Friday, December 18, 2015




Stes de Necker

Expressing anger and criticizing our political leaders seems to be the favorite pastime of many people in South Africa today including me, the social networks and the news media.

But as long as we see politics as a war between good and bad individuals and ignoring the structures that reward or punish them, this mudslinging will continue unabated.

Politicians are, as a group, no better or worse than the rest of us. So when they stink, something is rotten with the system that feeds them. Our stalled democracy is not our leaders’ fault alone, but ours as well, for treating all political problems as characteristic of certain individuals.

I know many black politicians that I have the the world's respect for. Galema Motlanthe, Cyril Ramaphosa,  Pravin Gordhan, Mosiua Lekota, Kennith Meshoe, etc.

Good and bad is not the problem. Fundamentalism is the problem.

Fundamentalism is arrogant, intransigent and rude. It refuses to compromise, insists on its own truth and seeks to decimate its opponents. Fundamentalism can see nothing wrong with itself and sees only the wrong in others. It is destructive, damaging and divisive. Fundamentalism is destroying our politics, our communities and our nation.

The unforgettable moment in our history when Nelson Mandela was released from jail after 27 years of incarceration and on the occasion of delivering his first speech after his release in Cape Town said that, "In conclusion I wish to quote my own words during my trial in 1964. They are true today as they were then:

I have fought against white domination and I have fought against black domination.

I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities.

It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die."

Without wasting time, Mandela started the process of reconciliation and nation building. His biggest legacy may be that he taught South Africans that the way out of a bad political mood is not more rage, but a new political perspective.

With words like “racist”, “leftist”, “rightist”, “conservative”, “liberal”, “socialist”, “capitalist”, “Muslim”, “Christian”, “Jew” and the list goes on and on, truth is we are a mixed society. As much as there is goodness and wisdom in much of our shared religious, social and political traditions that ought to be conserved, there is just as much harm and foolishness in much of our history that ought to be changed.

In the daily interaction between all our communities of faith, culture or political conviction, opening ourselves to differing opinions and perspectives can only make us wiser and stronger. When we are willing to be open to new understandings, new possibilities and new people then we can actually live up to the faith. It is possible and quite reasonable that openness to change can happen at the same time we remain grounded in eternal values of reverence, compassion and goodness. We can and we must, find ways to change what needs to be changed all the while grounding ourselves in these three value systems namely reverence, compassion and goodness.

South Africa is in a bad mood at the moment.

Let us drown out the clamor of hatred and intolerance that damages, destroys and divides us. 

Let us reclaim a vocabulary of hope for our people and for our country.

Thursday, December 10, 2015




Stes de Necker

The ANC Government has made so many mistakes, the public trust is broken.

The trust has gotten so small that it crumbled under the weight of corrupt politicians. They have proven themselves to be untrustworthy, repeatedly, by taking actions that put the interest of the ruling elite ahead of doing what is right for the people of this country.

In an article I wrote earlier I said that the South Africa’s Government has become a government of liars. Deceit has become as natural to these politicians as breathing.

And unfortunately, what we have witnessed through the process of replacing the capable seasoned politician and Minister of Finance, Nhlanhla Nene with a a former MK operative and Mayor of a small town in Gauteng of around 197 000 people called Merofeng, has added one more seed to the growing mistrust.

The statement which announced Nene’s sacking was so lacking in detail, so insulting, that it is impossible to put any kind of spin on it. Nene was fired for the simple reason that he went against the wishes of Zuma. And as the rand weakens again to the world, we are all going to pay the price for it.

Van Rooyen became known when the community became outraged by the government's plan to demarcate their area as part of the North West province, instead of Gauteng. He was forced to resign as Mayor in 2009 and since his resignation Morofeng’s financial status had never recovered.  
Since there is no more transparency, decisions taken by President Zuma during chaotic crises’ are most assuredly destructive of liberty and sovereignty, one can easily and generally tell the motive and morality of the individuals vying for its decision.

This rush decision of Zuma without giving any sufficient reasons whatsoever, is a blatantly sleazy, backhanded way of avoiding any exposure of the truth.

Welcome to the country where finance ministers are fired because they don’t let the President’s friends do what they want with state assets.

South Africa cannot and should not trust those who have proven themselves untrustworthy.  Instead of feeling an obligation to serve the public, most of the ANC representatives are acting in a manner that demonstrates how little respect they have for the citizens of this country, their opinions, and for meeting the needs of our country.

What we have here is a pattern of deception. South Africa is falling apart but the Government continues telling the world all is fine. Anything that is not the truth is a lie. A half-truth is a full lie. 
That is deception. That is how most South African politicians operate. There is no “no-spin zone” anymore.

