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Evidence of meeting #38 for Subcommittee on International Human Rights in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was hurriya.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Wesley Martin  Colonel (retired), Military Police, United States Army, As an Individual

1:30 p.m.

NDP

Wayne Marston NDP Hamilton East—Stoney Creek, ON

They were the national scapegoat for a long time, but from the point of view of this kind of situation, that's why I thought it was important to allow you the opportunity to clarify it because these news reports are fairly recent.

If we accept this disinformation from somebody, it would sound like the agenda for whoever it would be to prevent them from being delisted.

1:30 p.m.

Colonel (retired), Military Police, United States Army, As an Individual

Col Wesley Martin

I do appreciate the question, and there is another reason. When the report on Iran was done by the United States, I found that what that report had listened to quite often had been news releases. And as members of government, you've all been victims of bad reporting. If somebody took every adverse article about you and printed it in a consolidated document as a fact, you would feel like the most hideous person around.

1:30 p.m.

NDP

Wayne Marston NDP Hamilton East—Stoney Creek, ON

You'd have trouble getting re-elected. But the point was, it would have been easy to propose these questions to you as an accusation, and I want to quite clearly put them out there. I believe in tabling things like this because you have to clear things up, and if there is a distortion, then it should be addressed.

1:30 p.m.

Colonel (retired), Military Police, United States Army, As an Individual

Col Wesley Martin

Yes, sir, and I sincerely appreciate it. Because, you're right: they are out there.

1:30 p.m.

NDP

Wayne Marston NDP Hamilton East—Stoney Creek, ON

I heard the bell.

1:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Scott Reid

We'll go to Mr. Hiebert now.

1:30 p.m.

Conservative

Russ Hiebert Conservative South Surrey—White Rock—Cloverdale, BC

Thank you. It's good to see you again, Colonel Martin.

We appreciated the testimony you provided you were here, and we're glad to see that you're here for an update.

When you were last here you made a prediction. You suggested that the Iraqi government would take steps immediately after meeting with the president. Wasn't that the situation—

1:30 p.m.

Colonel (retired), Military Police, United States Army, As an Individual

1:30 p.m.

Conservative

Russ Hiebert Conservative South Surrey—White Rock—Cloverdale, BC

—in that they were making it look like there was a staged deal or agreement that had occurred to justify their violence? That didn't quite happen. But what did happen was a little bit surprising, that is, an extension of the deadline to some degree. But it was retroactive. So instead of giving them six months from that date forward, I understand they were given six months, but they started the clock a month earlier.

We're apparently facing another deadline, by the end of this month, if I understand correctly. I'm wondering what you think is going to happen now with this looming deadline and the fact that they still have 1,000 or 1,200 people to be transferred, and the UNHCR has not been very successful in getting people out of the country. What do you see unfolding in the next little while?

1:30 p.m.

Colonel (retired), Military Police, United States Army, As an Individual

Col Wesley Martin

First, the reason that deadline slipped was international pressure. Maliki was going to do it, but the North American and Western European governments came down so hard that he couldn't.

There's a problem. The U.S. has stated that it needs to get in there and find out what a search reveals of that camp. Mrs. Rajavi is reluctant to send the next 1,200 to Hurriya, knowing the Iraqi government is going to come in and plant a bunch of weapons and say they found them there. She has stated that before this camp is vacant she needs a U.S.-led inspection team to come in and validate what the rest of us have said for so long. There's a problem brewing right there, created by our own state department.

Fortunately, the United Nations did come in and get involved. Their involvement has been weak. I was running the show at the time. The U.N. involvement reminds me a lot of what the U.N. failed to do in support of General Dallaire when he was in Rwanda. They've been a part of the problem a lot.

This is my assessment. The U.N. is now involved, so the majority of the 3,400 people there have a form of protection. But Maliki has now issued 122 arrest warrants. They can't have all of the former NLA, so he is focusing on the prizes. He's created some charges on them and that's why it started out with the Tariq Hashimi example. The charges are a source of hostility, like those placed on his own vice-president and prime minister. There is no foundation for the charges. They're going to go after the 122 most wanted. Iran is already saying they want those 122.

I remember one day in 2003 sitting in a U.N. meeting in which an Australian colonel who was running it made a correct assessment. He said the United Nations moves at the pace of a startled snail. That's what they're doing right now and they have no determinations.

The state department recently came out with a statement saying they're looking at opening the doors to some of the refugees and request others to do the same. That's a good first step, except they have to be moved off the terrorist list.

The U.N. is going to move very slowly. We have to get the people out of there, because they're living in hideous conditions. We're already seeing deaths. We're seeing problems from the heat, getting bit by snakes, and everything else. They're not getting the life support they need. Come summer, if it gets diseased, that whole camp could be in serious trouble. They need to be brought out.

But Iran and Iraq are going to go after the 122 prizes they want.

1:35 p.m.

Conservative

Russ Hiebert Conservative South Surrey—White Rock—Cloverdale, BC

You don't see a hard deadline of any kind?

1:35 p.m.

