NewsSpecial WireProminent US lawyer censures Human Rights Watch for Iran...

Prominent US lawyer censures Human Rights Watch for Iran dissidents report

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Iran Focus: Washington, DC, Jun. 04 – A United States lawyer representing members of the main Iranian opposition group, the Iraq-based People’s Mojahedin, censured New York-based Human Rights Watch for a report that alleged the group mistreated its members in a letter to its director. Professor Steven M. Schneebaum of Greenberg Traurig Law, who served on the Board of Directors of the International Human Rights Law Group, wrote, “I must confess that I have never before had to censure a human rights organization for procedural flaws and substantively incorrect results in its work. Iran Focus

Washington, DC, Jun. 04 – A United States lawyer representing members of the main Iranian opposition group, the Iraq-based People’s Mojahedin, censured New York-based Human Rights Watch for a report that alleged the group mistreated its members in a letter to its director.

Professor Steven M. Schneebaum of Greenberg Traurig Law, who served on the Board of Directors of the International Human Rights Law Group, wrote, “I must confess that I have never before had to censure a human rights organization for procedural flaws and substantively incorrect results in its work. But I cannot conceive of how either the procedures used, or the conclusions reached, in the report on the PMOI can be justified. And the fact that something similar occurred in 1994, when Human Rights Watch last reported on the PMOI, makes me suspicious that there is a hidden agenda”.

Professor Schneebaum, who is also chairman of executive committee of the British-American Project, said that the ruling regime in Tehran had made the PMOI the target of a massive disinformation campaign. Despite this fact, he said, “no effort was exerted by your investigators, or by he authors or editors of the report, to contact PMOI members or representatives in the United States or in Paris, much less in Camp Ashraf. No effort was made to interview U.S. military officials who oversaw operations at Ashraf over months at a time, and who had looked into rumors about abuses at the Camp, and found not a shred of evidence to support the very charges that Human Rights Watch makes. Apparently, no effort was made even to conduct face-to-face interviews with the individuals who claimed that they were held by the PMOI when they wanted to leave, and who made serious allegations of mistreatment”. Schneebaum made particular note of HRW’s own admission that it relied on telephone interviews as the sole basis for its 28-page report.

“I myself visited Camp Ashraf in early 2004. What I saw was nearly 4,000 people living at a very high level of commitment and discipline. I spoke freely with many of them. I do not pretend to have expertise in interrogation, nor was that part of my mission, but I certainly observed nothing that implied to me that anyone was at Ashraf against his or her will”, he added.

Schneebaum cautioned that the HRW served two purposes, one being the Iranian regime’s justifications of its repressive policies towards the PMOI and dissidents general, and the second being to keep the PMOI and its affiliated organisations on the terrorist lists.

On the latter, he said that HRW had not conducted an investigation concluding that the PMOI was a terrorist organisation, thus he had found especially unsettling an HRW press release in which Joe Stork, Director of the Middle East and North Africa branch of HRW, stated, “The Iranian government has a dreadful record on human rights, but it would be a huge mistake to promote an opposition group that is responsible for human rights abuses”.

Schneebaum said that he was deeply troubled that HRW made such an announcement which he said was impossible to read into “anything other than advice to the United States Department of State to retain the PMOI’s terrorist designation and to ensure that no federal money might be allocated to Iranian opposition movements finds its way to that Organization”.

He said that such statement were not part of HRW’s mandate, summing up that “the timing of the report supports the inference that a political objective, not a human rights one, was in play”.

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