The South African Government stinks. Rolling in manure will not make them smell better…it only makes the smell unnoticeable to the others who also roll in it.  Soon everyone rolls in it and no one notices the smell.

And then of course the timing of his decision is also interesting. Parliament will soon go into recess for the Christmas holidays which means there is very little time left this year for protracted debate on this matter. Come February, most of the ‘sting’ would have been taken out of the bite.

The timing of this decision is simply put, catastrophic for South Africa. The rand touched record lows to the dollar this week. This action will make that happen again. We were downgraded last week and are now flirting with ‘junk’ status among the rating agencies. And there is no official explanation as to why Nene was fired

The point here is to note the pattern. Take the decision but don't expose the reason. Don’t talk about the details, just take the decision. Pretend to hear a few suggestions but make sure there is no debate. Do NOT let the dissenting view or alternative options get on the stage.

What was once governed by the political representatives is now under the control of those who control the ANC and the Government. The public trust is broken.

If South Africans allow this underhanded shenanigans of Zuma and the ANC Government, they should assume the consequences which were intended by this decision.

The truth is harsh. It sounds mean, hateful, and intolerant. But the way one swallows the medicine does not determine whether or not the medicine is effective.

Monday, December 7, 2015




Stes de Necker

1. The Constitution

The Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, 1996 (Act 108 of 1996) (“the Constitution”), is the supreme law of the Republic of South Africa and provides, among others, how the three branches of Government, namely the Legislature (Parliament, provincial legislatures and municipal councils), the Executive Authority and the Judicial Authority should conduct their business. Both Houses of Parliament, namely the National Assembly and the National Council of Provinces (NCOP), play a role in this process.

Schedules 4 and 5 to the Constitution provide a list of functional areas in which Parliament and the Provincial legislatures are competent to make laws.

Schedule 4 lists those functional areas in which Parliament and the Provincial legislatures jointly have the power to make laws (for example matters relating to agriculture, consumer protection, health, housing, public transport and regional planning and development).

Schedule 5 lists the functional areas in which the Provincial legislatures may make laws (for example matters relating to provincial planning, liquor licensing, provincial roads and traffic and provincial sport).

Municipal Councils may make and administer by-laws for the administration of local government matters listed in Part B of Schedule 4 (for example building regulations, municipal health services and trading regulations) and Part B of Schedule 5 (for example control of public nuisances, fencing and fences, local amenities and street trading) to the Constitution.

The Constitution dictates, among other things, how the legislatures (Parliament, provincial legislatures and municipal councils) should conduct their legislative processes. In addition there are the relevant Rules of Parliament and the conventions of the other legislatures that have a bearing on lawmaking.

2. What is a Law 

The Law is a system of rules, usually enforced through a set of institutions to regulate human conduct.

It shapes politics, economics and society in many ways. There are different types of laws namely, contract law, property law, trust law, criminal law, constitutional law and administrative law.

Constitutional law provides a framework for the creation of law, the protection of human rights and the election of political representatives. Law also raises important issues concerning equality, fairness and justice

3. Legislative Authority

Parliament is the national legislature (law-making body) of South Africa. As such, one of its major functions is to pass new laws, to amend existing laws, and to repeal or abolish (cancel) old laws. This function is guided by the Constitution of South Africa, which governs and applies to all law and conduct within South Africa.

 The same power is exercised by provincial legislatures in the “provincial sphere” and by municipal councils in the “local sphere”.

4. Preparing legislation

Parliament considers draft pieces of legislation in order to exercise its power to make laws. The draft legislation, first called a Draft Bill and later a Bill, must formally be submitted to Parliament before it can consider making it a law. Most Bills are prepared by government departments under the direction of their minister.

The preparation of a Bill involves a number of steps, for example the investigation and evaluation of the legislative proposals and consultation with interested parties.

5. Green and White Papers

The process of making a law may start with a discussion document called a Green Paper that is drafted in the Ministry or department dealing with a particular issue.

This discussion document gives an idea of the general thinking that informs a particular policy. It is then published for comment, suggestions or ideas.

This leads to the development of a more refined discussion document, a White Paper, which is a broad statement of government policy. It is drafted by the relevant department or task team and the relevant parliamentary committees may propose amendments or other proposals.

After this, it is sent back to the Ministry for further discussion, input and final decisions.

6. Tagging

As soon as a Bill is introduced in Parliament it needs to be classified into one of the 4 categories mentioned above by the Joint Tagging Mechanism (JTM). This is called “tagging” and will determine the procedures the Bill must follow to become law.

