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

1:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Scott Reid

I'm going to encourage members to take their seats. We always have to wait until we've got a certain quorum before we begin taking witness testimony. We've now achieved that quorum and as always I'm anxious to ensure that we start in as timely a fashion as possible so that we can have as fulsome a set of hearings as possible.

Let's start.

Welcome to the 38th hearing of the Subcommittee on International Human Rights of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development, on this Tuesday, May 15, 2012.

We are televised today, a practice that I plan to continue, seeing that we are always in a televised room whenever we have a witness providing testimony—unless the committee instructs me otherwise. But I'll make that assumption pending any contrary motions by members of the committee.

Towards the end of the meeting today we will be dealing with a motion introduced by Professor Cotler, for which adequate notice was given. Hopefully you've all got that. If not, the clerk can get it to you. It relates to Iran. We'll return to that at the end of our committee hearings today.

We have as our witness today Colonel Wesley Martin, who is returning for his second visit to our committee. He was here late last year as the situation in Camp Ashraf seemed to be spinning out of control, and we requested that he come back to provide additional testimony to bring us up to date. He is here today to do that.

Colonel Martin, we are glad to have you here again. We invite you to begin your testimony and we'll follow it with questions. Thank you.

1:05 p.m.

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

Thank you.

Mr. Chairman, and members of Parliament, I greatly appreciate the honour to once again testify before you on the situation in Camp Ashraf and the former National Liberation Army of the MeK and the many events that have transpired since our last meeting on December 8.

As you are aware, the December 31 arbitrary deadline for all former NLA to be out of Iraq was postponed by its generator, Prime Minister al-Maliki. This was not an action of his choice, but a reaction to the pressure and attention created by North American and western European governments. Al-Maliki had his forces in place and was ready to move against the camp. Every member of the MeK appreciates the involvement of the Canadian government in preventing the disaster that was most certain to happen at Camp Ashraf if al-Maliki had not found himself under international scrutiny.

Not without determination to consolidate his ever-growing power inside Iraq, al-Maliki turned his attention to his two most senior Sunni government officials, Deputy Prime Minister Mutlaq and Vice-President Hashimi. Immediately after U.S. troop withdrawal and al-Maliki’s visit to the White House, arrest warrants were issued for both officials under the charges of supporting terrorist activities. Tariq Hashimi, who for a long time has called for proper treatment of the MeK, has been accused by Maliki of operating death squads. I personally worked with Vice-President Hashimi and personally witnessed his commitment to protecting both Shias and Sunnis from death squads. The charges against Vice-President Hashimi are nothing more than tools being used by Maliki to eliminate political rivals.

The invasion of Iraq only succeeded in replacing one brutal dictator with another. As with Saddam during his early days of power, Maliki has the support of the United States government. Unlike Saddam, every day Maliki aligns himself closer with Tehran while the U.S. administration downplays this connection. To claim that Iranian influence is anything less than significant is a discredit to all coalition forces, Iraqi citizens, and the residents of Ashraf, who have paid the price of that influence with their blood and their lives.

To be part of the solution and show good faith in the UN refugee determination process, MeK leadership agreed to the transfer from Camp Ashraf to Camp Hurriya, formerly known as Camp Liberty. In the past four months, approximately 2,000 former NLA members have completed the move, with 1,200 more pending transfer. Camp Hurriya is located immediately to the east of Baghdad International Airport. The reason stated by the Iraqi government for the transfer was to ease the UN vetting process.

This location has come with numerous problems. Continually the call is rendered by the United Nations and the U.S. State Department that this relocation requires cooperation of all parties concerned. Unfortunately, the party always conceding has been the MeK. The Iraqi government has created one difficulty after another. It should not be forgotten that it was the Iraqi government that prevented the UN from traveling to and conducting the process at Camp Ashraf. Furthermore, the officer in charge of this transfer mission is the same person who commanded the 2009 and 2011 Iraqi military attacks on Camp Ashraf, General Qassim.

