{mosimage}The Scotsman: Banning the PMOI prevented a legitimate organisation from fighting an oppressive regime, writes Lord Waddington
Rule of law and due process are the bedrock upon which all liberty and justice are based.  Throughout history, untold numbers of brave men and women have paid a dear price in effort, fortune, and even life itself, to bequeath to us the rule of law. Unfortunately, through neglect and design, if not protected, the rule of law and all those values which it protects and we hold dear can be undermined. 

The Scotsman

Opinion
Focus

Banning the PMOI prevented a legitimate organisation from fighting an oppressive regime, writes Lord Waddington


{mosimage}Rule of law and due process are the bedrock upon which all liberty and justice are based.  Throughout history, untold numbers of brave men and women have paid a dear price in effort, fortune, and even life itself, to bequeath to us the rule of law. Unfortunately, through neglect and design, if not protected, the rule of law and all those values which it protects and we hold dear can be undermined.  

One of the most insidious practices that threatens the rule of law and our democratic traditions are summary orders such as those used to proscribe organisations as “terrorist” without the ordering authority detailing the reasons upon which the order or judgment was based.

A case in point is the People’s Mujahideen of Iran (PMOI). The PMOI is the largest and most organised movement opposed to the Iranian regime and it is a member of the democratic coalition of the National Council of Resistance of Iran, headed by Maryam Rajavi. The PMOI and NCRI have for many years tried to alert international opinion to the threat posed by the Islamic fascism of the Iranian regime, with the PMOI telling the world of Iran’s covert and illicit nuclear programme as long ago as 2002. But in 1997, the organisation was put on the United States’ list of foreign terrorist organisations in a move that former US Assistant Secretary of State, Martyn Indyk, confirmed was a "goodwill gesture" to the government of former Iranian president Mohammad Khatami.

Here in the UK, in 2001 the then Home Secretary, Jack Straw, made an order including the PMOI in the list of proscribed organisations - this was also done, as Mr Straw admitted in a BBC radio interview last year, at the behest of the Iranian regime.

In proscribing the PMOI, the Home Secretary gave the organisation no indication of the acts of which they were suspected. Indeed, he went out of his way to say that the PMOI had not attacked or threatened any UK or Western interests. But the group was still condemned and left to campaign after the event.

In May 2002, the Council of the European Union followed suit and included the PMOI in its list of terrorist organisations. This is drawn up by a secretive “clearing house” and rubber-stamped by the Council of Ministers, who gave as the reason for the PMOI’s inclusion “serious and undeniable evidence” provided by the secret services of an EU member state. One can only assume that state was Britain.

The PMOI challenged its inclusion in the EU terrorism list in the European Court of First Instance, maintaining that it had not been given a fair hearing, and while denying charges of terrorism it claimed that it had an inherent right to revolt against tyranny and oppression.

It maintained that it had renounced violence and in 2001 had ceased all military operations, and it pointed out that at the present time PMOI personnel are under the protective custody of coalition forces in Iraq under the Fourth Geneva Convention, where they have been a bulwark against the spread of the Iranian regime’s destabilising influence in Iraq.

In February 2006, the Court of First Instance heard oral argument from PMOI defence lawyers and from EU and British lawyers defending the proscription. But not a shred of evidence was adduced in support of the proscription and in December 2006 the Court annulled the listing.

Shamefully, the European Council has refused to honour and abide by the CFI ruling, claiming – wrongly - that the finding was merely procedural. When forced to state the evidence on which it relied, it advanced only irrelevant allegations that do not even relate to the present time, but predate 2001. The stance adopted by the EU has met with widespread opposition from all political parties in the European parliament and from national parliaments, where more and more people are questioning the proscription.

The British Government’s policy of hunting for moderates in Tehran and furthering commercial interests rather than trying to defend human rights in that country has only emboldened the regime and led to rising extremism and the ascendancy of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to the presidency.

Laws passed to defend our society against terrorism are being used by the Iranian regime to buttress its own position and to make it easier to crush dissent within the country; to fund, train and direct terrorists throughout the Middle East and beyond, and to export its virulent ideology of hate and sectarianism to the world.
 
The PMOI never belonged on the terrorism list and the CFI has rightly ruled that it be removed. It is high time that our government acknowledged the ruling and removed the obstacles it has placed in the way of the PMOI as it struggles to draw attention to and mobilise opposition to a brutal regime. Surely the PMOI and NCRI deserve our support in the struggle for peace and freedom in their country.

•    The Rt Hon Lord Waddington QC, was home secretary under Margaret Thatcher’s Conservative government.