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Monday, 29 November 2004
Page: 126

Senator CHERRY (10:10 PM) —Australia's federal election last month celebrated a democratic tradition that goes back over 100 years. Australia remains one of only a handful of nations that have allowed their people the right to change their governments at a ballot box for all of this century. In Iran, for example, upwards of 130,000 people have been killed by their own government for calling for a change of government over the last 20 years and for opposing the theocratic regime of the mullahs. Over the last month the American government and the European Union have been trying to appease the mullahs' regime to persuade them not to accelerate their nuclear program. A great `victory' was achieved by the European diplomats by persuading the mullahs to agree to international inspection, yet doubts remain about how long this agreement will last and at what cost to the world. One of the continuing costs of the appeasement of the Iranian regime has been the complicity of American, European, Australian and Canadian governments in the suppression of opposition to the Iranian regime.

On 21 October European diplomats meeting in Vienna set the conditions they were prepared to agree to if Iran agreed not to accelerate its nuclear program. In addition to various concessions on access to nuclear technology, they proposed:

... the European Union would be ready to resume negotiations on an EU/Iran trade and cooperation agreement once suspension is verified ...

We would cooperate in the prevention and suppression of terrorist acts in accordance with respective legislation and regulations. We would continue to regard the MEK (Iranian resistance group) as a terrorist organization.

The Iranians have been lobbying Europe and America since 1997 to ensure that the resistance to the regime from the MEK, the People's Mujaheddin of Iran, is opposed by European governments. By and large, Western countries have complied. This is despite the fact that since at least 2001 the PMOI has forsworn violence and is pursuing its objectives through peaceful means. The actions of the European Union negotiators were severely criticised in a 16 November statement by leading European MPs. The MEPs said:

One year after three European states announced an agreement with the Iranian regime that was supposed to have put an end to the nuclear armament programme, the very same story is now happening again ...

But isn't it obvious that the temporary pledge made by the Iranian regime is exactly tailored to give it the necessary time to finish the work they are involved in? ... In fact, the deal struck by the leaders of the three European countries will not give security to Europe, but has simply repeated what they have been doing for decades: supporting a fanatic dictatorship, by helping it to persecute its internal opposition.

The agreement expresses the “resolve” of the European Union and the mullahs' regime to “fight” terrorism, including the activities of the People's Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI).

The Mullahs' regime is an illegitimate theocratic state which does not represent the Iranian people. Accusing Iran's opposition of terrorism in this deal makes a mockery of the campaign against terrorism.

Negotiations of the EU-3 with Tehran will not prevent the Mullahs from getting hold of nuclear weapons, as they will continue their nuclear programme in secret. Concessions of the EU-3 to the Mullahs will greatly help them in the repression of democracy inside Iran and the export of terrorism.

The PMOI is a legitimate and anti fundamentalist resistance. As more than 500 jurists from all over Europe declared in the International Seminar in Paris on 10 November 2004, the inclusion of the PMOI in the terrorist list of the EU, is in contradiction with international humanitarian laws, European Human Rights Conventions and fundamental rights such as the presumption of innocence and the right of defence.

The agreement brokered by the EU-3 is an insult to the over one thousand parliamentarians inside Europe who have publicly supported the PMOI and have repeatedly called for their removal from the “terror list”.

We call on the Council of the European Union and the member states to reject this deal and to refer the case of Tehran's nuclear programme to the UN Security Council.

The statement is co-signed by Alejo Vidal-Quadras, First Vice-President of the Parliament of Spain; Mr Mogens Camre of Denmark; Mr Ryszard Czarnecki of Poland; Mr Bernea Joan-i-Mari of Spain; Dr Helmuth Markov of Denmark; Mr Erik Meiyer of the Netherlands; Paulo Casaca of Portugal; and British MEPs Struan Stevenson and Stephen Hughes.

Over the past three years, the majority of MPs of the parliaments of Great Britain, Italy, Belgium, Luxembourg, Norway and 120 members of the European Parliament have passed resolutions calling on the European Union to end its harassment of the PMOI and its allied organisation, the National Council of Resistance of Iran.