Camp Hurriya, less than one-half square mile in size, is correctly referred to by Rudy Giuliani as a concentration camp. Before the arrival of the first bus from Ashraf, Camp Hurriya had already been looted by the Iraqi military. Cabinets that could have been used for storage were intentionally damaged. The black water storage tank ruptured the first day due to lack of maintenance. The water treatment plant built in 2006 by U.S. forces had been stripped by the Iraqis. Now the MeK must pay for water to be shipped in. The quantity of water has never met the needs of the growing population.

Often part of the problem has been UN Ambassador Kobler himself. He has proven himself to be very quick to accept Maliki’s words on most everything, even assuring everyone involved that Hurriya was in good shape. The pristine photos he provided to support his claim did not show the same facilities the Ashraf residents found upon arrival. He criticized the residents for the black water tank breaking down and blamed them from bringing in trash to Hurriya to stage a photo opportunity of unsanitary conditions. In doing so he overlooked the fact that it was U.S.-generated trash. His theory also required it to have been overlooked in the multiple Iraqi searches of the Hurriya-bound convoys.

Even getting from Ashraf to Hurriya has been loaded with obstacles. The Iraqi government has not honoured the formal agreements for what may be brought forward to Hurriya. This includes generators for power, vehicles for transporting disabled people, medical equipment and supplies, and personal items.

Having worked with both the Iraqi government and the former NLA, I can understand what is happening. The denial of supplies and equipment will make life that much more difficult for the residents. Also, the more that is left at Camp Ashraf means the more property Iraqi officers will be able to claim for themselves once Ashraf is clear of MeK.

On the very last convoy, two trucks of personal clothing disappeared. When MeK leadership directly questioned General Qassim about this, he responded that the clothing belonged to the prime minister’s office.

The very searches of the convoys and people, prior to departure, have been exercises in harassment and brutality. What has been searched gets searched again and again. That process lasts for a day and a half without rest. It was from this process that a 48-year-old engineer, Baardia Amir Mostofian, died of a stroke. In another incident, the Iraqi military commenced beating Ashraf residents with batons, resulting in 29 MeK members injured.

There have been meetings between the Iraqi military and the MeK. The meetings have addressed all the problems mentioned here and in each case the Iraqi military response is either a pledge to look into the issue or a flat-out refusal of correction. The person sent to the meetings by the Iraqis does not have the authority to promise or change anything. He is a lieutenant. In Middle Eastern protocol, sending the most junior officer possible to a meeting is an intentional snub. Even before the meeting starts, Iraqi military representation by a lieutenant is a message in itself, specifically that you are not worthy of senior officer attention.

Secretary Clinton and her department blatantly ignore the three standards set by the U.S. Congress in 2004 as to what constitutes a foreign terrorist organization, an FTO. First, it must be foreign to the U.S. The MeK satisfies that one standard. Second, it must also be a threat to the U.S. or its citizens. Third, it must have the means to carry out that threat. Neither of these are anywhere close to being achieved.

Moqtada Sadr's Mahdi Army has been directly responsible for killing hundreds of U.S. and coalition warriors and has never been identified by the U.S. State Department as a foreign terrorist organization. Hypocrisy runs deep at Foggy Bottom and intentionally fails to consider what has really caused the loss of American blood.

For Secretary Clinton to associate the move from Camp Ashraf to Hurriya as being a criterion for the de-listing, violates the congressional mandate and somehow assumes that the former NLA is capable of breaking through the Iraqi military perimeter around Ashraf to launch an attack, with resources it does not have, on the U.S. or its citizens. One of the most disturbing things about Secretary Clinton's position is that the MeK served beside U.S. forces in Iraq.

Not to be outdone by his boss, in April State Department Ambassador Benjamin stated before Congress that the foreign terrorist determination is dependent upon seeing what weaponry the MeK still has at Ashraf. He claimed to Congressman Poe that the U.S. has not had a chance to see what was at Ashraf.