The JTM consists of the Speaker and Deputy Speaker, and the Chairperson and permanent Deputy Chairperson of the Council. These office-bearers are assisted by the parliamentary legal advisors.

7. Cabinet approval

A Bill or draft law can only be introduced in Parliament by a Minister, a Deputy Minister, a parliamentary committee, or an individual Member of Parliament (MP). About 90% of Bills are initiated by the Executive.

Once all relevant inputs have been taken into account, the minister and departmental officials draft the legislative proposals. These are usually in the form of a Draft Bill and an explanatory memorandum. The minister will submit these documents to Cabinet in order to obtain approval for the introduction of the Bill in Parliament.

8. State law advisers

After Cabinet approval a copy of the Draft Bill is sent to Parliament.

However, before the submission is formal, the state law advisers must be approached to certify the Draft Bill. The role of the advisers is to ensure that the proposed legislation is in line with existing law and the provisions of the Constitution.

If they are satisfied that the Bill is technically correct and the provisions are legally sound they approve the Bill (called the “certification” of the Bill).

The Bill is then ready to be formally submitted to Parliament.

9. Introducing or Tabling a Law

In Parliamentary language the introduction is called “tabling”. Once the legislation becomes a document of Parliament the appendage “Draft” falls away.

Although any Bill may be introduced in the NA, only Bills that affect provinces may be introduced in the National Council of Provinces (NCOP). Only a cabinet minister, a deputy minister, a committee or an individual member of the National Assembly (NA) may introduce a Bill in the NA and only a committee of the NCOP or an individual member of the NCOP may introduce a Bill in that Council.

All Bills may be introduced only after prior notice of the tabling has been given in the Government Gazette. This notice must be accompanied by an explanatory summary of the Bill. If the Bill itself (instead of a summary) is published, the notice must contain an invitation to interested persons to submit written representations to the secretary of Parliament.

10. Categories

The Constitution distinguishes between four categories of Bills :

     Section 75 Bills are ordinary Bills not affecting the provinces;
    Section 76 Bills are ordinary Bills affecting the provinces;
   Section 77 Bills are money Bills that deal with appropriations, taxes, levies and duties; and
   Section 74 Bills that amend the Constitution.

The Constitution also prescribes the parliamentary process through which each of these categories of Bills must go before they can be passed by Parliament and become law.

11. National Assembly

11.1 First reading

A Bill becomes part of the National Assembly (NA) programme (Order Paper) when it is “read for the first time”. (This term comes from the early days of the English Parliament when members could not read and had to hear about legislation.)

11.2 Portfolio committees

After the first reading stage the Bill is referred to a committee of the NA for consideration. In the NA these committees are called portfolio committees.

If there is public interest in a Bill, the committee may organise public hearings to allow interested parties to submit written comments and sometimes make oral representations on the provisions of the Bill. 

The members of the committee are then tasked with considering and debating the Bill in order to determine whether they are satisfied. If they are not, they amend the Bill.

11.3 Second reading

At the conclusion of its work the committee submits the Bill, together with a report, to the NA for debate (called the second reading debate) and a vote.

If the NA passes the Bill, it is referred to the NCOP for its consideration. 

11.4 National Council of Provinces

The NCOP is made up of representatives of the nine provinces whose role is to look after their province’s interest.

The procedure followed will now depend on the tagging.

With Bills that follow Section 75 procedure (not affecting provinces), the Council members vote as parties and when there has to be a Section 76 procedure (provinces affected), the members vote as provinces, each province having one vote.

The NCOP’s committees are called select committees.

These committees function in the same way as those of the NA. Once a Bill has been debated by a committee, it is submitted to the Council for a vote.

When a Section 76 Bill is referred to the NCOP committee, the committee may be briefed by the relevant government department before it is sent to the provinces and discussed in each provincial legislature, first in committee and then in a plenary. The legislature votes to determine the province’s mandate on the Bill. It then goes back to the NCOP for the second reading and vote.

If the NCOP committee amends the Bill, it is referred back to the NA for agreement.

If the versions still differ, there are mediation mechanisms. However, should these mechanisms fail, the NA can send a Section 76 Bill to the President if it obtained a two-thirds majority. If it does not get two-thirds of the vote, it falls away.

If the versions on a Bill that follows Section 75 differ, the NA can discuss it once more and send it to the President. 

12. Types of Bills

12.1 Section 77 Bills - Money Bills must be introduced in the NA by the minister of finance and there are special considerations laid down by the Constitution.
Money Bills allocate public money for a particular purpose or imposes taxes, levies and duties. They can only be introduced by the Minister of Finance in the National Assembly.
In terms of the Money Bills Amendment Procedure and Related Matters Act, 2009 (Act No 9 of 2009), Parliament may amend money bills.

