Wednesday, July 28, 2004 - MKO's Scandalous Failure - MKO's Scandalous Failure: "MKO's Scandalous Failure

Adam Ereli, State Department spokesman, in a press conference on July 26, 2004, stressed: "MKO remains a terrorist group, new designation applies to the individuals not the group, and we work on MKO members' repatriation."

Here's Q and A on Mojahedin:

QUESTION: Adam, do you know anything about the people's Mujahedin claiming to -- this might be better addressed to the Pentagon -- but claiming to have received protected status as non-combatants in Iraq. They said this on Sunday, apparently.

MR. ERELI: I do have something on that. I believe the U.S. military has confirmed that protected person status has been -- or that the 3,800 members of the MEK that are in Ashraf have been granted protected person status. I would note that this means that an individual who enjoys protected person status is entitled to protections of the Geneva Conventions. There aren't any other connotations to this designation. It's a designation, another important point to make here, it's a designation that applies to individuals and not to groups.

Moving on to the -- but I think the bigger picture is -- and in that sense, there's not a lot of change -- is that the MEK members remain as before limited to Camp Ashraf under multinational force control. The multinational force continues to ensure that the -- that the members of these groups cannot post a threat to individuals inside or outside Iraq. We are working with the international -- with the government of Iraq and international organizations to look at eventual repatriation of these individuals.

QUESTION: Well, I'm not -- I don't understand -- how does this square with the terrorism designation?

MR. ERELI: It's really unrelated to it. It's unrelated to it.

QUESTION: I mean, presumably, if these --

MR. ERELI: The point here is --

QUESTION: Well, presumably, if these people are -- this group is designated as a terrorist organization, that means that its members are, in U.S. eyes, terrorists, correct?

MR. ERELI: Let me -- let me clarify the distinction for you.

QUESTION: And if they are, why are they given -- why have they been given this status, considering that other terrorists have been treated (inaudible) much differently, as enemy noncombatants.

MR. ERELI: This status -- right. This status does not -- their status as protected persons relates to their involvement in an activity as belligerents in the conflict between the coalition and Iraq. So it was determined that they were not belligerents and therefore, as nonbelligerents, fall into this category with respect to the conflict with Iraq.

This does not relate to their membership in a terrorist organization. The MEK continues to be a designated Foreign Terrorist Organization. We will continue to treat its -- treat individuals who can be determined to have been involved in terrorist incidents with the MEK consistent with the laws that apply. And in the case of the MEK members in Camp Ashraf, as you know, there was a vetting process underway to determine who, among those 3,800, might have been involved in terrorist incidents, and once those individuals have been determined, to deal with them as required by law.

So in that sense there's no -- how shall I say? There should be no conflict or confusion between the two issues.

QUESTION: All right. Well, maybe my memory is faulty but I don't -- was the MEK -- were members of the MEK actual belligerents in the war?

MR. ERELI: No, and that's what -- that's what this designation --

QUESTION: So this relates to their status as nonbelligerents?

MR. ERELI: Right. This is what this designation refers to.

QUESTION: When you talk about repatriation, are you trying to get them to go back to Iran?

MR. ERELI: That issue is still being worked on, where they would go is something that has to be settled between the government of Iraq, the MNF and eventual countries of resettlement. But, of course, it has to be voluntary, as consistent with international practice.

QUESTION: And when you're doing the vetting, are you vetting to see which of the people in Ashraf actually belongs to the Mujahedin, or are you just trying to vet what type of crime they have committed as the terrorists that you recognize they are?

MR. ERELI: My understanding is it's the latter.

QUESTION: And Iran says that the fact that you're giving these individuals protected status undermines your claim that you're fighting terrorism because it brings up a bit of contradictions that Matt was --

MR. ERELI: Right, and I tried to clarify those contradictions as saying protected status does not mean we are protecting these people. It means we are according them -- we have determined that they were not belligerents in this conflict, and we are according them the human rights protections as required by the Geneva -- consistent with the Geneva Conventions. When persons are -- when individuals are classified as protected persons, it does not in any way attenuate our actions and holding these people to account for activities that they committed as MEK members that were terrorist in nature.

QUESTION: How are their camps and how are they supervised? Are they under any kind of supervision? Is it an Iraqi supervision or a coalition supervision? That's one. And how does that relate in any way to what the Iraqi interim minister, in an interview, he said that Iran was enemy number one. So are the two related?

MR. ERELI: For logistical details on how the Camp Ashraf is run and what are the -- what are the procedures and limitations of movement and things like that, I'd refer you to the multinational force. The important point is that, a) they're disarmed; b) they are not, as I said earlier, that they are not in a position to pose a threat to individuals inside or outside Iraq. And that's the critical consideration in our view.

QUESTION: When you say disarmed are they still allowed to have rifles?

MR. ERELI: They are -- they do not pose a threat due to arms, I think is the --

QUESTION: So the tanks and stuff are in another place, but they still have firearms?

MR. ERELI: I think they've been disarmed to the extent that they cannot pose a threat. But if you ask me what -- do they have any caliber bullets, again, I'd refer you to the MNF."


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