OpinionIran in the World PressForget the mullahs – it's time to engage with...

Forget the mullahs – it’s time to engage with Iran’s opposition


The Scotsman: Britain must lift its ban on the country’s resistance, says LORD WADDINGTON, and strive for sanctions against the regime. The Scotsman



IN A landmark judgment last month, the Proscribed Organisations Appeals Commission (POAC) ruled that Iran’s main democratic opposition, the People’s Mujahideen Organisation of Iran (PMOI), is not concerned in terrorism.

It further found the Home Secretary’s decision to refuse an application made by 35 MPs and peers for the de-proscription of the PMOI was “flawed”, “perverse” and “must be set aside”, and ordered that the Secretary of State lay before parliament the draft of an order under section 3(3)(b) of the Terrorism Act 2000, removing the PMOI from the list of proscribed organisations in schedule 2.

This historic ruling bolsters an earlier ruling, on 12 December, 2006, by the Court of First Instance of the European Court of Justice in which the ECJ annulled a May 2002 decision by the Council of the European Union to include the PMOI on its terror list.

The judgment is a victory for the rule of law in our democratic society for those who hope and strive for democracy in Iran. After the many blunders of the government in its dealings with the mullahs and its futile hopes that they would moderate their policies, our judiciary has upheld the rule of law and opened the way for a policy that truly serves the interests of the people of the United Kingdom while respecting our democratic values.

Such a policy, in our view, should not involve attempts to appease the regime but should bring home to the mullahs that their contempt for human rights and defiance of the United Nations as they work to arm themselves with nuclear weapons has earned the condemnation of all decent people.

The Iranian regime has opposed peace in the Middle East, meddled in Iraq to fan sectarian violence, directed attacks against coalition troops and aided the Taleban in Afghanistan to defeat the NATO mission. It has armed, funded and trained groups in the region to engage in terrorism, and has striven to remake the region in its own brutal image. And just what is the Iranian regime doing at home that it so keenly seeks to replicate in neighbouring countries? The regime continues its brutal crackdown on its own people.

On Wednesday of last week, five more Iranians were publicly executed. This puts the number of executions this year at 280 – a sharp rise from the 177 that, according to Amnesty International, were reported to have been executed in 2006. It is horrifying that, on 5 December, a 20-year-old man accused of a crime he was supposed to have committed when 13 years of age was hanged: and Iran remains the most prolific executioner of minors worldwide. These executions and manifold human-rights breaches are occurring against the background of demonstrations by students in Iran, which have been brutally suppressed by the regime’s security forces. Many of the demonstrators have been arrested and are facing the more than 170 forms of torture that are used in Iran’s notorious prisons.

It is a moral imperative to remove all “unlawful” obstructions on the opposition PMOI, so it can freely engage with the international community and organise legitimate resistance to the dictatorship ruling Iran and threatening the world today. The PMOI and the resistance’s parliament-in-exile, NCRI, have demonstrated their commitment to democratic values as they have fought to clear their name through the courts. But, more importantly, they have won great sympathy and support for their fight for human rights in Iran, for their constructive role in engaging difficult issues in Iraq and the region, and for their plans for a secular, democratic Iran.

The policy of dialogue with Iran’s fundamentalist regime is in tatters. The mullahs have made clear they have no intention of halting uranium enrichment or limiting their nuclear programmes, and they continue to foment crises and interfere in Iraq, Afghanistan and Lebanon.

Surely the time has come for the Secretary of State to accept the judgment of POAC and take immediate steps to carry out its order and lay before parliament the draft of an order under section 3(3)(b) of the Terrorism Act 2000 removing the PMOI from the list of proscribed organisations. It will then be for the Secretary of State to get the European Union to comply with the judgment of the European Court of Justice, due to the fact the PMOI’s inclusion in the EU terror list was at the behest of the United Kingdom after the organisation’s proscription in the UK.

The British government should engage in dialogue with the Iranian resistance, recognising the right of the Iranian people to self-determination and to democratic change in their country.

It should work towards the adoption of a firm policy towards the Iranian regime through resolutions at the UN Security Council over the regime’s human rights abuses, support for terrorism, interference in Iraq/Afghanistan and pursuit of nuclear weapons. The government would certainly do well to work with other EU states to list the Revolutionary Guards as a terrorist entity and impose comprehensive arms, trade, oil and technology sanctions against the regime.

• Lord Waddington was home secretary under Margaret Thatcher’s Conservative government.

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