12.2 Section 74 Bills deal with Constitutional Amendments (Bills amending the Constitution) 
The Constitution can only be changed by a two-thirds majority of the NA. If the amendments affect the provinces or amend the bill of rights, then the Bill must also get a two-thirds majority in the NCOP.

All amendments affecting the provinces must be passed by both Houses. 

12.3 Section 75 Bills are ordinary Bills not affecting provinces 

These Bills can only be introduced in the NA and once it is passed it is sent to the NCOP for concurrence. A Bill is passed when there is a majority vote by delegates present, in favour of the Bill. 

12.5 Section 76 Bills are ordinary Bills that affect provinces 

The Bills are introduced in either the NA or NCOP and must be considered by both Houses. In the NCOP, votes are by provincial delegations and at least five provinces should vote in favour of a Bill before it is agreed to. Bills are usually considered by a provincial committee, which may hold public hearings on the Bill for comments and suggestions.

13. Signing the Bill into law

13.1 National Assembly

A Bill is referred to the President after it has passed through the NA and the NCOP. The Constitution requires that the President must assent and sign a Bill. (There are various options, including a referral to the Constitutional Court, if the President has reservations about the legislation.)
Once it is signed by the President, it becomes an Act of Parliament and a law of the land and must shortly thereafter be published in the Gazette.

An Act becomes binding on everyone when it is published in the Government Gazette or on a date determined in the legislation.

13.2 Provincial legislatures

The provincial governments draw up most provincial bills. They have to be approved by the executive councils before they are published in the Provincial Gazettes for public comment.
In exceptional circumstances Parliament may make provincial laws to maintain national security, maintain economic unity, establish minimum standards for service delivery, or to prevent unreasonable action by a province which affects the interests of another province or the country.

Bills introduced in a provincial legislature by the Speaker, are referred to a standing committee of the council. Public hearings and written submissions may or may not be invited by the committee who, after consultation, reports to the provincial legislature. 

In the legislature there is a vote after debate. The legislation is passed by majority vote.

The premier of a province has to sign a Bill into law. The provincial Act also has to be published and takes effect either then or on a date determined in terms of the new law.

13.3Local government

The executive committees of local councils are responsible for introducing by-laws.

By-laws are approved by a majority of the votes cast in a municipal council. It may not be passed unless all members of the council were given reasonable notice and the proposed by-law had been published for public comment.

A by-law may be enforced only after it has been published in the official gazette of the relevant province.

The by-laws must be made accessible to the public.

Friday, December 4, 2015

South Africa - Beyond Cure - South Africa is Terminally Ill

South Africa - Beyond Cure 

South Africa is Terminally Ill  

Stes de Necker

Some time ago I wrote an article on ‘South Africa’s Political Disease’ referring to the late Prof. Chris Barnard who said that the one thing he learned in medical science was that most diseases or ailments, will progressively degenerate until it reaches a certain point where curative treatment is no longer possible.

A certain "point of no return".

Once the degeneration has passed this limit, then all that remains is death of the patient or drastic intervention to operate and remove the affected body part.

For example, a hole in someone’s tooth can be filled, but once the rot became too much, then all that remains is to remove the tooth.

The current social situation in South Africa is certainly ideal comparable to Prof. Barnard's theory.

The question is: Can South Africa still be cured?

Never in the history of South Africa, has the socio-economic outlook for South Africa looked so grim. If this land was a human patient, it would have been admitted to an intensive care unit long ago!

After twenty one years of ANC rule, we are experiencing the worst economic conditions, unrest, murder, theft, corruption and civil disobedience this country has ever seen.

More worrying is the fact that political opportunists and radical elements like Julius Malema and the Youth League, effectively abuse the volatile political climate to promote their own socialist ideologies.

South Africa surprised the world in 1994 with its peaceful transition to a new political order and the relatively peaceful progress that has been made during the first years of democracy.  

It is unfortunate that the country's president, Jacob Zuma, and the ANC Government doesn’t seem to fathom the seriousness of the current socio-economic unrest and civil disobedience experienced in South Africa today. These are merely the symptoms of a much more serious underlying cause.

Patchwork, whenever trouble arises, will not solve the problem. On the contrary, it only give those radicals, who want to overthrow the existing order, more power in their quest for revolution. Forced economic adjustments, adjustments in the education system, economic adjustments in the interest rate and a host of other “patches” only aggravate the situation even more!

Drastic changes in government policy is needed to restore the situation. Drastic changes which are unfortunately impossible to introduce under current Government ideology. 

