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Iraqi forces attack Camp Ashraf

So, I hope Mr. Bomedra will explain to us why processing of the MEK for relocation to other countries was not done in Camp Ashraf itself. The 3400 residents are being moved to the new site within Iraq called Camp Liberty. The new camp does not have the facilities of the old camp which had been built up for over several decades by residents; nor have the residents been allowed to bring all their possessions to the new camp. Just like other doomed souls on their way to the end, a humanitarian crisis was created where there never should have been one. Camp Ashraf was subjected to extreme harassment under the Maliki regime loudspeakers surrounded the camp bombarded the residents with death threats. The camp itself was attacked in 2009 and 2011 by Iraqi security forces. With 9 civilians killed in 2009 and 34 people, unarmed people, killed in 20011 and hundreds more wounded. An American military unit was ordered d away from the camp only hours before that attack began. Someone in our government then must have known about the attack and that it was coming and ordered our troops out of the way thus violating an American pledge to protect the camp. I have never been able to find out who that was and who gave the orders not to even investigate the situation.

 

There are still those in government who think we must get along with the Maliki regime despite Mr. Maliki’s misdeeds and his grab for authoritarian power as well as his alignment with the mullah dictatorship in Iran. I am not among them. Maliki has proven that he cannot be trusted and must be dealt with accordingly. Perhaps     that’s why he kicked me out of his country last time I was there.

The most recently, the sixth convoy of residents being... as being moved from Camp Ashraf to Camp Liberty, over 20 of those people were beaten by Iraqi security forces who were also stealing personal possessions owned by those residents.

Many of those attacked had broken bones and required hospital care. The US state department put out a statement after this on august 27th that despite these beating, hailing that mission as the safe arrival of the sixth convoy of approximately 400 Camp Ashraf residents and no mention was made of the violence inflicted on the residents. Indeed, the State Department claimed the government of Iraq has made considerable efforts to achieve a peaceful resolution for residents of camp Ashraf.

The United Nations and the US it appears are misleading the public about what the heck is happening in Iraq. And it’ time we get to the truth and that’s why we are trying to have this briefing and hearing today and hopefully find out what the truth is and who is accountable for their actions.

Thank you very much. And now, Congresswoman Chu is not a member of this   subcommittee but you are certainly welcome to offer the opening statement and join us in this briefing and hearing.

 

Congresswoman Chu:

Thank you so much Mr. chairman.

First I want to thank you Mr. Bomedra for being here today. It takes so much courage to quit your job, because of your belief that your employer is not doing what is right and it takes even more courage to come before us and before the rest of the world to talk publically about it.

I have to admit that I was shocked when I read your op-ed in the Hill last month. For months we’ve been hearing from both the UN and from US official about the conditions at camp Liberty. We’ve heard them say that it was adequate. So to hear a different story from you, an outsider, who’s been there and visited is very critical to our understanding about this extremely important issue and it makes me extremely disappointed in the conduct of the US officials who have been telling a very different story.

I am here today because I strongly believe that we must do all that we can to protect the people of Camp Ashraf from harm after two deadly attacks at camp Ashraf, I do not have faith that the violence is behind this. Reports of interference and misconduct at Camp Liberty only further shape my belief that we will find peaceful resolution to this problem. Like you, I am committed to ensuring the well being of residents at Camp Liberty. So thank you again for being here and I hope that by doing that we will have a better outcome in the months ahead.

Chairman Rohrabacher:

Thank you very much. It was good to have you with us today.

Do you have an opening statement? Now and for the opening of the actual hearing itself you are welcome to proceed.

Congressman Ted Poe:

Thank you Mr. chairman I will take the opportunity to speak twice, then, since you just gave it to me.  Thank you for being here. Two issues are involved, I think, today. One is the treatment of people and how they are being treated and who is to blame for their mistreatment? The Maliki government? The United States? The UN? All of the above? None of the above, or a combination? The other issue is more far reaching: The designation of the MEK as a foreign terrorist organization. And I hope we are able to talk about both of those today.

The first one: I was with you Mr. Chairman last year when you and I both were evicted from Iraq. We were evicted from Iraq because we had the audacity, the nerve, to go and ask Mr. Maliki “we would like to see the people in Camp Ashraf,” and he said “no way you will see those people”.

So, of course, he had something to hide. He had the truth to hide about how these people, real people, were being treated by the Maliki government and the United States complicit, in my opinion. And he was so infuriated with your request that we go visit these people, that he just told us to leave his country, which we eventually did on our own.

Now those folks are being moved to Camp Liberty and we hear the same song and dance: all is well here in Iraq with the residents of camp Ashraf and Camp Liberty. That is just not true. Conditions at Camp Ashraf, as bad as they were, and the fact that people were murdered there, the camp issue and conditions at camp Liberty are worse.

You know, I was a judge for a long time. I sent people to prison who actually did bad things and while in prison, those individuals got to visit with their families, they got running water, they got to visit with their lawyers. Those things are not occurring in Camp Liberty and these people are not criminals. These people are not in a prison. They were supposed to be taken to this staging area so they can be removed from the country on their own. But they’re not being treated even as we treat criminals. They’re actually in my opinion in a concentration camp and being treated worse than they were in Camp Ashraf. That ought not to be.

Mr. Chairman I am asking you if you would, I am volunteering to go with you to Camp Liberty.  I can request to go and see what it’s like, let us in to see these people and make our own determination and tell the world about it. However we do that? I don’t know, but you do know people, we can get in. I am making that request through you Mr. Chairman.

The other issue since there is no liberty in Camp Liberty is the designation of the MEK. Maliki told us the reason that he was treating the people at Camp Ashraf the way he was treating them, was because this country labels those folks as a foreign terrorist organization and he is treating them as armed terrorists. And that’s why he is treating them so poorly. We have to address that issue and hope that the State Department will remove that designation which we will talk about later. Thank you for being here and thank you for spreading a little truth on the situation in Camp Liberty.

Chairman Rohrabacher:

Thank you very much your honor. If someone committed a crime against my family I want them tried in your court!

