity to do so, after May 2003.

–          That there is no material to suggest that the PMOI sought to recruit or train members for military or terrorist action.

–          That there is no evidence that the PMOI has at any time since 2003 sought to re-create any form of structure that was capable of carrying out or supporting terrorist acts.

–          That there is no evidence of any attempt to “prepare” for terrorism.

–          That there is no evidence of any encouragement to others to commit acts of terrorism.

–          Nor is there any material that affords any grounds for a belief that the PMOI was “otherwise concerned in terrorism” at the time of the decision in September 2006.

The Commission therefore ruled that the PMOI “is not concerned in terrorism”. 

It stated:

“In those circumstances, the only belief that a reasonable decision maker could have honestly entertained, whether in September 2006 or thereafter, is that the PMOI no longer satisfies any of the criteria necessary for the maintenance of their proscription.  In other words, on the material before us, the PMOI is not and, at September 2006, was not, concerned in terrorism.”

Having ruled that the Secretary of State got the law wrong and failed to take account of relevant facts, POAC added, in an almost unprecedented legal statement, and I quote, “…having carefully considered all the material before us, we have concluded that the decision [of the Secretary of State]…is properly characterised as perverse…We recognise that a finding of perversity is uncommon.  We believe, however, that this Commission is in the (perhaps unusual) position of having before it all of the material that is relevant to the decision. ”

Thus POAC concluded, “we order the Secretary of State to lay before Parliament the draft of an Order under section 3(3)(b) of the 2000 Act removing the PMOI from the list of proscribed organisations in Schedule 2.”

It is nothing short of disgraceful that the British Government has failed to implement that court ruling. Instead it made a half-hearted attempt to buy time by appealing the decision. But on 14 December of last year POAC refused its application for permission to appeal, stating:

“The matters identified in the Secretary of State’s submissions and grounds are selective and have been taken out of context. The Commission has considered the application in the light of all of the matters set out in both the Open and Closed Determinations.  On the basis of the entirety of the matters contained in the Open and Closed Determinations the Commission considers that the Secretary of State has no reasonable prospects of succeeding on an appeal on the issues identified in the submissions and the grounds.”

Yet, even without a case, the British government renewed its application to the Court of Appeal, relying on the same grounds rejected by POAC.  There, it advanced its two main arguments.

Firstly, it argued that the PMOI was concerned in terrorism by virtue of the fact that it continued to exist. This ludicrous argument was put forward even as the government reluctantly accepted at the hearing that the PMOI had not been involved in any military activity since 2001. Simply put, the government lawyers argued that the Home Secretary could not be sure that the PMOI would not carry out terrorist acts in the future unless the organisation ceased to exist as a functioning body. Well, guess whose demand this is: none other than the mullahs’ regime itself. And that is, as I said before, a totally disgraceful position for my Government to adopt.

Secondly, the British government argued that POAC had acted unlawfully by replacing its own decision for that of the Secretary of State. This is equally not true. When Parliament adopted the Terrorism Act it specifically decreed that POAC be created to act as a virtual watchdog over the Government on these matters, to act as a backstop to ensure that the law was carried out as it should be and that justice prevailed.

So we now await the judgement of the Court of Appeal which is due in March and we await that judgment with great confidence, believing as we do in that basic decency which is enshrined in the rule of law.

Thus far the government has attempted to make a mockery of the rule of law. But it is not too late for it to redeem itself and we therefore call upon the government to immediately and unconditionally implement the POAC verdict before it is ordered to do so by the Court of Appeal.

This would send a strong message to the mullahs who continue to support the killing and maiming of troops from Britain and other Western countries in Afghanistan and Iraq that the international community will no longer continue to appease them.

Such a decision would also send a message of friendship to the people suffering under the yolk of oppression in Iran.

But above all it would restore the honour of the British Government with the many who support decency, democracy and human rights throughout the world.

Note from the Editor:

The PMOI or People’s Mujahedin of Iran is an Islamic Socialist organisation that advocates the overthrow of Iran’s current government. Founded in 1965, the PMOI is the main organisation in the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), an “umbrella coalition” which was founded in 1981.

NCRI claims to be a parliament in exile and aims to establish a democratic, secular and coalition government in Iran.

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