To this, General Phillips, Lieutenant Colonel McCloskey, and I wrote an editorial that every one of us conducted multiple inspections. Of note, I have all the photographs of the real estate that Ambassador Benjamin said we never had access to. I took those photographs myself. While it may have been an expedient opportunity for him to escape further questioning from Congressman Poe, to make such a statement was misinformation at best.

On May 8, in presenting his oral argument to the U.S. Court of Appeals, State Department representative Robert Loeb continually repeated this claim of Ashraf never having been searched. He even validated this claim by presenting Ambassador Benjamin’s testimony to Congress as being the source of accurate information. This use of logic is quite similar to the issue that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction, and that we can use Colin Powell's testimony before the United Nations to justify the fact that Saddam did have the weapons.

Not only was Camp Ashraf searched multiple times by U.S. forces, but also by Iraqi forces in 2009 with the use of canine. All the results came out the same—no weapons were found at Ashraf.

In his presentation to the Court Of Appeals, Robert Loeb stated that the Secretary needed to receive the results of the search after all Ashraf residents have departed. What will happen after all the Ashraf residents have departed is that we will see throw-down weapons of a mass group put at Camp Ashraf.

Meanwhile, the State Department continues to ignore the congressional standards on what constitutes a foreign terrorist organization, but the legislative branch is not alone. In July of 2010, the judicial branch ruled against the State Department. The result was a mandate that within six months due process of the FTO listing will be implemented. That was over 22 months ago. The United States spent less time in World War l than it's taking the State Department to make that one decision. Yet, the State Department continues to stumble along, offering appeasements in exchange for dialogue that always goes nowhere. The ultimate victims of these appeasements are the Iranian people, and right now the 3,200 former NLA members trapped inside Iraq when U.S. forces invaded.

Somehow, State Department bureaucrats think that continuing to demonize the MeK as terrorists will dissuade the Iranian government from becoming more difficult. I fail to understand this logic. Iran is developing a nuclear weapons capability, planned to kill the Saudi ambassador on American soil, is the primary supporter of the brutal Syrian government, is determined to destroy Israel, kidnapped American hikers for a half a million dollar ransom for each one, sentenced a Canadian citizen to death for alleged spying, sentenced 12 Iranian Christians to death on Easter Sunday, and the list goes on. It's time to stop appeasing the fundamentalist Government of Iran and start supporting humanity.

Concerning Ashraf, in achieving that goal the best thing Canada and the United States can do is to remove the MeK from the terrorist lists, hold the Maliki government accountable for its misconduct, and bring the former NLA members out of Iraq to safe locations.

Ladies and gentlemen, I thank you and look forward to your questions.

[Applause]

1:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Scott Reid

Thank you, Colonel Martin.

Before we go to questions, you have a stack of photographs there; would you be able to either leave those with us or forward copies to us?

1:15 p.m.

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

Col Wesley Martin

I'll make arrangements with Miriam or anybody on your staff. I think this might be my only set, but I do have the electronic copies and I can easily send a disk.

1:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Scott Reid

All right, that would be very much appreciated.

Let's go to questions. We have sufficient time to allow us to have six-minute rounds. We will begin, I assume, with Mr. Sweet.

May 15th, 2012 / 1:15 p.m.

Conservative

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

Thank you very much, Mr. Chair, and thank you again, Colonel Martin, for giving us an update and, of course, for your previous trip here as well.

My first question is directly related to your testimony. I wasn't at the meeting, but you mentioned some testimony that was given by Ambassador Benjamin at a committee that would be similar to this one, I would think. He was trying to justify a determination by the United States government by saying that they were not able to inspect Camp Ashraf. That mystifies me. How is it possible that those people who are on the panel would accept that as an answer, knowing that Ashraf was always laid bare not only for U.S. troops but also Iraqi troops?

1:20 p.m.