We do have with us for the briefing, and then we will proceed with our official hearing, Mr. Bomedra, ok I am going to get that right! He became chief of the United Nations UNAMI Human Rights Office in Iraq in January of 2009. His work was  to monitor the human rights and humanitarian situation of Camp Ashraf. He was also an advisor to the the UN Secretary General Special Representative to Iraq. He resigned these posts earlier this year because of what he believes as being a UN failure to protect the human rights and humanitarian conditions of the Ashraf residents. The argument, he laid out in the issue of the Hill newspaper August 22nd and which he will elaborate today. He’s graduated from the University of London in United Kingdom where he worked as the editor of the African Journal for International and Comparative Law. And deputy Secretary General of the African Society for International and Comparative Law. In 2004, he served as regional director for the Plenary Reform for International which is based in Oman, Jordan and from there, he moved to United Nations. I would like to echo my colleagues’ praise for your moral stand and if you are willing to leave a position in order to maintain own personal standards of morality, and that speaks very well of you. We are here to hear, I know you have some things to tell us today, that will help us understand that situation in Camp Ashraf and you may proceed with your testimony.

Tahar Boumedra:

Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.

Thank you very much, members of this sub-committee for giving me the honor and the opportunity to be here to share with you my experience of three years and half being in charge of Ashraf file at the United Nations Mission for Assistance to Iraq.

First, Mr. Chairman, I would like to put on record, the fact that during these three years and half, I worked very closely with the young men and women, the American soldiers and officers who were in Camp Ashraf. And I would like to bring to your attention that there would be no opportunity where I would not command their highly professional and humanitarian attitudes.

They have been, from 2003 to 2009, we do not have at UNAMI, the United Nations Mission in Iraq, we do not have any record of any complaint against any of their behavior in Camp Ashraf. I was close with them, I received all the support, and at very short notice, they were always there to accompany me, to help me, to protect me, they made available helicopters to me at very short notice and I am here to testify and rather command that kind of humanitarian conduct they have shown during those years I worked with them.

Mr. Chairman, I would like first put the whole situation of Camp Ashraf in these context, it’s legal context. First I have to say that from the time the Camp was handed over to the Iraqi authorities, and let me be clear, because when we say Iraqi authorities, we are generalizing. Because in fact this file is run by the office of the Prime Minister.

So the file was handed over in 2009, and from the first day the Prime Minister’s office took over this file, we started receiving complaints. We started receiving complaints about serious violations of human rights, serious violation of humanitarian standards, and when we asked why you are not keeping the standards set by American forces, they will tell to me that these people do not deserve any human rights or humanitarian treatments, they are terrorists.

My mission, Mr. Chairman was to watch human rights and humanitarian situation of Camp Ashraf, and for me, everyone in Camp Ashraf is presumed innocent until they are duly condemned by court of law.

Unfortunately Mr. Chairman, the United Nations has dealt with this file in reversing the fundamental principal of presumption of innocence. We have dealt and I sat we, including myself, because I was the lead person on this file. we have dealt with bad faith and we have presumed guilt and we expect these people to prove their innocence. This is fundamentally against the main and the fundamental values of the United Nations.

Mr. Chairman, in 17 July of 2008, the Council of Ministers met and decided to close Camp Ashraf. This decision is the official policy of the Government of Iraq. So, I am not going to add to it or diminish it. This is what the Council of Ministers set as an official policy: first, to close down the Camp. Second, to revive arrest warrants against the members of the residents of Camp Ashraf. Third, to make it a criminal offence for anybody or any organization that deal with residents of Camp Ashraf. Any organization or individual is banned from visiting Camp Ashraf. And that explains everything when we, the United Nations reported that everybody is welcomed and the United Nations and the Government of Iraq are meeting their international obligations, at the time the Iraqi Government itself decided and reiterated every year, including in July 2011, reiterated this policy of treating them as terrorists, meeting with them is a criminal offence, nobody is allowed to visit them and all the treatments that followed, which I do not have time to go into details and I will answer your questions on any details you want to know. With this policy, the United Nations periodically issues reports that the Iraqi government is meeting its international human rights obligations. I will not make any comments and leave it to you to draw your own conclusions.

The way things are conducted, the Iraqi government themselves are saying we are not respecting the human rights of these people, and the UN is reporting that they are respecting. That speaks for itself.

So, Mr. Chairman, when we started talking about relocating from Camp Ashraf to Camp Liberty, it was the Chair of the so-called Ashraf Committee who met with UNAMI and the representatives of the High Commission of Refugees. And he did warn us very clearly, he said: United Nations do whatever he wants, but we will not implement the human rights and humanitarian standards the United Nations is advocating for. So that is part of the Iraqi policy. It’s not hidden, it’s on the record. But again we at the United Nations we reported that Iraqi government meets its international obligations.

I would like to move to the conduct of UNAMI, how we dealt with the situation since I was appointed in charge of this file in January 2009. I worked for three special representatives of the Secretary General of the United Nations.

Initially, we were working as mandated by the Security Council resolution 1770, which gives UNAMI the authority to monitor and report. So, the two SRSG’s, two Special Representatives of the Secretary General I worked with, worked on this monitoring and reporting.

Then came the third Special Representative of Secretary General, last October. From the very first day, he turned UNAMI --- this is --- internally we used to say UNAMI has been turned into UNAMA, the UNAMA is United Nations Mission for closing camp Ashraf. So this sudden change of policy made UNAMI devout its assets and time and personnel, 95% of UNAMI was put towards helping the government of Iraq to close Camp Ashraf.

Serious money was spent on this operation. Serious taxpayers’ money was spent on this operation to assist the Prime Minister’s office implementing the policy I just stated, which was fundamentally against the principals of the United Nations. So, in a way, we have used taxpayers’ money to defeat the fundamental values of the United Nations. I reminded my boss, special representative of the secretary general that what we are doing in unacceptable. I always received the reply “be positive”. “Be positive” of course means “close your eyes”, work with us. And I tried to be positive in doing my work as dictated by my conscious. But let me explain why Unami suddenly changed to such a machinery for violating its values and principles. If we look at Security Council Resolution, 1770, it declares the mandate of UNAMI which makes it an instrument in the hand of government of Iraq to do whatever it is suitable. Now anything done by UNAMI, it must be by the request – this is the language of the Security Council resolution – it has to be by the request of the Government of Iraq. I have to admit that while I was the Chief of the Human Rights Office, I tried to remove, because every year we change the mandate of the UNAMI , we draft the first draft of the resolution in order to Security Council to renew the mandate.  I tried to remove this clause of “by the request of Government of Iraq”, but I failed.

