53rd Session, 1997, Agenda
Improving the Efficiency of the Commission's Work through due process, other human rights and pacta sunt servanda at the UN, in Iraq & elsewhere
My name is Mohammad Siddiq Mahmoud (www.aemam.net). I am a Kurdish lawyer from Sulaymanyia in the Mosul Vilayet who served the Iraqi people as Agricultural Minister, Governor and Presidential Adviser. However, when the Assyriens, Kurds and Turkomans rose against Baghdad in the wake of Iraq's defeat in 1991, l also believed in President Bush's encouraging words and joined that uprising. And since l've thus become an opposition leader which, in the eyes of some, is unforgiveable, nobody could ignore that a visit to Baghdad would now be a death ticket for me.
With my background, l could indeed add to the already heavy body of testimony against the Iraqi regime. But that would not make a dent in Baghdad. It would not help any segment of the already all-too-long and excessively suffering Iraqi people. And it would not relieve me of whatever responsibility l may share for past official actions. Nor would it help to open up people's mind for new vistas and practicable ways out of the present mess. On the other hand - and this is where the Commission could also benefit from my particular case - if it used this and other experiences imaginatively, some current human rights disasters in Mesopotamia and other parts of the world might be resolved without further burdening foreign taxpayers.
In this sense, the representatives of the 5 mio strong Arab, Assyrian, Kurdish and Turkoman communities and tribes of the oil- and water-rich Mosul Vilayet (Northern Iraq) invited me in 1992 to serve as a co-founder and chief organizer of the supreme Mosul Vilayet Council (www.solami.com/mvcindex.htm ¦ .../rebirth.htm). In 1926 this former Ottoman Empire province was conditionally attached to the Kingdom of Iraq. Due to the never-abrogated constitutive Iraqi Declaration of 30 May 1932 (reproduced in: E/CN.4/.Sub.2/1992/NGO/27: .../a3b.htm), the Mosul Vilayet inhabitants in particular, on paper at least, enjoy internationally recognized and formally guaranteed minority protection and property rights which are understood as still valid. Indeed, in 1950, the International Court of Justice, in an analoguous case, firmly ruled that
"These obligations represent the very essence of the sacred trust of civilization. Their raison d'etre and original object remain. Since their fulfilment did not depend on the existence of the League of Nations, they could not be brought to an end merely because this supervisory organ [i.e. the Council of the League of Nations] ceased to exist. Nor could the right of the population to have the Territory administered in accordance with these rules depend thereon. " (I.C.J. Reports 1950, p.133, as quoted in: E/CN.4/367/Add.1: .../a3a.htm#LEGAL).
Accordingly, the Mosul Vilayet Council (MVC: .../a31.htm) has labored from the outset to free its inhabitants from all international economic sanctions imposed on Iraq, to place it, for 10-25 years, under a non-prejudicial and regionally stabilizing UN-sponsored interim administration (e.g. by the Kingdom of Jordan, as outlined in: E/CN.4/Sub.2/1994/NGO/48: .../a3b.htm#48), and to provide for its eventual re-attachment to Iraq or Turkey, attachment to Iran or Syria or independence. To this effect, it has obtained the formal approval of most leaders of its ethnic, religious, civil, educational, cultural and business communities and of 17 political parties. Nevertheless, it has yet to draw commensurate support from the international community, whose denial of rights enshrined in the UN Charter and other binding international texts is seen to have prevented the process of self-healing and peace in the region. Until this is recognized and will have produced the necessary policy changes, this man-made and regionally destabilizing humanitarian nightmare may not be overcome by any "oil-for-food" deal. Particularly not by programs based on looting "internationally protected" landowners. In fact, these mostly self-serving schemes are likely to rekindle religious tensions, exacerbate ethnic conflicts and fuel tribal wars which may further threaten regional peace and stability.
While the MVC's duly elected Permanent Representative to the United Nations thus kept running into a solid wall of vested interests, the venerable International Committee for European Security and Cooperation kindly offered me to speak out directly at the UN Commission on Human Rights. On 10 October 1995, this NGO with consultative status appointed me as ICESC Deputy Permanent Representative, in Charge of Good Offices in Near Eastern affairs. Communications between Iraq and the rest of the world being what they are, l arrived in Istanbul only three weeks later where l immediately applied at the Swiss consulate for a corresponding visa for human rights work at the UN. Although l paid the requested 50000 Turkish lira for accelerated fax transmissions, the ICESC Main Representative in Geneva was contacted by the Swiss authorities only at the end of November - i.e. two weeks after my Turkish transit visa had expired and l was obliged to start wandering about in the Middle East. In mid-February 1996, l was finally issued in Cairo both a Swiss and a French visum providing for 30 days of NGO work at the UN. But when l arrived at Geneva airport on 23 February, the Swiss police immediately cancelled my visum and detained me, without giving any reason. And when l objected to a check of my Iraqi passport by members of the Iraqi mission, I was told that l am going to be "deported to Baghdad". It was only due to the determined efforts by my Swiss friends and ICESC representatives that, after a chilling five hours detention, l was allowed to exit the airport to France - vive la France!