For example:
• To end demonstrations and riots with force when the nation's security is under threat;
• To restrict so-called freedom of speech when domestic security is threatened;
• To effectively eradicate corruption and self-enrichment;
• To get rid of inefficiency when service delivery doesn’t take place.   

Since 1994 this government could not manage to grow South Africa's economy by more than 3.5% pa. At this rate of growth there exist no possibility to solve the unemployment problem, which lies at the root of all other socio-economic disorders.

Distribution of income between rich and poor is much more un-evenly than in 1994, the country's food supply has drastically decreased, real inflation has soared and South Africa has one of the world's highest unemployment rates.

The rich is getting richer and the poor is getting poorer. Domestic debt has risen to levels never experienced before. Students owe universities as much as R4 bill. in outstanding tuition and residency fees.

No country in the world can survive so many deficiencies in its system!

Unfortunately, the South African government for too long has neglected to treat ailments in the system effectively. Since 1994 unpopular decisions were postponed, serious deficiencies were not addressed and painful corrections were not done.

The question is:
Can the situation in South Africa still be cured, or are we already past the point of no return?

I, for one, believe that we are already past that point. 

While South Africa faces an imminent political and economic meltdown the ANC Government continues dancing around the fire of political opportunism and denial of the reality.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

"Cry the Beloved Country" - Today we cry even harder

"Cry the Beloved Country"

(Cry, the Beloved Country is a novel written by Alan Paton first published in 1948, before passage of a series of laws institutionalizing the apartheid political system in South Africa.   The book is a social protest against the structures of the society that would later give rise to the ideology of apartheid.)  

Today we cry even harder

                                                                                                 Stes de Necker

How is it possible that thousands of foreign visitors, who visited South Africa a decade ago, are avoiding this country totally today?

How is it possible that so many foreign investors, who a decade ago, was still so excited to invest in South Africa, took their investments elsewhere.

How is it possible that peaceful marches and protest demonstrations can nowadays, within the space of minutes, degenerate into violence and mayhem.

Where did it all go so wrong.

According to the Auditor-General’s latest report, R25.7bn has been wasted. International ratings agencies have already given South Africa a junk status rating. The Treasury is running out of funds and soon it will become almost impossible to borrow money. 

Inbred anti-capitalism makes the  ANC hostile to any form of business. Instead of encouraging capital investment, both domestic and foreign, to create the jobs and tax revenue, they disregard it almost to the point of antagonism. They regard foreign investors as exploiters who are extorting our workers and taking the profits gleaned from our resources out of the country. And they regard domestic capitalists as apartheid collaborators and economic exploiters from the past.

Already, the interest we are paying on loans constitutes the largest expenditure item on our national budget. Without further borrowing, the Treasury will simply run out of money. That is when governments have to start abandoning development projects and cutting back on maintenance. 

And along that road is a point at which a government finds it doesn’t have enough money to pay salaries. That, as even the doziest sleepwalker must realise, is when real trouble starts.   

The government's controversial tender system is not assisting the matter either. It provides the opportunity for every friend and family member of the ruling elite to obtain extremely lucrative contracts, the vast majority of which are never carried out, or otherwise being performed so poorly that the work or service needs to be redone anyway.

For those who are not sufficiently blood related to the ruling elite, there is always the possibility of a lucrative position somewhere in the ANC's cadre deployment. Once you’re in that position, theft and corruption seems to follow naturally. 

Inequitable black economic empowerment, affirmative action and land reform were, and still is, the greatest evils in the ANC political culture.

South Africa is littered with failed economical development projects while millions of development funds ended up in the pockets of corrupt ANC leaders and supporters.

Once highly productive agricultural land lie uncultivated and unproductive today. The ruins and rusty implements and equipment of once thriving farming units, serve little more than forgotten tombstones of once vibrant and economically active farming communities.

Self-enrichment and personal interest is the order of the day. The inability of the government to take effective action at the stage when they were suppose to do it, caused this ill to proliferate to the point that one gets the impression that there exist the belief that, if you do not grab your share now, don’t cry the day when there is no longer anything left to grab!