When we see that the government of Iraq will not tolerate anything that goes against its fundamental policies set on the resolution of the Council of Ministers and also there was an incident it is important to reflect on it. This incident was the elections. The Election where the Al-Iraqiya won 91 seats, Al-Maliki’s State of the law coalition won 89.   The coalition of Maliki requested that they have to recount the ballots. The authorities who were overseeing the election, stood for UNAMI, stood for justice and declared that the election was fair and there was no need for the re-count. Al-Maliki never tolerated this and he said to then, representative of Secretary General that his mandate will not be renewed and this is how we ended up with a new representative of Secretary General who came and straight learned the lesson that in order to achieve anything in Iraq, you have to accept whatever  the prime Minister Maliki dictates and from the very first day, UNAMI became an instrument for closing Camp Ashraf and not only that, I do not have the time to duel on other issues that were totally abandoned and were fully part of the mandate of UNAMI. But somehow we became the instrument of the Prime Minister’s office policy vis-a-vis Camp Ashraf.

Chairman Rohrabacher:

Perhaps you could summarize for the record.

Tahar Boumedra:

Very quickly, Mr. Chairman.

I would like to just to breifly tell you how we prepared this relocation!  How we prepared this MoU!

I was the first person who drafted the draft of the MoU. And I can assure you Mr. Chairman that the signed document was not the one that we agreed on with the Iraqis. The signed MOU was simply a document that was agreed incommunicado, in camera  between the SRSG, Special Representative of the Secretary General and the Prime Minster himself.

So, there was a fundamental change in the content and the procedure of the MOU.

Camp Liberty -- I was the first person to go and visit Camp Liberty and I reported that Camp Liberty amounts, it looks, it is, a detention center. For UNAMI to reach there, we crossed 7 check points. It’s highly fortified military zone with all the headquarters of the military branches of the Iraqi army based in the area. And then all the T-walls, this concrete walls of 3-4 meters to run the cameras and I always address my interlocutors, the Iraqi interlocutress, and tell them “Why do you need all this, these people are asking you we are leaving. We would like to leave Iraq.” They are not asking to stay. They gave up their status in Iraq they want to leave. Why are you dealing with them this way? They tell me these people are terrorists, you are defending terrorists. So, thank God at the time I was enjoying certain immunity of the United Nations otherwise I would be subject of their regulations.

Now, my visit to camp liberty, I always said that this is in fact extremely unacceptable, particularly what we know. We talk about relocation, it’s not relocation. It’s an eviction. It’s a forcible eviction. There is a difference between eviction and relocation. Relocation is consensual, it’s in accord with an agreement but an eviction is a forcible eviction and the United Nations has standards and rules of conduct on how to implement a forcible eviction. Basic element is that people who are evicted should be compensated with similar standards or better in any circumstances, not less. But Camp Liberty, I was the first one to visit it. I reported that it’s absolutely unacceptable. It’s a prison-like.

But just not to waste your time, Mr. Chairman, I just want to read to you one paragraph of the working group of the United Nations Council of Human Rights in Geneva, who deals with this issue and their conclusion I read: The working group considers that there are no legal justification for holding the above mentioned persons and I mean Ashrafies, and other individuals in Camp Liberty and that such detention is not in conformity with standards and principals of international human rights law and more specifically, violates article 9 of the universal declaration of Human Rights and article 9 of term of convention  of civilian and political rights. The situation, it adds, the situation of the residents of Camp Liberty is tantamount to that of detainees or prisoners. So, this is a document that it would be, you recall that this is united Nations group, they are specialist independent specialist appointed by the council of Human Rights this is their conclusion and I was on 30th of August before this working group testifying that their finding is absolutely correct and absolutely in line with my experience in UMAMI having visited and having worked in Ashraf and Camp Liberty for 3 years and a half. I thank you Mr. President and Mr. chairman and I am prepared to answer any further questions you would like to put to me.

 

Chairman Rohrabacher:

Thank you very much we would have to be brief because we have a hearing afterwards. You said that under United Nations Special Representative, the United Nations basically have lost its independence, Mr Kobler lost its independence in Iraq, could you explain how United Nations is able to maintain an independence face of a regime which is obviously is now making more and more demands from Maliki government and do you consider now the United Nations not to be operating independently of that government or now which we would say the stooges of the government.

 

Tahar Boumedra:

Yes Mr. Chairman. I do confirm here in front of you that UNAMI has no independence what so ever that is every issue dealt with regarding Ashraf is decided at the Prime Minister’s office and sometimes at the Iranian embassy in Baghdad.

Chairman Rohrabacher:

The Iranian Embassy in Baghdad!  I think that it is an important point for us to underscore. Yes let me ask you this while you were operating there in Iraq was there to your knowledge any real effort to perhaps to make sure that the people of Camp Ashraf could go to Jordan or Qatar or Saudi Arabia, Turkey or even United States? Was there a, was this option pursued by the United Nations or by the United States or by Iraq itself?

Tahar Boumedra:

Mr. Chairman, it was within my authority to suggest  of possible exits for these people and I did suggest after having discussed in length with my counterparts at US embassy. I discussed all kind of exits. Including an exit to Gambia in Africa, in west Africa, we considered Romania, we considered a number of exits but these were always dismissed by my Boss because the end of the relocation is not just a sort of let people disappear in the air. There is a process put in place which is rather cynical, dangerous and I would like you to do your own conclusions because there will be this process the what is refer to as the refugee status determination process (RSD). The refugee status determination process and I have the documents of the high commissioners for refugees. It will actually at the end of the process would be 2 categories of residents in Camp Liberty. One category will benefit eventually from the refugee status and will have some protection. Second category will be denied the refugee status, this second category will be effectively locked up in a detention centre called Camp Liberty and God knows what happens after that!

Chairman Rohrabacher:

Your honour

Judge Ted Poe:

What do you think is the motive of the United Nations to lie?