Colonel (retired), Military Police, United States Army, As an Individual

Col Wesley Martin

If they're all at Camp Hurriya, I don't see that hard deadline being met unless Maliki is ready to violate the United Nations agreements and take over the camp.

1:35 p.m.

Conservative

Russ Hiebert Conservative South Surrey—White Rock—Cloverdale, BC

In the BBC audiocast that's being circulated, one of the claims is that spokespeople are paid very well by the movement. They note that in March of last year Governor Ed Rendell of Pennsylvania acknowledged that he had received substantial payments to speak on behalf of the MeK.

What are your thoughts on these payments? Is this another attempt to discredit the organization? Is there some validity to these claims? Are you paid by the MeK?

1:35 p.m.

Colonel (retired), Military Police, United States Army, As an Individual

Col Wesley Martin

I'm not, and I sincerely appreciate that question because I do not receive any fees for speaking, writing, working, or whatever. As a matter of fact, all of the officers who were working hard at Camp Ashraf have not received any fees. The State Department came out—starting with Ambassador Butler—and discredited people like General Clark, saying they were doing it only for money.

I know all these people, mostly through working with the MeK, but there is no way I can possibly believe that men of the integrity of FBI director, Louis Freeh; Secretary of Homeland Security, Governor Tom Ridge; Howard Dean, and all of these people, would sell out to terrorism. Another person who got attacked was General Hugh Shelton, the Omar Bradley of our generation. Accusing him of working for terrorism for money is like accusing Omar Bradley of supporting the Nazi government. It just doesn't happen.

Also, one of the accusations is directed at some of the members who don't have as much direct knowledge of terrorism. They don't have enough knowledge to speak of it. Without going into naming these individuals, it's really a third group. The first group is the people who worked with them. The second group is the people who did great work in America on terrorism and national security. The third group is subject-matter experts in American government who have come forward. Their role is to see to it that the United States does not make a serious mistake. They are being paid funds, but the funds are for speaking. I have been in numerous meetings and events with these people where they're not getting anything.

What I also saw and brought with me is the attack on Governor Bill Richardson in theAlbuquerque Journal. This thing popped up in the Albuquerque Journal about 24 hours after the day the news came out that people were being paid. There is no way that was a follow-up. That was delivered to the journal, and the intent was to get these people off the bat because it came out just before the Secretary of State's office came over and said they didn't want the Court of Appeals to be involved “because the secretary is too busy to worry about these 3,400 people”.

I saw it as trying to push these people away and scare them. Anybody who thinks you're going to scare those people away really got a surprise. What's interesting is that after Congressman Rohrabacher came out and said he was going to launch an investigation of the Treasury Department for doing this, and then suddenly everybody in the executive branch didn't know who had started it.

1:40 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Scott Reid

All right. We'll now go to Professor Cotler.

1:40 p.m.

Liberal

Irwin Cotler Liberal Mount Royal, QC

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

I also want to welcome you back again, Colonel Martin. I recall your last compelling testimony before us. Today, you again eloquently described the harassment and brutality at Camp Hurriya, and perhaps the most graphic reference in your testimony was the one in which you referred to Mayor Giuliani's position that “this is a concentration camp”. You noted that “One spark could easily set this camp ablaze with a slaughter that would dwarf the 2009 and 2011 attacks. Then Hurriya could become an extermination camp”.

That to me is perhaps the most alarming testimony that I've heard on this issue. I just want to say that it dovetails somewhat with a statement or submission made by my colleague and friend, Professor Alan Dershowitz, who characterized the situation recently in a meeting in Washington as follows:

We have two emergencies: Now, we have the existing emergency of the facility itself. But we also have the continuing humanitarian emergency that every day, every day that a member of Camp Ashraf lives in Iraq is a day that they do not know whether they will complete that day in safety or alive.

He went on to say: Iraq has become basically a wholly-owned subsidiary of Iran—

—and then concluded on this main point: And therefore the main issue is to get these innocent people out of Iraq and to safety in places around the world where they can live in peace.

We are now awaiting the transfer of 1,200 more people into a situation that Professor Dershowitz has described as a dual emergency, underpinned by what you have described. My question is, should we be working not so much to facilitate the move of the other 1,200 to Hurriya but to remove those who are there, along with the 1,200, to a safe haven?

1:40 p.m.

Colonel (retired), Military Police, United States Army, As an Individual

Col Wesley Martin

Yes, sir. I appreciate your reading. As I was trying to speed up my testimony I left out a key part. I appreciate that.

We need to bring all the MeK out of Iraq now. In the United States we have the facilities. With the close-down, we have a lot of military bases; the facilities are there.

A friend of Louis Freeh's told him that there's room to put 3,000 people in Rota, Spain. We can bring them out, and they need to come out and need to be put under very safe and sanitary conditions. The situation at Hurriya and Ashraf for the past two years and the psychological torment and rage remind me of that cartoon I think we will all remember in which there's a blender with goldfish in it. One goldfish says to the other “I can't stand the stress”, because at some moment somebody is going to hit that go button and the rotors are going to start. Also, the armoured vehicles showed up in April—the same anti-riot vehicles and same anti-riot equipment—and those people surrounding both camps right now are exactly the same people, under exactly the same leadership, who conducted the two previous raids. It's only going to take one spark, as it did with the convoy that was getting ready to leave when one of the MeK members asked a question and the next thing you knew, the Iraqis pulled out the batons and just started smashing skulls, and 23 of them ended up in medical treatment.