The latest report by Transparency International sees South Africa top the list of countries where citizens believe the problem has got worse in the last year.
Over 80% of South Africans who were interviewed thought that corruption had increased over the last year. Ghana and Nigeria are some of the other worst-affected nations.
79% of South Africans surveyed also believe that not enough is being done to curb corruption. On the continent‚ the majority of Africans (58%) say that corruption has increased over the past year.
If there is one shining light to the survey it’s that 56% of South Africans surveyed believe that ordinary people can make a difference in the fight against corruption.
The survey found that 25% of respondents in SA believe that the most effective way for ordinary citizens to combat corruption is by reporting their experiences‚ followed by a further 22% who identified the refusal to pay bribes as an effective means to fight corruption.
With 43‚143 respondents, across 28 countries surveyed, people feel the police, business executives, government officials and the courts were all perceived as corrupt, with 75 million people estimated to have paid a bribe in the past year, AFP reports.
Between Pres. Jacob Zuma continuing pouring money into his Nkandla bunkers, Prasa’s pathetic locomotives acquisition, the much debated arms deal  and countless of other scandals, Zuma has succeeded in establishing a patronage administration of loyalists to protect himself from the implications of his involvement in the arms deal and Nkandla scandals. Now those loyalists are worrying about what will happen to them when Zuma’s term ends.
Ordinary South Africans aren’t exactly stoked about the state of affairs.“People are outraged, they see this huge spending as part of government corruption,” David Lewis, director of Corruption Watch, a local anti-graft organisation, told AFP.
Most, if not all, South Africa's problems are rooted in a corrupt, clueless and immoral ANC Government. The ANC has turnined its back on human rights and freedom by allying itself with the world’s most corrupt regimes.

The ANC has become an ideological hybrid, with a capitalist finance minister and Marxist-Leninist ministers of economic development and trade and industry. The result is gridlock. The administration cannot function as a unit with clear direction. So nothing is achieved. The country wallows in a trough of inertia while the problems mount.

Thae Anc's lack of perception is not confined to economics only: it is equally lacking in its inability to project a clear political course for the country.

As long as the minority ANC political elite remains in government, and in power, it is unlikely that any significant improvement in the prevailing conditions will occur in the near future.

Never before was the saying that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolute, so true as in the case of South Africa. 

Saturday, November 28, 2015




Stes de Necker

Camp Ashraf forerunner to Camp Liberty

Camp Liberty is a former United States military installation in Baghdad, Iraq, now being used to house the members of the People's Mujahedin of Iran (PMOI, also called MEK) who were forcibly evicted from Camp Ashraf.

Camp Ashraf or Ashraf City was a camp in Iraq's Diyala province, having the character of a small city with all basic infrastructure, and headquarters of the exiled People's Mujahedin of Iran (PMOI/MEK). The population used to be around 3,400 in 2012 but nearly all have been more or less forcibly relocated under pressure by the premier minister Nouri al-Maliki's office of the Government of Iraq to Camp Liberty near BIAP (Baghdad International Airport).

Camp Ashraf (aka US Forward Operating Base Grizzly) is situated 27.6 km northeast of the Iraqi town of Khalis, about 80 kilometers west of the Iran border and 40 kilometers north of Baghdad. Ashraf was created in 1986, after the PMOI leadership relocated from France to Iraq. It began as barren land with only a handful of deserted buildings and no facilities, paved roads, or running water. Over 25 years, however, Ashraf was built by its residents into a modern city with a complex of roads and buildings with many educational, social and sports facilities, and it became the PMOI's main enclave in Iraq.

One remarkable characteristic of Ashraf was the presence of thousands of people who have freely chosen to come to Ashraf with only one goal and desire—to dedicate their lives to their people’s freedom from the clutches of the mullahs’ terrorist religious dictatorship.

Prior to the 2003 U.S.-led war in Iraq, the PMOI publicly declared its neutrality and played no part in the conflict. In the early part of the invasion, as a result of quid pro quo between Washington and Tehran, PMOI bases were repeatedly bombed by Coalition forces, inflicting dozens of casualties and enormous structural damage.

In April 2003, US forces signed a cease-fire agreement of "mutual understanding and coordination" with the PMOI. Finally in May 2003, as a result of negotiations between the PMOI and US forces led by General Ray Odierno, the PMOI agreed to a "voluntary consolidation" and disarming of its forces in exchange for US protection of Camp Ashraf and its residents.

After an extensive 16-month investigation of every member of the PMOI in Camp Ashraf by seven different US government agencies that began after the US agreement, PMOI members were found not to have violated any US law [New York Times, July 27, 2004]. In addition, the US Government declared them to have been "non-combatants" during the 2003 war.

In 2004 the US led Multi-National Force - Iraq (MNF-I) formally recognized all the residents of Camp Ashraf as "Protected Persons" under the Fourth Geneva Convention [Coalition Statement, July 2004], and U.S. forces took up their protection.