Tahar Boumedra:

It is very difficult for me to sort of read into the intensions of individuals but as a matter of policy New York wants to hear that everything is fine and everything is smooth and the Secretary General when he came to Baghdad during the Arab League summit in Baghdad he expressed satisfaction of how things are conducted and he said that he is very proud that the Special Representative is holding very friendly relations with the Prime Minister so here there are issues of the policy and also personal ambitions, personal attitudes and I have to testify that from the very first day SRSG Kobler arrive to Baghdad he touched  me on the shoulder and said Hi Mr. Ashraf meaning I am going to deal with you very soon and in fact he dealt with me in a sense that he reached a point where he removed me from every mailing list of  UNAMI as chief of in charge of  the leader of team of Ashraf , I had no access to any information, any report , any document that it is circulated  related to Ashraf not only that I was banned from visiting Camp Ashraf and Camp Liberty  and it was at that stage I decided to resign because I don’t deserve my salary any more I was just being kept in an office , very well paid but I did not deserve it so I decided to go.

Judge Ted Poe:

One last question.  You have mentioned and I just want you to explain a little more behind the scenes of all of this mischief going on with Iraq Prime Minister, the treatment of the people in Camp Liberty and Camp Ashraf you got Iran, what do you think Iran's influence is  on Maliki to treat the people in Camp Ashraf so poorly?

 

Tahar Boumedra:

I have to say that I will only talk about meetings that I personally attended. I personally attended about five meetings at the Iranian embassy in Baghdad. The Iranian embassy, when they receive us, they don’t want to talk, they want results. In a sort of powerful manner, the minute we sit, they ask what have you done? Tell us about results. And we were in a defensive and apologetic position to say that, sorry, we are working on it, we will let you know.

The powerful man today in Baghdad is the National Security Advisor to Prime Minister Al-Maliki, Fallah Fayaz. He is the decision maker on this file. He does not want to discuss, he just orders and says he wants results. He wants dates, he says we have given the deadline of December and it has passed, we will not tolerate any more delays.

Here, we hear every day about these difficulties about water, access to medicine, access to lawyers and …. I seriously put these questions to my counterparts. You here very much about Colonel Haghi, Colonel Sadeq and I saw them everyday and worked with them. I asked them why are you doing this?

First, I must say that they are not the decision makers, they are executive officers. The main decision makers on this file are Fallah Fayaz and the Prime Minister Maliki. When I asked these executive officers, my counter parts on this file, they said we deal with them the way we want to deal with them and I reminded them that the Spanish Criminal Court has Sadeq on his list, and when I asked Sadeq why you want to be so notorious in your conduct? He said to me I will never travel, they won’t get me. He never denied his crime and what he has done. He just told me, with the mentality of a villager, he will not travel and so, they won’t be able to get him. These are the kind of people we deal on a daily basis. Sadeq is just the running manager of Camp Liberty. So, the policy is there, it is clear, has been put in place long time ago and is in violation with the fundamental values of the united nations, it is ordered by the office of the Prime Minister, executed by these two officers and we were there to simply to satisfy this person or that and also be reminded that we are Iraq’s guests and have to behave. And if the Prime Minister gets upset, we have to pack and go.

Chairman Rohrabacher:

When I used to go to college, there was a movie by the name of Z, do you remember it? What you are describing is the real nature of the United Nations, supposedly supposed to protect human rights.

We have been joined by our ranking member, Mr. Carnahan. He, unfortunately, like too many us is running between so many events right now. Do you have anything you would like to ask?

Congressman Carnahan:

I just want to thank you for being here. I understand we have another part of hearing coming up, so, I am going to reserve my questions so we can move on again, apologize for going back and forth between two different hearing. I am glad to be here for part of it, thank you.

Chairman Rohrabacher:

Congresswoman Chu, do you have a question or two?

Congresswoman Judy Chu:

Yes, thank you. Mr. Bomedra, first I would like to ask questions about the condition of Camp Liberty.

You are one of the outsiders who was able to visit camp Liberty and you were there before the residents of Camp Ashraf were transferred  there and described the terrible conditions of the mobile units and the prison-like security. Today, the residents are still concerned about the lack of access to water and electricity. The US official say it is Spartan, but livable. When you visited initially, were you able to determine whether there were basic humanitarian necessity such as water, electricity and shade. Have you been there since and have the conditions changed at all and do the existing conditions meet the humanitarian standards?

Tahar Boumedra:

Thank you. This is the question I have been waiting to answer.

Since December, where we began preparing the file, we went to take pictures, we had to sel ect pictures that are sellable to the residents of Ashraf and to the international community. We had to make specific sel ection. We had to take pictures of corners and sceneries. With these pictures, we had to sit down, the whole Unami decision makers, and had to go through them one by one. The pictures that were appealing and sellable, we put aside, the pictures that were not suitable, were put at another side. Even when we were there, a delegation of about 8 people, everybody was instructed to take such pictures so when we go back to base, we compare. That is what we did. We compared pictures and only sel ected a number of pictures.

The camp in December of 2011 was totally vandalized. The Camp was handed over from the US military to Iraqis on December 3rd. At the end of December, when I was there, the Camp was totally vandalized.  It was all looted.

I hear some reports here in Washington Post that they have flat TV on the wall. I can show you pictures that the flat TV space was empty because it was stolen. Now that the residents have brought some improvements to the Camp, they are putting it to the account of the Iraqi Government. The Government of Iraq does not spend a penny for the residents of Camp Liberty, it is their own work and their own hardship.

There has been certainly some improvements from December to today, but this is not because of the hospitality of the government of Iraq, it is their own achievements at a very high cost because they pay for everything above the market price.

They are isolated and have no access to outside, so the Iraqis are imposing on them certain merchants and there is a long story that I do not want to open it her, it will take a lot of time, but even these merchants are specially sel ected by the Prime Minister’s office and then you here about issues of properties. These merchants suddenly turn up and become decision makers of the future of the properties of the residents of Ashraf and Liberty.  That is the situation, any improvements, if any, are not because of the government of Iraq or the United Nations, it is thanks to the hardship and entrepreneur spirits of these people.

Chairman Rohrabacher:

For the record this witness has testified that the purpose of the activity and rules and policies that were being laid down, when he worked there for the United Nations, the policies and the rules that were being laid down by the Iraqi government and by his United Nations’ superiors was that they were trying to make life for the people of camp Ashraf unbearable. Correct? So these people were intentionally creating a suffering of certain of these people. That was the intentional outcome…

Tahar Boumedra:

That is my understanding Mr. Chairman.

Chairman Rohrabacher:

Your understanding and your vision of that was obtained through your personal actions or personal situations which put you right in the middle of …

Tahar Boumedra:

As a little person on Ashraf file, yes this is my understanding.