Here is one last point. As I mentioned before, the camp has asked to have pesticide control come in and has asked to have canopies that they will put up. Every time they ask to make a life enhancement in that camp, that first lieutenant says he has no answer and will have to check on it. This has been going on for two months.

1:40 p.m.

Liberal

Irwin Cotler Liberal Mount Royal, QC

One of the other things that Professor Dershowitz speaks of is that both these humanitarian emergencies just described are exacerbated by the fact that the MeK continues to be listed as an armed terrorist organization.

Time has passed since you were here, but my colleague Alan Dershowitz is right now representing a group of distinguished Americans, including some of the people you mentioned—a former attorney general, a former mayor of New York, a former secretary for Homeland Security, and a group of generals, of whom you may be one—in an amicus brief before the courts.

My question is, after all this time has passed, with a court decision already, and with congressional testimony, why is the administration still not moving on this issue?

1:45 p.m.

Colonel (retired), Military Police, United States Army, As an Individual

Col Wesley Martin

My feeling is that from the very get-go the listing of the MeK was not related to something that happened 20 years earlier in Iran; it was Madeleine Albright deciding that if she appeased the Iranian government—the appearance of a modern Iranian government—they would make concessions and work. As a result of Madeleine Albright's doing, they were made a terrorist organization on the State Department list. As we all know, Iran continued with their nuclear weapon and continued with the abuse of all power.

They know how to negotiate. Iran and the Middle East have a theory about negotiations: if I am not in a position of power, how can I negotiate; if I am in a position of power, why should I? Well, the western governments have always given in to Iran. Right now, our State Department is afraid that if we delist the MeK we're going to interfere with the nuclear talks. It's always something else.

They are listed for the wrong reason.

1:45 p.m.

Liberal

Irwin Cotler Liberal Mount Royal, QC

Thank you.

1:45 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Scott Reid

Thank you, Professor Cotler.

We'll now go back to Mr. Sweet.

1:45 p.m.

Conservative

David Sweet Conservative Ancaster—Dundas—Flamborough—Westdale, ON

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Colonel, thank you again for your testimony. I forgot to mention first up—I did so that last time you were here—thank you very much for your service too, as one of our good friends and allies to the south.

1:45 p.m.

Colonel (retired), Military Police, United States Army, As an Individual

Col Wesley Martin

Thank you, sir.

1:45 p.m.

Conservative

David Sweet Conservative Ancaster—Dundas—Flamborough—Westdale, ON

I want to ask you about the RAND Corporation and Human Rights Watch. They've had some testimonials regarding grave human rights abuses that happened at Camp Ashraf.

Can you speak to that issue as well?

1:45 p.m.

Colonel (retired), Military Police, United States Army, As an Individual

Col Wesley Martin

I can.

Here is the RAND report I was referencing earlier. All the yellow tabs that we see on it mark where I found discrepancies in what the RAND report was saying.

When they were developing this RAND report, they did not talk to General Geoffrey Miller, they did not talk to Bill Brandenburg, they did not talk to Lieutenant General Jack Gardner, or Brigadier General Dave Phillips, or me, or Julie Norman, and the list goes on of who they did not talk to. They talked to a very limited number of people and, as mentioned, they used a lot of cyclic information.

When I was there, one day I got a report from the State Department saying that they have a secret training camp going on here where they're training Iraqis. I mounted up the marines and said we're going into that camp. Then a marine lieutenant and I went in, with the rest of the marines mounted up, machine guns ready to fire. The marine lieutenant and I went forward and we found out that it was where Iraqi workers were able to sleep at night to avoid being caught by Mahdi Army or Badr corps and being executed.

All these rumours I would dispel, but the State Department would not take those rumours off their record. Rather, they would maintain them—even the killing of the Kurds. I gave State Department—Jay Zimmerman and Steve Epstein, in Washington, D.C.—the letter from the foreign minister. They validated it with him, and it came out. He said, yes, I wrote that letter; they did not attack the Kurds. And yet the State Department still sees it, and it's still in this RAND report. And I gave them that letter two years earlier.

RAND usually does very good work. Unfortunately, they took a lot of cyclic information in this one.

Interestingly.... I love this one, from the RAND report: ...very few legislators in the West actively endorse the MeK or even know much about the group. An analysis requested by the Joint Chiefs of Staff during O[peration[ I[raqi] F[reedom] found that the MeK’s support in Congress was not significant. Individual members who appear to view the MeK in a positive light tend to be energetic opponents of the I[slamic] R[epublic of] I[ran] or have significant numbers of Iranian-Americans in their districts. Others are simply misinformed.

So according to RAND, any congressman who speaks favourably of the MeK either totally hates Iran, is out to please the voters, or just doesn't know what they're talking about.