On 1 January 2009, despite strong opposition by the residents and several legal opinions by distinguished jurists, the camp's security was transferred to Iraq without necessary credible guarantees. The US stated that the Government of Iraq has given written guarantee respecting the rights of the residents. For over 10 years, Camp Ashraf has been attacked several times, the worst being on April 8, 2011 when Iraqi security forces stormed the camp and killed as many as 36 and wounding 320 residents, and on September 1, 2013, leaving a death toll of 52 victims.

Relocation to Camp Liberty

Under strong pressure by the Iraqi government, whose declared will is to expel the People's Mujahedin of Iran (PMOI/MEK) from Iraq, but who was aided as well by the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) under the pretext to preserve their security, near all of the 3400 MEK residents of Camp Ashraf were forcedly moved to Camp Liberty in 2012.

Following an agreement between Ambassador Martin Kobler of UNAMI and the Government of Iraq, and at the behest of the Iranian regime, Ashraf residents were subject to a forced eviction and involuntary relocation to Camp Liberty, a former U.S.-base in Baghdad.

Martin Kobler, the Special Representative of the UN Secretary General in Iraq, misled the residents and the international community by repeated assurances about the residents welfare and protection at the new site which has until now proved to be blatantly false.

In 2012, some 3,200 residents moved to Camp Liberty, but Iraq has denied them freedom of movement, basic humanitarian needs, and the right to transfer or sell most of their property.
The MEK is a political party was banned in Iran in the aftermath of the Iranian Revolution, which the government of its host country of Iraq still considers it to be a terrorist organization.

Establishment of Camp Liberty

Camp Liberty first came into existence during the 2003 invasion of Iraq as Camp Victory North, and was renamed (its Arabic translation is "Camp Al-Tahreer") in mid-September 2004 to its later name of Camp Liberty (in Arabic "Camp Hurriya").Other camps that made up the Victory Base Complex include Camp Victory (formerly known as Camp Victory South), Camp Striker, Seitz, and Camp Slayer. The renaming was part of an effort to give U.S. facilities around Baghdad friendlier connotations, and an attempt to resolve the issue of constantly changing facility names.

During the Iraq War, following the 2003 Invasion of Iraq, the base was a large coalition military installation located northeast of the Baghdad International Airport (BIAP), becoming part of the U.S. military's Victory Base Complex (VBC).

Camp Liberty was twice the size of Camp Bondsteel in Kosovo, and one of the largest U.S. overseas posts built since the Vietnam War.

Billions of American tax payer’s dollars were spent to establish this military installation. The camp was equipped with some of the most modern infrastructure equipment like electrical generators, water purification plants, medical facilities, dining halls, command centres and accommodation and ablution quarters.

A substantial amount was also spent on upgrading the infrastructure of the nearby airport used for air transport.

For all intense and purpose, Camp Liberty was now American territory.

Life in Camp Liberty after 2012

Martin Kobler, the Special Representative of the UN Secretary General in Iraq (SRSG), gave the residents repeated assurances about their welfare and protection at the new site. But the Government of Iraq (GoI) has imposed a siege on the camp and denied them the right to transfer or sell most of their property.

In violation of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed between Iraq and the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI), Camp Liberty lacks human rights standards and is considered a prison from every aspect.

Residents have no freedom of movement, and Iraq has banned them from having access to their relatives, human rights activists, parliamentarians, reporters and any foreign visitor in Liberty or Ashraf.

This helped partly to convince the United States removing the MEK from its list of designated terrorist groups. 

The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention on 23 November 2012 described conditions at Camp Liberty as synonymous with that of a detention centre and in violation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and called on the Iraqi government for the "immediate release and lifting of all restraints upon the free movements of these persons". This was the second opinion adopted by the Working Group detailing abuses at the camp. 
Another opinion issued on 17 July 2012 found similar abuses taking place.

A rocket and mortar attack left at least eight dead and nearly 100 wounded occurred at Camp Hurriya on 9 February 2013.

Iranian residents of Camp Liberty and their representatives and lawyers appealed to the UN Secretary-General and U.S. officials to let them return to Ashraf, which they say is 80 times larger than Liberty and has concrete buildings and shelters that offer more protection. They argue that this move is all the more imperative because according to the UN Refugee Agency and the US embassy in Baghdad, resettlement will take anywhere from three to 10 years. So, the residents would be at risk of further attacks and the move to Ashraf would not hinder their resettlement.

On 29 April 2013, 20 explosions hit Camp Liberty/Camp Hurriya. Its residents accuse the Iraqi government of failing to offer adequate protection or medical care.

A deadly rocket attack occurred on 26 December 2013, killing four Iranian dissidents and wounding about seventy. This was the last of a total of four rocket attacks to Camp Liberty in 2013. 

