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Dr. Tahar Boumedra – Expectations from United Nations

Tahar BoumedraParis, February 2, 2013 - Madame president, honorable guests, ladies and gentlemen, the video clip that you have just seen has revived on me very painful experience.  It was me who first visited Ashraf and did the body count.  I reported what I saw on the ground and UNAMI did not show any interest in making the report public.  I had to make the report public through irregular, unusual way of reporting.  And I passed the report to Geneva that made it public.  It is [0:00:51] (history).  [applause]

 

Now I would like to share some experience with you very briefly just to tell you how sometimes good intentions turn to bad ones and end up with people being sent to prisons.  Indeed, the first idea of drafting and signing an MOU with the government of Iraq, it was mine.  And we did it with the best of intentions is to give a status to the Ashrafis, to find a way out with dignity.  Unfortunately this idea was hijacked and used indeed to send people to a detention center.  But I would like to share some ideas with you with this MOU, the memorandum of understanding signed with the government of Iraq.  First, we drafted it so that we give protection to the Ashrafis.  But [0:02:17] intervention in this process made it a process, an MOU for persecution, not protection.  The first thing for those who didn't see the MOU, there was no reference to humanitarian law.  In fact it was crossed from the draft.  No reference whatsoever to humanitarian law, international humanitarian law is unacceptable for the government of Iraq.

 

Worse, in the seventh clause of this MOU, in order for the government of Iraq to allow the UNHCR, the high commissioner for refugees, in order to allow them to engage in the process, or given a status to the residents of Ashraf, they had to insert the clause that said the government of Iraq will not be obliged by the outcome of this process.  Meaning what?  We are preparing a process to send people to prison.  If the refugee status is not going to be recognized anyway by the government of Iraq, that means all the process we engage was to send people to a detention center.

Unfortunately and probably most of you read the recent declaration of [0:04:03] the special representative (of ambassador) Kobler, in a German newspaper where he (refers) to nearly $50 million he spent on this process.   Let me take this opportunity while the honorable guests from the United States are here to remind that that $50 million was from the Department of State, taxpayers' money was spent on this process.  I think somebody here should be held accountable for evicting people from their peaceful life in Ashraf at the cost of $50 million given to Ambassador Kobler in order to evict these people and send them to a camp called Camp Liberty by irony.

Now, also the MOU which apparently Kobler is making it a tool to save lives.  I'm telling you from firsthand experience and firsthand knowledge that the presumption from the very beginning is these people are terrorists and they should be dealt with as such.  So, let's send them to a detention center while a sort of a triage through the UNHCR will be made.  Some of them will eventually be granted the refugee status.  Others will be denied.  And I did ask UNAMI what happens for those who would be denied the refugee status.  The answer from Kobler is that the due process of law should take place, meaning they should be arrested and put to trial.  Ladies and gentlemen, you know what is justice in Iraq today.  There is no independence of the judiciary in Iraq.  And if anybody is put to trial in Iraq, they will be condemned and they will be condemned and the antiterrorist law which uses the [0:06:36].

Now, this MOU, which supposed to protect, has made it a responsibility of the Ashrafis themselves to provide for themselves at their own cost.  And I ask the question, how can you remove these people from their homes, take them to a detention center, lock them up, no freedom of movement, no contact with the outside world, no other activities, income generating activities, and yet you expect them to provide for themselves?  I was consulted with a tap on the shoulder that don't worry, they will manage.  Now, the first draft of the MOU was that if they are taken into detention center they should be looked after.  You don't put people into prison and expect them to free themselves.  Somebody in prison, the government takes care of him or her.  But in this situation, the MOU has sent people to a detention center and deprived them from any activity that is by nature inherently linked to the status of a refugee.