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

Col Wesley Martin

Congressman Poe was being very kind to him. Congressman Poe is a very great man, not only in Congress but also before as a judge. He let the conversation move on, but I don't believe Congressman Poe believed it. Tomorrow there will be hearings back in D.C., which Congressman Poe, Rohrabacher, and Filner will be attending. As soon as I leave here, I'll be heading to D.C. to visit with them before the hearings start, to make sure that Ambassador Fried doesn't try to repeat this latest version.

I was surprised that Congressman Poe allowed him to escape on that one, but unfortunately because we weren't there and didn't anticipate it, he was able to escape. When it came up in the court room, General Phillips and I were sitting beside each other, and we couldn't believe what we were hearing. The lawyer presented to the Court of Appeals that this camp had never been searched.

As I mentioned, over the course of the six years that the Americans had it, General Phillips put people on every metre of the ground and walked each one, and he also raided and inspected numerous buildings, as Lieutenant Colonel Leo McCloskey and I both did. It was a continual process. Unfortunately, what we're finding when dealing with the State Department is that they're dealing with the truth like this rubber band—they're stretching it, twisting it, bending it, and if I've got the strength, breaking it, but they never present it in the form that it really should be presented.

1:20 p.m.

Conservative

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

Colonel Martin, I want to ask you about any communications with UNHCR officials on the ground and also refer you to a BBC audiocast done regarding the MeK in Ashraf. There was a Colonel Steven Hambrick who was there in 2004, who I think preceded you, and he had a substantially different view about the MeK and what was going on in Ashraf. Can you give me an idea about why his perspective would be different from yours?

First off, did you see this BBC production?

1:20 p.m.

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

Col Wesley Martin

I didn't see it, but there was one that came out about two months ago. We had gotten word, General Phillips, Colonel McCloskey, Colonel Norman and I, that this was coming out and we wrote a letter to the head of BBC and told them they were taking a very skewed look at it.

When I was at Ashraf, I heard the many rumours that were generated—also from the State Department—that these people had killed Americans and were very bad people. Unfortunately, the majority of the people did not go and check the foundation of those rumours and where they came from. For instance, there was the rumour they'd killed the American officers, Hawkins, Turner, and Shaffer. After doing thorough research through non-MeK sources, I found out that wasn't the case. It was a splinter element, the Marxist Mujahedin, that had actually done the killings.

I would challenge this person to a debate any time on any TV station, and I would compare my in-depth research and experience with the MeK with his, and I guarantee you the results would be that he's coming from a very skewed position based upon results and personal discontent.

1:20 p.m.

Conservative

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

Can you give us an idea of the geographic proximity of Camp Hurriya to Ashraf ? How far is it? My understanding is that Ashraf is quite close to the Iran-Iraq border. How far away is Camp Hurriya?

1:20 p.m.

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

Col Wesley Martin

Camp Ashraf is about 50 to 80 miles from the Iranian border. Camp Hurriya is much further away because of the way the Iraqi border is shaped, plus you're moving into the northeast towards the centre of Iraq, so it's more like 120 miles. But even then, given where both camps are, there is be no physical way that the PMOI could launch an attack today against Iran. They couldn't break out of Iraqi security. That's why it was so ridiculous when Hillary Clinton said that we have to move them out before we delist them.

1:20 p.m.

Conservative

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

How many have been transferred now and have you had any dialogue with the UNHCR, which is on the ground processing the MeK? I guess they're going through them one by one to see where they can relocate them, right?

1:20 p.m.

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

Col Wesley Martin

Yes, sir. As of May 11, approximately 2,000 or very close to that were at Camp Liberty. Of those, 739 have been issued ID cards by the UN; 323 were interviewed, 53 of them women and 270 men, and as of right now, zero status has been determined.

1:20 p.m.

Conservative

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

You listed men and women, but how many children are there?

1:25 p.m.

