{mosimage}Middle East Times, By Dr. Rudi Vis MP: As a UK delegate to the Council of Europe, Europe has always been at the heart of much of the political work that I have done throughout my career. It is through such experience that I believe the Council of Europe and the European Union can do a great deal to achieve success on a number of the most challenging international issues.

Middle East Times

{mosimage}OP-ED: Dr. Rudi Vis MP

As a UK delegate to the Council of Europe, Europe has always been at the heart of much of the political work that I have done throughout my career. It is through such experience that I believe the Council of Europe and the European Union can do a great deal to achieve success on a number of the most challenging international issues.

The EU has an especially critical role to play on the issues that currently face us in the Middle East. In a region where we are faced with a faltering Middle East peace process and a region beset by constant and growing instability, a united stance from European nations may lead to a solution. However, the very difficult task that faces the international community was made ever more vivid with the recent assassination of Benazir Bhutto in Pakistan.

The crises in the Middle East are large and considerable in number. However, it is evident that the greatest threat we are faced with in the region is the Iranian regime. Iran's widespread support for terrorism in Iraq, Afghanistan, the Lebanon as well as Palestine, in conjunction with that regime's desire to acquire nuclear weapons is what has left the West searching for a solution to this ever more dangerous threat.

It is the solution to this crisis that has left me as far away from EU policy as I have ever been. The EU lead by the British Government has followed a longstanding policy of engagement with the Iranian regime. This policy has a long history, one which in the EU began with Jack Straw. Jack Straw in his roles as British Foreign Secretary and Home Secretary took it upon himself to convince the Iranian regime to change its ways through dialogue. The EU, instigated by the belief that the British Government is best suited to deal with issues relating to Tehran, backed this policy.

However, both beliefs have been found to be naive at best. The belief that this Iranian regime is willing to change is a belief that is rotten from root to tip. The clearest indication that this regime contains no moderates and is unwilling to change was the coming to power of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Further, the willingness of the European Union to follow the British lead in this hopeless conquest indicates a lack of comprehension as to the entire nature of this regime. Not only is this regime insistent on causing death and destruction on its own people through its horrific history of human rights abuses, it is using all of its energy and resources to spread this fundamentalist ideology throughout the world, most evidently in the streets of Iraqi towns and cities.

It was this misguided policy of appeasement, which has lead to one of the greatest mysteries of UK and EU policy. In 2001 the British Government placed the People's Mojahedin Organization of Iran, Iran's democratic opposition group on a list of terrorist organizations. Once again lead by the belief that the UK knows best on matters relating to Iran, the EU followed suit in 2002. This terror listing of the PMOI was the height of British and EU attempts to convince the Iranian regime into acting as a positive influence rather than a menace. The mullahs no doubt advised the West that such blacklisting would oil the machinery of discussions. This policy has been a failure on all levels.

Seven years and six years on respectively from the terror listing of the PMOI in the UK and EU two unprecedented court cases have found both terror listings illegal. In December 2006, the European Court of First Instance ruled the terror listing of the PMOI as annulled. The reasoning of the panel of judges was clear. The EU, lead by the UK, had listed the PMOI without providing the group with any reasons or giving them an opportunity to answer allegations. This is a shattering blow to the due legal process upon which we in the democratic world pride ourselves.

This shocking situation has been confirmed by the findings of Swiss investigator Dick Marty, who working for the human rights body of the Council of Europe last year conducted a detailed investigation into the EU terrorist list. His findings were extremely worrying. He indicated with reference to the case of the PMOI at the CFI said, "…it remains almost impossible, in practice, to be removed from the blacklist -- a situation that is illegal and unacceptable."

However, the Council of Ministers have, at the behest of the UK Government, bypassed the rule of law and continued to maintain the PMOI on their blacklist. This is even more shocking in light of the findings of the Proscribed Organizations Appeals Commission on 30 November last year in a case brought by 35 Members of both Houses of the British Parliament. Having heard seven days of open and closed hearings and critical analysis of over 15 volumes of evidence and 20 witness statements, POAC found that the PMOI is not concerned in terrorism.

Furthermore, it went on to add that the British Government's rejection of the appeal made by the 35 MPs and Peers was "perverse," "flawed" and "must be set aside." It is such findings that make the EU's continuance in following the British lead even more disturbing.

It is high time that the British Government changed its stance toward Iran's democratic opposition movement. However, even if the British Government and Jacqui Smith fail to be convinced to lay to rest the questionable decisions of their predecessors, the EU must refrain from following their lead. I have had the great pleasure of inviting Mrs. Maryam Rajavi, the president-elect of the National Council of Resistance of Iran to the Council of Europe and believe that her brand of democratic change by the Iranian people and their resistance movement is the clear solution to this crisis.

However, failure by the EU to realize the opportunity that lays before them to take the lead and progress the solution to these crises, will sadly see it fail as the international player that it ought to be.

--

Rudi Vis is a British Member of Parliament and UK delegate to the Council of Europe.