Chairman Rohrabacher:

So, we have government officials and let us know that at the same time there is no way out for this people, because our government has designated these folks as terrorists. So, our government has prevented them from leaving and the other government entities, the United Nations and Iraqis are intentionally creating suffering. Did you at any time ask representatives of the United States government for help, to help you in this situation?

Tahar Boumedra:

I was interacting with the officials of the prime minister’s office on a daily basis.

Chairman Rohrabacher:

What about the United States government?

Tahar Boumedra:

The United States government within my official level is not within my job to sort of interact with them. It is the Special Representative of the Secretary General who briefs his counterparts at the …

Chairman Rohrabacher:

OK, to your knowledge, was the United States asked for help in preventing the suffering?

Tahar Boumedra:

The US embassy always declared that “we are behind UNAMI”.  “We support whatever UNAMI does”.

Chairman Rohrabacher:

But you are now testifying that the policy was to create suffering.

Tahar Boumedra:

I do confirm that.

Chairman Rohrabacher:

So, the United States, the people who laid this down on the part of the United States, supported this policy, were they also aware that the actual policy was not to try and treat these people decently, but instead to create suffering among them?

Tahar Boumedra:

At my level, the only people that i dealt with closely are my counterparts of the US embassy and my counterparts of the USFI in camp Ashraf. And I command their behavior, their conduct. I have nothing to complain about, but it is above my capacity to talk about who would relay this information.

Chairman Rohrabacher:

OK, but you did just testify that the US government was to back-up the UN’s activities all the way and you are also testifying that the UN as well as the Maliki government, their actual goal was to create suffering among these people.

Someone who has never been there speculate so you observation that the suffering of these people was intentional and created by decisions made by the Maliki government and by the United Nations to go along with it and at the very least out government knew about this and did nothing to stop it. Correct?

Tahar Boumedra:

I have no doubt about that

Chairman Rohrabacher:

All right, thank you very much for your testimony today.

Chairman Rohrabacher:

We are now moving on formal hearing on the United States and Iraq failure in regard  to Camp Ashraf and by extension, the strategic  situation in Iraq and the region.

I say that behind the attack on Camp Ashraf is Iran through the Maliki government which has aligned it with the dictatorship in Tehran. Ashraf is just one example of this growing threat to American interest in the region and could be very symbolic of what we can expect on this region.

Consider Shia militias and terrorist groups like Hezbollah that operate in Iraq and are funded by Iran, the Iranian Elite squads “Qods” operate in Iraq without interference by Maliki government. President Barak Obama was not able to negotiate a new status of forces agreement with Prime Minister Al-Maliki that would have allowed a small American military presence in Iraq past the end of 2011. He then placed a limit on the size of U.S. embassy staff and CIA.

Maliki government was adamant in US forces leave the country thus removing a check on their actions. Iran was also adamant about United States withdrawal. A day after the last US troops left Iraq, Sunni Vice-President, Hashemi, a long time foe of the Shiite Prime Minister Maliki, was charged with terrorism.

Hashemi fled first to Kurdistan, a province in Iraq, then on to Turkey. On September 9, he was sentenced to death by hanging. Maliki was hailed once as an Iraqi nationalist, has obviously become a sectarian plotting against the Sunnis and the Kurds of his own country.  He has provoked a new domestic unrest and violence. The Sunnis were persuaded to turn on to Al-Qaeda  in Iraq because we promised they will get a fair share in a democratic country. That promise is fading  and the door may open again for the Al- Qaeda  to re-build.

An editorial Monday in the British Guardian newspaper raised questions of whether Maliki would become an outright dictator or not. It ended with the statement and I quote: “Maliki’s quest for domination could drive his country back into civil war.”

Iraq is a conduit of weapons and supplies to the Syrian dictatorship which is trying to crush an uprising of its Sunni majority. The Syrian regime is allied with Iran. I initially supported the invasion of Iraq; I personally did, to overthrow the dictatorship of Saddam Hussein. I thought that was what was the right thing for us, the United States, to do, to oppose dictatorships, and to help people struggling to create democratic societies. In retrospect, I consider this to have been one the greatest errors I have ever made and certainly the greatest error made by the previous administration, the Bush administration.

We sent an army into Baghdad to get rid of a hostile government which we did. But then, while our troops were still there, what happened but a hostile government came into power. But this new hostile government is a hostile government aligned with the most dangerous regime in the region: Iran, which is a supporter of terrorism and has ambitions to develop nuclear weapons.

Americans need to think about this a long time to figure out what we should be doing in the future and what policies we have. But one thing is sure; we should always be on the side of people who are longing for freedom. And that’s where Camp Ashraf comes in. The camp Ashraf story may start about human rights, but is ending up as part of a tragic, an epic tragedy, that ties into how or who lost Iraq. With us today to discuss this tale is Lincoln Bloomfield Jr. We invited Ambassador Daniel Fried to testify on behalf of the State Department but Ambassador Fried is in charge of Camp Ashraf and that issue, but he is out of the country and State Department said that he was the only one who could actually discuss this adequately, so today we have with us Lincoln Bloomfield Jr. instead.

 

Given that since the withdrawal of US troops from Iraq, the State department is in charge of US policy now our troops are gone, and now it’s all up to the State Department. I find it hard to believe that they could not find someone to come up here and tell us what it’s all about. So be it.

Mr. Bloomfield is the Chairman of the Simpson Center. He was the special envoy for the Man Portable Air Defense Systems Threat Reduction from 2008 to 2009 and Assistant Secretary of State for Political Military Affairs for 2001 and 2005. Mr. Bloomfield previously served as Deputy Assistant Secretary Of State for Near Eastern Affairs from 1982-93, Deputy Assistant Vice President for National Security Affairs in 91- 92 and Principle Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs from 88 to 89, among other positions. I don’t see if I could squeeze any more positions in that resume dating back to 1981. Mr. Bloomfield, if you could try to limit your testimony so we could have a few questions as we expect a vote here, fairly soon. You may proceed.

Ambassador Bloomfield:

Thank you Chairman Rohrabacher and thank you for the invitation to appear before this subcommittee. With your permission sir, I prepared some testimony, I would ask that it be introduced into the record of the hearing.

Chairman Rohrabacher:

Without objection, so ordered.

Ambassador Bloomfield:

I will also be referring I expect to Mr. Bomedra's testimony, and perhaps if it’s permissible his testimony, prepared statements and his briefing could be made part of the record if that is permissible.