But then again, if those who are familiar with the MOU the whole process should be done within three months.  The process they call verification.  What does that mean?  It's a police work to verify the identities of the Ashrafis.  And they made sure that whoever declares himself by a name, a given name, whenever they leave Iraq they will not be allowed to leave except under that name.  It's a police work.  Again, it was the commitment of the UNHCR to finish the process by June, 2012.  We are in at the end of January, 2013.  The figures were given earlier about the process, where are we with this process?  And I will ask, do you think UNHCR cannot do it within the timeframe agreed at the beginning?  They could.  When they wanted to sort out the situation in a similar camp in Iraq called [0:09:31] Camp, where the PKK is taken refuge, they sorted it out in a few months.  Everybody now in [0:09:45] Camp has a refugee card.  They move around freely.  They have the right to income generating activities.  And they also have documents to travel even abroad.  That is not the case in Ashraf because they don't want them to be treated as refugees.  And the MOU cannot be clearer than this.  The MOU is denying the refugee status to everybody, even if the UNHCR will recognize it.

Now, having said that, and Madame the president said at the beginning that we need to—the Ashrafis need to go back to Ashraf.  This MOU would support that because this MOU is a null and void from the very beginning.  It was no legal value whatsoever.  The lawyers exist in here will agree with me, that a document like this signed between the government of Iraq and the United nations in serious violation of the Vienna Convention of the [0:11:03] Article 51 and 52 of the Vienna Convention, they make this document null and void because it's produced by coercion, and the threat of use of force.  Any document signed under the threat of use of force and coercion has no legal value.  So, now this document should not be referred to as a reference in dealing with Ashraf.  The mandate of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees is clear.  The UNHCR should deal with the Ashrafis directly, grant them refugee status and the international community should share the burden of receiving the Ashrafis.

The reality is that the EU itself is spending $3 billion in Iraq.  And I did ask the diplomatic representation in Baghdad, I said to them, "You are spending—that's serious money.  And can't you just put two words to Al-Maliki's government that what is happening is unacceptable?"  Unfortunately the EU money is also spent towards sending the Ashrafis into a detention center. And somebody also here has to be held accountable.  We cannot open a budget to the United—an open budget to the United Nations, let them spend the money in a diverted way, and in a very unacceptable way.

I want to—this is my last point.  I will not hold you longer than this because I'm sure everybody's tired.  But it's very important to show you here are the documents, the lies of UNAMI.  And it was done, the whole process was done under my leadership.  But I distanced myself from it when it went wrong.  [applause] What does this document say?  This is again with the taxpayers' money, your money, UNAMI recruited an expert, shelter expert they call him.  They brought him from [0:14:00] in Ethiopia in order to assess the situation in Camp Liberty, whether it's fit to accommodate 3,400 people or not.  Here is the report.  The report reads, "UNHCR cannot satisfy and/or verify that the above location—meaning Camp Liberty—meets humanitarian standards according to the many existing standards books of the UNHCR, the UNHCR Handbook, the WHO."  All these books on standards, the experts certified they do not exist in Camp Liberty.  And here is second document that's on the 31st of January, Kobler published.  I'll read a little sentence where Kobler said, "The United nations High Commissioner for Refugees and UNAMI Human Rights Office have now confirmed that the [0:15:12] facilities at Camp Liberty are in accordance with the international humanitarian standards stipulated in the MOU."  Can we see exactly the flagrant lies in the UNAMI press statement.  And then let me draw your attention where the UNAMI press release appeals to international humanitarian standards stipulated in the MOU.  At the beginning I told you the MOU does not stipulate any humanitarian standards. The government of Iraq refused to refer to international humanitarian law.  So you can see how UNAMI and its leadership misleading the international community, misleading the whole world, by playing on this kind of linguistic and this kind of words.

So, first there are two issues. The first one is the money spent on this process we must question those who are spending this money.  And the taxpayers need to know exactly how their money is spent in Iraq on this project.  Second, I'm showing you the documents and we have the right to ask the United Nations to inquire into this.  What is the discrepancy between the two documents?  Here they are.  We do expect the United Nations to take the matter in hand.  I thank you very much. [applause]

[end of audio]


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Iraqi forces attack Camp Ashraf