The fact that l can't testify before you in person and that ICESC is now not represented in Geneva raises disturbing questions on the ability of the Commission, its members and its NGO community to carry out its crucial task in an evironment of law, due process and human rights. Who keeps track of the cases where the UN Administration and/or the host government prevented access to the Commission on Human Rights, thus interfering in its proper functioning? We know that during the Second World War Swiss officials routinely turned back at its borders members of undesirable minorities who were thus driven towards death in gas chambers. And we know that the Swiss National Bank was then heavily involved in trade with looted gold. But l, for one, presumed that today Swiss officials strictly heed Switzerland's international and human rights obligations and need not be told of the 15 November 1996 "Chahal" ruling where the European Human Rights Court in Strasbourg prohibited the deportation of a person to a country where his/her life is seriously endangered (70/195/576/662). And neither l nor the ICESC representative expected to draw so heavy fire in Geneva against our efforts to prevent the unprecedented looting of Assyrians, Jews, Kurds and Turkomans as the internationally protected owners of oil-rich lands. In protest, my colleague declined to register our NGO until this matter will be satisfactorily resolved so as to reliably preclude similar incidents, and he retained the option of publicly denouncing this case.
All this, it seems, did not sit well with some of the involved Swiss officials. For my valiant Swiss human rights defender suddenly saw himself shut out from the Palais des Nations - allegedly for "behavior which is not compatible with that of a representative", terms which are usually reserved for diplomats accused of spying or terrorism. This happened within the walls of the UN's Geneva human rights sanctuary without the shadow of due process, i.e. without a hearing, without specifying any wrong-doing, and without possibility of appeal. The NGOs involved were advised of this with a letter by the UN Geneva Office dated 19 April 1996, specifying that the representative in question may no longer represent them at the UN in Geneva. To date all efforts failed to identify either the source behind this harrassment or the legal basis of this "administrative decision". The only reason given so far was that this internationally renowned minority rights expert and ICESC representative was "too persistent." A survey among the Missions in Geneva revealed both other disturbing incidents involving Swiss officials as well as a little known, hardly ever vented frustration in the diplomatic community. At the Palais des Nations only Swiss officials are said to have the kind of influence thus brought to bear in this and similar cases. Not surprisingly then, the Swiss authorities repeatedly refused to formally exclude their involvement in this affair, or to intervene at the UN on behalf of their own Citizen, e.g. by invoking their prerogatives written into the UN Seat Agreement.
Which brings us back to our initial question. Which is: Can the UN Geneva Office still be trusted to unreservedly apply within its walls the human rights standards the UN stands for? This and other grave cases point to undue external influences and out-of-control UN officials. And this mutually harmful situation calls for serious review and determined corrective measures, lest NGOs be reduced to folkloric functions and the UN's Human Rights arms become ineffective and redundant due to their failure to safeguard the cooperation with and the contributions of courageous, competent & principled representatives of civil society and vigilant NGOs.
PS: Commendably, the then-president of the Swiss National Council's Foreign Affairs Commission, François Lachat, and other Swiss lawmakers, spent much political capital for seeking to clarify and redress the above-described situation which is understood to be linked to Saddam Hussein's long arms abroad. So far to no avail - despite the changes in Iraq. Which is reminiscent of an unrelated but equally significant and telling, yet unresolved polito-legal black hole (.../stammabs.htm).(24.9.07 - url: www.solami.com/ordeal.htm ¦ .../icescge.htm)
Trifft es zu, dass im Februar 1996 Mohammad Siddiq Mahmoud, ein früherer Minister von Saddam Hussein und späterer Anführer des kurdischen Aufstandes von 1991, mit gültigen schweizerischen und französischen Visa in Genf eintraf, jedoch an der Einreise gehindert und schliesslich nach Frankreich abgeschoben wurde (www.solami.com/ordeal.htm)?
Wer veranlasste diese offiziellen Vorgänge?
Ist der Bundesrat bereit, dafür Sorge zu tragen, dass solche Rechtsverletzungen und Imageschädigungen vermieden werden und der Betroffene entschädigt wird?
Blocher Christoph, Bundesrat: Herr Freysinger spricht einen Fall an, der im Februar 1996 passiert ist, der also schon relativ lange zurückliegt. Es geht darum, ob ein Visum zu Recht widerrufen worden ist und wer diese offiziellen Vorgänge ausgelöst hat.
Zum Generellen: Für den Widerruf von Visa an der Grenze sind zwei verschiedene Verfahren vorgesehen. Bei Diplomaten oder Personen in offizieller Mission ist das Eidgenössische Departement für auswärtige Angelegenheiten zuständig. In den übrigen Fällen können die für die Grenzkontrolle zuständigen Behörden der Kantone oder des Bundes nach Rücksprache mit dem Bundesamt für Migration die Visa widerrufen, wenn die Einreisevoraussetzungen nicht mehr erfüllt sind, wenn also zum Beispiel eine Gefährdung der öffentlichen Sicherheit besteht oder die innere und äussere Sicherheit der Schweiz gefährdet ist.
Die genauen Umstände, unter denen es im Februar 1996 zum Widerruf des Visums von Mohammad Siddiq Mahmoud und zu seiner Inhaftierung und Überstellung nach Frankreich gekommen ist, konnten in der zur Verfügung stehenden Zeit nicht abschliessend geklärt werden. Es handelt sich eben um einen Fall aus dem Jahr 1996, deshalb sind die zur Klärung der Fragen notwendigen Unterlagen noch nicht elektronisch archiviert. Die Akten befinden sich nicht mehr im BFM, sondern möglicherweise im Bundesarchiv, sofern sie nicht aus datenschutzrechtlichen Gründen gelöscht worden sind. Auch im EDA sind die Vorgänge nicht mehr bekannt. Das Bundesamt für Migration wird aber die in dieser Sache notwendigen Abklärungen veranlassen und den Fragesteller und gegebenenfalls auch die Öffentlichkeit zu gegebener Zeit informieren. Das braucht leider noch eine gewisse Zeit.