Chairman Rohrabacher:

So ordered without objection.

Ambassador Bloomfield:

Thank you very much. With your permission sir, I take just one minute. I have had five jobs in the State Department and I am going to talk about the State Department.

I like to just say a word of respect and condolence to the four State Department employees who lost their lives in Ben-Ghazi. It’s a terrible loss and my condolences to their family and friends and to the State Department community. It just reminds us how tough and how important the work they do is and even though I will be framing a policy issue that is very much of a problem for the State Department it does not imply any disrespect at all for their vital mission or the people who serve.

I have one message and I would ask, I would hope the folks will digest my testimony. There are copies that would be made available through the records. Mr. Bomedra testified as a human rights expert and as a former UN official and it was clear from his testimony, from his briefing, that he is very much concerned that the United Nations uphold its own principles. So the reason he resigned was that he felt he was not being true to the principles of the UN and I respect that. The people in this room and there are constituents to the Subcommittee who have friends and relatives in Camp Liberty and Camp Ashraf and there is no question that they are vitally concerned for the welfare of their relatives in camp Liberty and camp Ashraf I share both of those concerns but my message concerns a third focus which is United States interests and US policy.

Looking at the facts of this case I believe that what Mr. Boumedra has brought to light has serious implications on US policy and Mr. Chairman you talked about this as well and I wanted to amplify the point you were getting at as well. From my perspective what we thought was happening in Iraq was that we were undergoing a process of relocation of 3400 people to a place where UNHCR could process them as potential refugees and the US governments hope is that they will complete the process that most if not all would qualify as refugees and they will find third party countries that are willing to take them in a perfect world all of them will be relocated elsewhere safely securely problem solved.

Secretary Clinton herself testified in February to the House Foreign Affairs Committee that that was United States policy to try to process these people as expeditiously as possible safely and securely and to see them passed along to willing third countries.

What we heard from Mr. Boumedra was something very very different. You heard them mention the Iranian embassy I heard him mention at least five meetings that the Iranian embassy is at the decision table what we heard was that an element of the Iraqi government surrounding the Prime Minister of Iraq is implementing an agenda that is very much Iran’s agenda.

I am here today because I don’t believe that the scenario that Mr. Boumedra has revealed as the real scenario that UNAMI has been supporting can be squared with the US goal here. I think that they are operating directly across purposes and that poses some serious problems and some serious risks. Some of the implications are that it puts the United States in a horrific position of giving this population at camp Ashraf essentially two choices either move to what you have clearly learned as a detention facility with seven check points guarded by a group that is commanded by Colonel Mohammad Sadeq who lead the 2011 April massacre.

Mr. Boumedra said he was taking orders we had heard that at the Nierenberg trials before he was at the command of security at camp Liberty I pray that no one at the State Department knew that when they consented to a process that would drive people to be put under a man who lead the massacre that alone has to be a human rights violation to be facing the guns of people who wounded you and who killed people amongst you is clearly a problem and so there has been resistance amongst this population not to be put in that position and they had been told again by the Secretary of State in that same testimony that her deliberations on the foreign terrorist organization list her decision to whether to list or delist the MEK will be guided in large part by how much cooperation this population exercises in leaving willingly and going to camp Liberty so look at the choice and I must say we have heard through the appeals court process that the Secretary Clinton herself has been pre occupied by some major crisis in the world and I take them at their word that she is not able to review the file herself but to put the Secretary in a position that she is saying either go to a detention center where you going be unarmed looking at people who have killed people amongst you or plan to be on the terrorism list from now to eternity where you cannot travel your families are separated from folks in the US and all your movements are being tracked by financial investigators FBI and counter terrorism people that is the choice we have given them and I just don’t believe that the United States if they knew all the facts that we have now learned would allow the United States to be behind that kind of a Hobson’s choice there would have to be a third option that respects the principals of human rights and I think America is better than that I hope that the Secretary of State would become acquainted at least with those facts we should not be coercing the population into an untenable and illegal situation. Secondly, there has been some concern and I have investigated the open source about the MeK history that the Iranian intelligence for years has been planting false information it doesn’t mean that MeK was not conducting armed resistance against the mullahs in Iran I could talk about that but my  point is that when the last group leaves camp Ashraf what protection do we have that they are not going to plant false evidence that they were planning terrorist activities there by manipulate our counter terrorism policy ,

And some of the residents of camp Ashraf have asked for a third-party independent investigation of camp Ashraf, and have been told “No” and I believe the US government has said it’s not necessary. That’s a risk.

The third risk is a third massacre. Imagine if Col. Sadeq, who—by the way—did travel -- he went to France this summer to try to brief the European Parliament and was arrested at the door and held for several hours and then put on a plane back to Iraq. But if there’s a third massacre, this does implicate the United States law. And as someone who has worked for years on security assistance relationships, this one, we’ve lost a lot of troops to try to get us to the point where US and Iraqi forces will mentor and will be partners for many years, we have huge programs with jobs lined-up behind them: fighter aircrafts, tanks, their assembly lines that are waiting for these programs to go forward.

If there is a third massacre, the Arms Export Control Act could severely complicate that. It would give the Congress and the administration a terrible choice of either overlooking the law and giving them a pass under those circumstances or interrupting a program for which so many troops fought and died.

There is also the Leahy Human Rights Law and if Colonel Sadeq doesn’t qualify as someone who has committed gross human rights violations I don’t know who would, but he should be banned under the law from ever receiving training from the United States.

Those are two laws that I helped enforce and wrote the guidance for in some cases, and there is no good outcome here. And I guess I would say as long as this Iranian and Prime Minister Maliki’s agenda to do as Mr. Bomedra said, it’s an announced policy to make their lives unbearable. So we hear a lot about clean water and air conditioning and private property and these are huge issues but if you look at it strategically as part of a plan to make them lose their will and say “alright, I can't look at this 120 degree container box any more, just let me out of here” and put them out into the open in Iraq where they could be vulnerable to Iraqi elements or to Iranian intelligence and then take the top 200 [or] thereabouts for whom there are arrests warrants out who could never qualify by the way as refugees as long as there is a warrant out. The plan would obviously be turn them over to Iran which violates the non-refoulement principle, which is a cardinal principle of humanitarian law. Do we want o be a party to such things?