Lord Corbett of Castle Vale, releasing a statement on behalf of 220 members of the House of Commons and 85 lords on 15 January this year, said that:

The world now knows that the PMOI is an essential part of the drive to halt the advance of fundamentalism in Iraq and the region. This underlines the need to remove the terrorist tag from the PMOI and hang it around the neck of the terrorist mullahs' regime in Tehran, which is also guilty of mass violations of human rights. Thus it is important to recognise the presence of the PMOI in Iraq as an independent political movement.

Thirty-two members of the US Senate in August 2001 and 150 members of the US House of Representatives have also called for similar recognition of the National Council of Resistance and the PMOI.

On 10 November, I attended a major conference of 500 jurists in Paris convened by the Human Rights Institute of European Lawyers and eight other legal organisations from Britain, France and Italy to discuss the classification of the PMOI and the National Council of Resistance as terrorist organisations. Nine eminent experts in international law, including Professor Erik Franckx, President of the Centre for International Law from Brussels, Professor Henri Labayle, Professor of European Law at the University of Pau, Professor Bill Bowring, Director of the Human Rights and Social Justice Research Institute from London and Professor Douwe Korff, Professor of International Law at the London Metropolitan University, presented legal opinions arguing that blacklisting the PMOI as a terrorist organisation violated international and European laws.

I have obtained a copy of the legal opinion by Professors Bowring and Korff and it makes compelling reading. They warn that the blacklisting of an organisation seriously interferes with the members' rights to freedom of association and assembly and the right to peaceful enjoyment of its possessions, all of which are protected by the European Convention on Human Rights. The absence of a clear, agreed definition of terrorism and the absence of strong safeguards of administrative review of blacklisting decisions open up the real prospect of a serious breach of human rights principles.

The wave of harsh antiterrorism legislation passed in the US, Europe and Australia since the September 11 atrocities opens up real scope of abuse of these powers. An increasing number of lawyers and law makers are of the view that the listing of the PMOI and the NCRI as terrorist organisations is clear evidence of the sorts of abuses of human rights that can occur. The listing of the PMOI was conceded by former Clinton government Assistant Secretary of State, Martin Indyk, in the Washington Times on 28 May last year as:

... due to the White House interest in opening up a dialogue with the Iranian government.

The recent negotiations between the Europeans and the Iranians over nuclear issues show that governments are prepared to use these harsh and repressive powers for purely political purposes.

What is the evidence of terrorist attacks in recent years? The PMOI has only targeted the Iranian regime in the last 20 years and that regime itself is recognised by the US as a state sponsor of terrorism. The PMOI has sworn off the use of violence since 2001. In 2003, its main base in Iraq, Camp Ashraf, came under US occupation. On 10 May 2003, the PMOI reached an agreement with the US commanders to disarm and consolidate. General Ray Odierno, commander of the US Army's Fourth Infantry Division, stated:

I would say that any organization that has given up their equipment to the Coalition clearly is in co-operation with us and I believe that should lead to a review of whether they are still a terrorist organization or not.

On 27 July 2004, the New York Times reported that PMOI personnel in Camp Ashraf had been granted protected person status under the Fourth Geneva Convention, and that a 16-month thorough investigation by the State Department and the FBI could find no basis to bring any charges against the group.

Earlier this month, the United Nations General Assembly human rights committee voted to condemn human rights abuses in Iran, citing a crackdown on media, use of torture, and discrimination against women. Iran remains one of a handful of states recognised under United States law as a state sponsor of terrorism.

Where does all that leave Australia? The PMOI and the NCRI are not banned terrorist organisations in Australia. But both organisations are listed on DFAT's list of organisations that are banned from raising funds in Australia. Under the September 2001 UN Security Council resolution 1373, Australia has agreed to freeze funds of terrorist organisations and those who assist them. Once the minister is satisfied that they are associated with terrorism as described in subparagraph 1(c) of the resolution they are added to DFAT's consolidated list and it becomes a criminal offence to deal with their assets or to make assets available to them. The penalty for those offences is five years imprisonment.

Australia clearly is playing the same games as the Europeans and the Americans in seeking to make it difficult for the PMOI and the National Council of Resistance of Iran to actually do its job of providing a democratic opposition to the Iranian regime. It is time for Australia to review its listing of the PMOI and the NCRI as terrorist organisations. The evidence and support around the world for a change of policy is growing. The legal case for using the harsh and repressive powers of the antiterrorism regime against an organisation, which is a resistance movement, is growing. We celebrate our democracy. It is time to support those who are trying to bring democracy to the rest of the world.