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

Col Wesley Martin

As I recall right now, they call them children, but they're probably in their very late teens or early twenties. I don't have the breakdown of that.

1:25 p.m.

Conservative

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

Thank you very much.

1:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Scott Reid

Mr. Marston.

1:25 p.m.

NDP

Wayne Marston NDP Hamilton East—Stoney Creek, ON

Colonel, it's good to see you back again.

Your last testimony before our committee was very persuasive, and since then we've had other testimony on this file. So I'm going to ask you some very hard questions, because I think the questions need to be resolved.

On December 13 we had an official from Foreign Affairs who told the committee that the MeK had been actively involved in committing several terrorist attacks in the past, including assassinations, hostage taking, hit and runs aimed at government buildings in crowded cities where civilians were caught in the crossfire.

Now your testimony before us—and I know your testimony has great conviction behind it—was that the MeK, the people in Camp Ashraf, are largely an innocent group of people who have been, for not very clear reasons, repeatedly attacked by the Iranian government and their secret police.

But, again, since our last meeting we've had news reports—and I presume you're aware of these—that have emerged concerning what they call deadly attacks on Iranian nuclear scientists that were carried out by the MeK in a very dramatic way. The assailants were riding motorcycles and attached magnetic bombs to the sides of a car. They also said there were five Iranian nuclear scientists killed since 2007 and that a missile research and development site may have been destroyed.

Also, the reports are indicating that training of these people was provided by the U.S. and the Israeli secret police—which seems to be a theme that we hear from time to time from certain circles—and that they have coordinated, armed, and financially supported these groups. What's your reaction to that, because I think it opens a whole different view of the situation and needs to be addressed?

1:25 p.m.

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

Col Wesley Martin

Right. To peel back the onion one layer at a time, there was revolution going on inside Iran involving Communists, the Mujahedin-e-Khalq, and the supporters of Grand Ayatollah Khomeini. These three elements were all fighting against the Shah. What the United States especially tries to do is to ignore the fact that in 1953 it was the U.S. CIA that backed a very violent overthrow of the leader then and put a very brutal person in charge, the Shah. So a war was raging in that country during that timeframe, and then there were splinter elements from there.

I do know about the blame for the killing of the three American officers and three Rockwell employees. When the Shah's police captured the people responsible for doing it, they all stated they were from the Marxist PMOI. Now, there were battles between the government forces and even after Khomeini took power, within the MeK. That's where Mr. Rajavi's first wife, Ashraf, was killed in one of those attacks.

1:25 p.m.

NDP

Wayne Marston NDP Hamilton East—Stoney Creek, ON

Can I interrupt you just for a second?

1:25 p.m.

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

1:25 p.m.

NDP

Wayne Marston NDP Hamilton East—Stoney Creek, ON

The testimony we had, though, said that this was something that had happened closer to now. So that's why I thought I would give you the opportunity to—

1:25 p.m.

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

Col Wesley Martin

I appreciate it. I know that testimony and I challenge it again, because from the time that Saddam gave them a place to be in 1986 as a military force—and that's why I emphasize the National Liberation Army of the Mujahedin-e-Khalq—they were oriented in a military manner toward the opposition, in all honesty, much like the Continental Army was during the American Revolution. They were fighting a war.

On the recent accusations that they were behind these attacks in Iran, I've heard the same accusations directed toward Israel. The Iranian government has a very capable propaganda machine, maybe not as good as Adolf Hitler had under Goebbels, but it is very, very good. And even when the Saudi ambassador plot was discovered, the Iranian government came out and tried to blame the People's Mujahedin for this act, and the U.S. government this time immediately stood up and said no, it wasn't them, but the Iranian government. There is a very strong disinformation campaign going on. And when anything bad happens inside Iran, the people who are automatically blamed are either Israel or the MeK.

1:30 p.m.

NDP

Wayne Marston NDP Hamilton East—Stoney Creek, ON

Or the Bahá'ís....

1:30 p.m.

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