I testified last December that I wondered why we didn’t try to move the whole enterprise with the UNHCR to a safe harbor somewhere else. I repeat that recommendation today and I redouble my belief that US interests and the State Department’s interest would be much better served if Secretary Clinton tried really hard, maybe at the UN general assembly meetings this month, to find a friendly country to take all of these people.

 

Chairman Rohrabacher:

It was pretty hard to miss that. In fact If I remember seeing those photos, did you watch the videos?

Yes Sir.

Was he the fat guy with gun shooting at the people?

Ambassador Bloomfield:

I don’t know.

You are correct, it was him

Chairman Rohrabacher:

So, he was

It is a disgrace. It is a betrayal of everything America believes. We made a deal with these people and now we have someone who has already committed a massacre against them and put that person in charge of their security.

Ambassador Bloomfield:

If I could make a comment Mr. Chairman, we can look back and say this was a mistake, that was a mistake, but we could also look forward and say worse things could happen, third massacre could happen, that would be detrimental to America’s honour and reputation. One of the things I learned from listening to Mr. Boumedra is that the US forces who provided 4Th Geneva Convention Protected Person status to all residents of Camp Ashraf in 2003 and gave them Protected Person identity card, there is a rand report we could discuss, I have some issues with the report, which tries to make the case that it should have never been granted, however, in any case, it did not outlive when US troops pulled back from Camp Ashraf. Mr. Boumedra says under article 45 of the 4th Geneva Convention which I have read and try to understand as a non-lawyer, if the party that you give the security over to, namely Iraq does a good job, then you are fine. If the party that you hand security over to does not uphold their security, you continue to have that obligation. So, we have and he wrote this in his column in the Hill that the United States has an international legal obligation that continues to this day, a promise made in 2003 has not expired for those residents. So, it is more than just a moral issue, it is a legal obligation. I dearly say that is why so many senior US former leaders are outspoken on this issue.

Chairman Rohrabacher:

It sound like an obligation to fulfill a contract, what we are talking about is the potential massacre of unarmed human beings and if that outcome happens, it will not be because, oh, we did not know that was possible, what a mistake we made by overlooking the fact that the Colonel who last oversaw the massacre is now put in charge of their security. This is not a mistake, this is evil …….. of duty on the part of our people who establish these policies of our government that reflect what I consider to be the moral base of American.

Secretary of State, for example, we have no doubt that the secretary knows exactly what this situation is. I mean this is not “well I’m so busy that I overlooked it, I was just too busy…” no she knows. And it’s the policy of this administration; it’s the policy that was decided upon by this administration, this secretary of state, this president to make a rotten corrupt deal with the mullah dictatorship in Iran. That’s what it’s all about. It’s not about a mistake, it’s about an intentional deal that has been made and kept from the American people. Now how do you verify that that deal actually exists?  Well it’s sort of like the old thing: quack! Quack! If it looks like a duck, and walks like a duck, and talks like a duck, and flies like a duck, it’s probably a duck. And that’s we probably have on our hands here, not a duck but what we have is an immoral deal between our government and the mullah dictatorship, because all the indications are that that’s what’s driving this bad policy. I will now yield to Judge Poe, who will tell us whether or not what I said is admissible in his court.

Congressman Ted Poe:

Thank you Mr. Chairman. Mr. Bloomfield, thank you for your candor. I am surprised, but I do appreciate your candor today.

We have a large group of people that our seated behind you and I see tired eyes in this audience. This are just regular folks. Many of them, as you know, have family in Ashraf or Liberty. Many of them had family in Camp Ashraf. They have friends that have been murdered in Camp Ashraf by the Maliki government. The person in charge is now in charge of Camp Liberty. And these eyes that I see, these tired eyes, they’re tired for a lot of reasons. They are tired of being treated not like people but like criminals.  Maybe even worse than criminals, they are tired of promises, promises, promises. They are tired of abuse. They are tired of having their properties being stolen from them. They are tired of being treated as sub-humans.  They are tired of the loss of lives of their family and their friends, tired eyes. They are tired of Maliki, they are tired of Iran and they are tired of the United States’ promises to keep them safe.

We are, as you know, the human rights country in the world.  We have done a pretty good job of spreading that Gospel. We have not done a good job at all with these people, the MEK. They are in the situation they are in because of the United States. We labeled them as a Foreign Terrorist Organization. You do not see eyes of terrorists in this room. They are not terrorist.

And we have it in our power to help this bad situation with the Maleki government, with the Iranian government, with the criminals that are stealing their property an stealing their lives. We have it in our power to fix it. You mentioned that it would be great if we could get them all to some other country. They can not get in another country. They cannot leave Iraq because no country will take them. Because we, the US, have given them a label of a Foreign Terrorist Organization. We remove that label as we should have done a long time ago and they will have hope to go to some other country even the United States. But they can not get out of their concentration camp because of the label,  our label. And in the last year the State Department has been stone walling court order in our country  telling them to get it together, make up your mind, review the designation! Whether they should keep that designation or not?  And by making no decision  they are still labeled. So the day of reckoning ought to be the Secretary of State when she goes to the UN in my opinion ought to say: guess what folks we are removing the FTO designation from the MEK.  And now we are going to help those people get out of Iraq and actually be free. And then we may no longer see tired eyes. The eyes that believe in Liberty in Camp Liberty.

I have one question.   Well, I have a lot of questions. I don’t know how much time you are going to let me talk, but I am going to talk till you make me stop.

I understand your position. I understand your position in our government and some of our questions probably should be to others. What can we do to make sure as a nation, us, that Martin Kobler is removed from is removed from and authority in the United Nations?

 

Ambassador Bloomfield:

Judge Poe, as you know, I am speaking as a former official. In my testimony, you will see, I was shocked and disappointed by the statement out of the UN under-secretary for political affairs office on July 28.

The reaction to the news that Mr. Bumedra was launching is going on, I leave that to Mr. Bumedra to talk about, but that was the public statement.

I am not aware that the US government has made an official statement of reaction. I urge them to be very careful and I stated an example that were, when I had 320 people in the state department under my leadership there was an allegation made. I did not know if it was true or false. I did not know if the person was credible or not. I had no choice but  to do the right thing, which is had a town hall meeting. Announce that we are going to allow the professional investigators to come in and we  are all going to cooperate. It was painful. It slowed us down in our work, but we did the right thing because the minute that you started sending the message that standard and laws and rules can be overlooked, it is a very slippery slope.

