- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 18, 2013

A former U.N. official who has accused his ex-boss of covering up human rights abuses against Iranian dissidents in Iraq is seeking help in Washington for the exiles, as Baghdad pressures them to return to Iran where they would face execution as traitors.

The U.N. mission in Iraq is cooperating with Baghdad to make life so miserable for the Iranians in an overcrowded relocation camp that they will voluntarily go home, said Tahara Boumedra, the top U.N. human rights official in Iraq from 2009 to 2011, when he resigned in protest.

“The real purpose is to dismantle the MeK,” he said of more than 3,100 members of the Mujahedeen-e-Klag, the formerly armed wing of the Paris-based National Council of Resistance of Iran.

“The ultimate goal is to push the population to go home,” he told Embassy Row on Thursday.

Mr. Boumedra said U.N. officials were aware of a plan to arrest MeK leaders and expel the others. It was discussed in meetings he attended with other U.N. officials, representatives of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and Iran’s ambassador to Iraq. Iran has pressured Mr. al-Maliki to deport the dissidents, who have been a target of the Iranian regime for more than three decades.

Mr. Boumedra accused the Iraqi government of deliberately maintaining poor conditions at Camp Liberty in Baghdad.

“The Iraqis would say, ‘They must suffer and leave,’” he said.

Mr. Boumedra this week met with leading members of Congress, including Rep. Ileana Ros-Lethinen, Florida Republican and chairwoman of the House Foreign Relations subcommittee on the Middle East and North Africa.

He said Mrs. Ros-Lethinen shares his concerns over the fate of the dissidents, who surrendered their weapons to U.S. forces who overthrew dictator Saddam Hussein in 2003.

Mr. Boumedra blames Martin Kobler, a German diplomat who has run the U.N. office in Iraq since 2011, for delaying the process of approving U.N. refugee status for the dissidents.

U.N. refugee status would make it easier for other nations to accept them.

Mr. Kobler, who is transferring to another U.N. post at the end of the month, this week accused the dissidents’ leaders of discouraging them from registering with U.N. officials and submitting to interviews to determine whether they meet refugee guidelines.

Mr. Boumedra noted that more than 1,600 have gone through the process, but the others stopped meeting with U.N. officials after Iraqi troops this year attacked their camp. The U.N. office also has failed to complete a final review called “adjudication,” he said.

“They registered. They were interviewed, but Kobler has refused to complete the process,” Mr. Boumedra said.

Jared Kotler, a spokesman for the U.N. political affairs office, dismissed Mr. Boumedra’s charges as “misinformation.”

The U.N. this week called on Baghdad to protect the dissidents, urged the Iranians to cooperate in the refugee process and called on other countries to accept them.

“There will be no peaceful and durable solution for the residents without resettlement opportunities outside of Iraq,” said Martin Nesirky, spokesman for U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

When he first arrived in Baghdad in 2009, Mr. Boumedra discovered a cloistered world of foreign diplomats hunkered down in a heavily secured area of the capital known as the Green Zone. They would never leave the 4-square-mile enclave without an armed guard.

He also found a watering hole the diplomats called the “Undercover Bar,” where rumors flowed as fast as the drinks.

Mr. Boumedra, who was the U.N.’s contact man with the Iranian dissidents, recalled that the diplomats would gossip about the “dangerous terrorist group.”

“But through the months, the years, 24/7, through emails, through visits [to the dissident camp], my eyes were opened,” he said. “The dissidents never lied to me. The Iraqis were constantly making false allegations against them.”

He recalled one visit to a hospital outside the Green Zone where he met with dissidents who pushed past Iraqi guards to complain to him about poor medical services.

But when he returned to the “Undercover Bar,” his visit to the hospital had turned into a story about an attempt to kidnap him.

Embassy Row is published on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. James Morrison can be reached at [email protected] or @EmbassyRow.



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