But a large number of MEPs protested that he has attempted to deceive the parliament in the past, has presided over a disastrous decline in the domestic situation in Iraq while doing little to criticize the Iraqi government and has brought progress on the re-settlement of 3,200 refugees in Camps Ashraf and Liberty to a virtual standstill through his incompetence.
During the meeting Mr Kobler reiterated the litany of misinformation that has become familiar to those whom he repeatedly seeks to impress, complaining that UN monitors have difficulty in accessing residents of Camp Liberty and that there is a general lack of cooperation with the Camp management and the PMOI/MEK leadership in Paris.
In the meantime he tried to ignore the most pressing and immediate issue, namely the safety and security of the residents facing rocket and missile attacks in that tiny, prison-like compound. He was challenged three times by MEPs to explain why hard hats and protective vests that were left behind in Camp Ashraf had not been returned to the residents of Liberty to provide them with even rudimentary protection. His feeble reply was that this was a matter for the Iraqis.
Kobler’s remarks were so contradictory that even the Chairman of the Committee, Elmar Brok MEP, stated: “I find what you have said today almost unbelievable. Accurate information should be provided to us through impartial channels.”
In one deliberately misleading statement Kobler claimed: “The Prime Minister of Albania had agreed to accept 105 Camp Liberty residents. But I travelled to Tirana (March 15, 2013) and increased the number to 210.” In fact, four months prior to this trip, Ambassador Dan Fried, the advisor of then US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, wrote to representatives of the Camp Liberty residents stating: “The Government of Albania has confirmed privately that it is prepared to accept for resettlement up to 210 former Ashraf residents.” Indeed Kobler’s blundering into this issue, by holding a press conference on his return from Albania, served to alert the Iranian government to the issue and, as sworn enemies of the PMOI they then began to exert pressure on the Iraqi government and the Albanians to prevent this humanitarian relocation.
Struan Stevenson, President of the European Parliament’s Delegation for Relations with Iraq, pointed out the lack of any proper response by Kobler to the massive increase in executions and human rights abuse in Iraq and the lack of proper attention by Kobler regarding the on-going popular uprisings in cities across Iraq.
Mr Stevenson also told Martin Kobler that he had signed the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) regarding the transfer of the residents of Camp Ashraf to the prison of Camp Liberty, with the Government of Iraq without the consent of the residents of Camp Ashraf.
He further accused Kobler of deceiving members of parliament on the conditions in Camp Liberty by showing them doctored photographs. Stevenson stated that Martin Kobler had guaranteed that the 3,100 residents would enjoy safety and security at Camp Liberty and they would be rapidly transferred to third countries. Stevenson pointed out that Tahar Boumedra, a senior UN staff officer with UNAMI had resigned in protest at the behaviour of Kobler and had testified to the US Congress under oath that Kobler had doctored photographs of Camp Liberty with the sole intention of deceiving MEPs and other decision-makers.
Stevenson ended his intervention by holding up five lists of names of residents of Camp Liberty who are ready to transfer to Albania and Germany. These 440 names were provided to UNHCR weeks ago, Stevenson said, and asked Kobler why only 14 have actually been transferred so far.
Jim Higgins MEP said to Kobler “You say the Government of Iraq considers the Ashraf & Liberty residents as terrorist. But they have been removed from the US and EU terror lists and you, representing the UN should state that they are not terrorists. Why you do not take a position on this? What you are doing is very hypocritical. Can you tell us what is your achievement in view of all the money that you receive? You should be fired. The UN Security Council should fire you”.
Vytautas Landsbergis MEP pointed out: “Scores of Iraqi politicians condemn you. Why do you involve Iran, a foreign country, into the issue in Iraq? Why do you bring Iran into the issue of the status of Camp Liberty and refugees that the Iranian regime hates so much? Eighteen political dignitaries (who had visited Ashraf before) have issued a statement and have called on your conduct to be examined in a court. They have stated their readiness to testify before this court and have called for an investigation into your conduct.”
He asked Kobler whether he agreed with this investigation or was he waiting for his tenure to come to an end and to leave Baghdad without any accountability?
Tunne Kelam MEP said: “Mr. Kobler you have become a controversial figure in Iraq. Even Ayad Allawi the leader of the Al-Iraqiyah opposition has called for your resignation. It is said that you are too close to the Government of Iraq. You provide no reasonable explanation regarding the safety of the Liberty residents. You signed the MoU with the Government of Iraq but there is no guarantee for the safety and security of the residents. You put 80 percent of the blame on the inhabitants of Camp Liberty. This is very hypocritical and unacceptable.”
Eduard Kukan MEP while confirming the remarks of Mr Stevenson said: “You have a responsibility to solve these problems. You talk as though you are an impartial observer. This is unacceptable.”
Ryszard Czarnecki MEP said: “Mr Kobler, you promised that the standards of living at Liberty would be the same of Ashraf and that the residents would be transferred to third countries quickly. You showed us pictures that you claimed demonstrated that Camp Liberty would be an excellent place. But none of these promises were true. The residents do not trust you. You are part of the problem, not part of the solution. Don’t you think it is about time that you should resign and leave?”
Kobler, becoming increasingly agitated in the face of such relentless criticism, demanded “as a European” that MEPs should look at the internal structure of the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK). “You should not support structures that do not provide individual freedoms,” he said. His statement is reminiscent of the oft-heard attacks from the Iranian regime.
Following the meeting of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the European Parliament and the remarks of Martin Kobler, Struan Stevenson stated “This once again underscores the need for his immediate dismissal by the UN Secretary General.“
Office of Struan Stevenson MEP
President of the European Parliament’s Delegation for Relations with Iraq