So my answer would be: UN should be sending in another envoy, may be they do not want to dismiss Mr. Kobler they should send in a veteran to ride side saddle and watch over what happens from here. That is point one.

Point two is really the US government. I am here to tell you that the Government of Iran ever wants the exiles inside Iraq to leave alive. Because if they do, they will find safe harbor in countries around the world and they will conduct political activities aimed at ending the dictatorship in Tehran. We know that the government of Tehran does not want that to happen. That is clearly now believed to be the operative policy.

I think the state department needs to take a deep breath and say our plan, the one the Secretary testified to, the smooth, processing and onward relocation is going to take years and probably it is not going to happen because   the government of Iraq or the Prime Minister office with Iranian Embassy and the regime in Tehran right behind them is going to obstruct this at every turn.  It is a losing proposition. We need to think of something different. My due is something perhaps they could be granted refugee status but short of that the UHCR process could be relocated into a safe facility that they are still under the supervision of the United Nations that they could be interviewed and there would be no coercion; there would no threat to public safety and to the lives of these people and there would be no question of United States being complicit in the violation of international humanitarian standard human rights laws.

Judge Ted Poe:

Thanks Mr. Chairman

Chairman Rohrabacher:

Well, it is clear that the government of Tehran, the Mullahs Dictatorship is not acting in good faith. After all, what they really want us, as you say, they want the this group of people to be squashed like bugs. So they would not be bothered by them. It appears that government of Iraq is not operating in good faith. Any government that places  a perpetuator of a massacre, in charge of security over the same group of people, who have been massacred, certainly is not operating in a good faith. There is no doubt these people know what they are doing. Well, that leaves the United States government; are we in a good faith? Is our State Department is operating in good faith? Considered the fact that this could be solved we believe at least we know would be very good possibility that we could solve the situation in an acceptable way. If our designation of this group as a terrorist group was taken off, I do not see how we can assume that our government is operating in good faith. That’s pretty bad. Well, this is pretty bad. The mullah regime is not acting in good faith. Iraq is not operating in good faith. US State Department is not operating in good faith. I am kind of disappointed from that crowd.

And so let's just note this in 1939 the U.S. St. Louis, a passenger vessel was loaded with Jews in Europe, and it took off for the West. And a whole ship load of Jews who were going to escape the holocaust. You know what happened to that ship, we turned them down, well the US turned them down and a significant number were back in the Europe and died in the holocaust.

A group of people who have already suffered a massacre knowing that they may well be massacred and we are just going to say no we are not going to change that designation and we expect the ship to sail on.

Ambassador Bloomfield:

Mr. Chairman I give you my perspective as someone who has served in 5 administrations, I can’t get the policy calculus out of my mind. A lot of issues are imperfect, a lot of issues that are hard sometimes too hard. No one can say this is easy for the state Department, I recognized that.

The question is now what should we be doing to rectify the situation, I would say foreign terrorist organization list is not an impediment to living up to our human rights standards and fulfilling our international legal obligations as a super power, anything less is not acceptable. We can do this in the right way, so there is no excuse not to stand up for our principles. If we were to back away from Mr. Maliki’s activities, as if to say seeding him the plain field, at a time frankly when Iran is losing its grip in Syria and Lebanon, this is not the time for us to be seeding territory in what is used to be the strongest country in the Arab world to people who are not fulfilling international legal principles. What we should be doing is making an issue of it and urging them and showing them forwards that says if you straighten up we can do this the right way but you need to stop abusing an at risk population. On the issue of foreign terrorist listing, I think the analogy can go a little further. What is foreign terrorist organization listing? What does that mean? It means we have some of the smartest, most patriotic talented people who were good enough to get into the treasury department, the FBI, the national counter-terrorism center, these are the people who are supposed to be tracking terrorist around the world. If you are on that list, they are chasing you through Interpol, they are looking for financial transaction, they are looking for front companies, they are checking airline manifests, that is their job and they are doing it very well. So, if a group is on that list and I am a European government, I am thinking to myself  do I really want the treasury department and FBI and all these people tracking, do I want to bring people to be tracked through all this scrutiny and jam up my airline security, do I want all that? I don’t think the US government has been honest about the burden the FTO places. Should they be on the list or not, I have never answered that question. I have studies the issue but I left it to people to read the evidence for themselves.  Now I am close to completing a very in-depth study of all the allegations including the history, and I cannot find anything that comports with the 2004 law, certainly no within 2 to 5 years that would fall under the definition of terrorism. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist but if you permit me imagine that there is something that is classified, imagine there is a smoking gun piece of intelligence, all I can say if it is a month old, if it is a year or two years old and we haven’t released it and I was the British government, I would say you let us have a royal wedding, you let us have the queen’s 60th jubilee and we had the Olympic games and you didn’t tell us that there is a smoking gun of terrorist activity of people who are running around our country free, that would be issue one and if the answer was actually we did share it with the Brits, then you are going to have a call from the appeals court which we know for a fact hasn’t seen it, they are waiting for it, you gave it to a foreign country but you didn’t give it here to a court of law.

Chairman Rohrabacher:

How about you didn’t give it to the Oversight and investigation subcommittee of the congress that is supposed to oversee the American foreign policy?

This is outrageous; it is obvious to me, actually obvious to any honest observer that this designation is on there for some corrupt agreement with someone and that someone is likely to be the mullah’s regime in Tehran. I don’t know what we got for it, probably they wouldn’t be supporting terrorist activities as long as we kept this terrorist group on the list. What is the dictatorship of mullahs who have murdered so many people in their country,  who think who the terrorist is that is anybody who opposes them,

The world should never forget one organization exposed the Iranian nuclear program. And America should never forget our duty given the role we played in Iraq to make sure that refugees at camp Liberty are treated correctly and the remaining residents of camp Ashraf are treated in a manner consistent with high standards of human rights. I was leading Democrat on a letter with the chairwoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen last July to press the State Department and the Iraqi government to improve the dire living conditions at camp Liberty. Some 79 members of both political parties in the house of representative joined us in that letter, and now we have to do everything possible to make sure the fundamental rights of the exiles are respected that we see humane living conditions that those who are sick and wounded receive medical attention, and the Iraqi government cannot be left to its own devices. The standards should be what is called for by international law not what does Baghdad want to do in order to put its terror act.

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