The destructive power of 26 December attack was particularly high, as in addition to previously used rockets, missiles hit the camp with had about 10 times explosive power. Iraqi authorities have repeatedly denied involvement in attacks on the group. However, in a rare claim of responsibility for attacks on the MEK, Wathiq al-Batat, commander of the al-Mukhtar Army militia, admitted his group had fired rockets at the camp. This army is a relatively new Shi'ite militia, which has said it is supported and funded by Iran. Batat is a former leader of the more well-known Kata'ib Hezbollah militia. 

The UNHCR called on the government of Iraq to urgently scale up security measures in the camp to ensure the safety and security of its residents. UNHCR urgently reiterated the need to find solutions for the camp's residents, and appealed to countries to find places for 1,400 persons from Camp Liberty that had been submitted for relocation since 2011, stating that only 311 residents were secured to third countries so far.

The National Council of Resistance of Iran informed and warned on activities in Iraq by Iranian Quds Force, led by Qasem Soleimani, aimed to massacre Camp Liberty residents via a joint operation with Iraqi forces. In August 2014, the Iraqi government started to block food, fuel and water supplies. 
Former UNAMI chief Ad Melkert, who, in fall 2009, had strived to find a mediated solution for residents to remain protected in their original home city Camp Ashraf, appealed to UNAMI to hold the Iraqi government accountable for creating the descent conditions in Liberty and for blockading the delivery of daily life essentials.

In October 2014, the Committee on Political Affairs and Democracy of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe reiterated its concern over the situation, namely over a recent statement of the Iraqi Minister of Justice, in which he said that if Iran asked for the extradition of the residents of Camp Liberty, Iraq would deliver them.

As per December 2014, UNHCR informed that it has been working since February 2012 to identify "individuals with international protection needs" and to find solutions outside Iraq for the remaining population of still 2,746 individuals. 

On 30 January 2015, 100 Members of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe in a written declaration urged Europe, USA, and UN that "Camp Liberty, home to Iranian exiles in Iraq, be recognized as refugee camp under supervision of UNHCR and specially medical and fuel siege be ended." 

Instead of designating Camp Liberty as a refugee camp, the camp has been illegally designated a “temporary transit location - TTL” to cover up the appalling lack of minimum standards for a refugee camp and violation of laws and regulations related to refugees and asylum seekers. The term TTL applies to a camp which has a several-day or several-week passage for transferring refugees to third countries.

Latest Rocket Attack on Camp Liberty

On the evening of 29th October 2015, another heavy rocket attack killed more than 20 residents in the camp. As with regard to many past attacks to Camp Liberty and Camp Ashraf, evidence points to Iran paramilitary forces being the perpetrators.

“This was a horrific act of violence against the residents of Camp Liberty, which cannot simply be ignored by the Iraqi authorities. They must ensure a prompt, independent and effective investigation into this attack and ensure that those responsible are brought to justice,” said Said Boumedouha, Deputy Director of Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Programme.

“Their utter failure to investigate previous deadly attacks against the camp sends the message that its residents can be murdered with impunity.”

Eyewitnesses told Amnesty International that the attack started around 7.40 pm local time as camp residents were gathering for dinner. Twenty people were killed instantly while another four later died from injuries in a Baghdad hospital.

Residents said around 80 rockets hit the camp, which they identified as Iranian built Falaq Katyusha rockets, though Iraqi media reported that between 12 and 38 rockets were fired.

The attack caused widespread destruction as it hit the camp’s electricity generators while hundreds of residents have been left homeless. The damages inflicted on PMOI properties at Camp Liberty because of the missile attack last night has been estimated at over $10 million. 

This includes 131 trailers completely destroyed and 226 rendered unusable. Ten dining halls have been totally devastated or can no longer be used. 275 air conditioners have also been demolished

The Iraqi government has yet to make a statement on the events, but other governments as well as the UN Refugee Agency – which considers Camp Liberty residents “people of concern” – have condemned the attack.

The Iraqi authorities’ silence about the killing of 24 people is inexcusable. They are manifestly failing in their duty under international law to protect everyone in the camp, many of whom are asylum-seekers. On top of the loss of life, the destruction caused by the attack has left many residents facing desperate conditions. The Iraq government must urgently ensure that electricity and water are restored, and that those whose homes have been destroyed are provided with adequate temporary shelter without delay.

UNHCR strongly condemned the attacks and stated that the residents are entitled to protection against expulsion or forced movement to any place where their lives or freedom would be threatened, and informed that it has supported the relocation of more than 900 residents to safe third countries since 2011; as however, approximately 2,160 people still remain, UNHCR renewed its calls upon governments of other countries to find ways to offer long term solutions.

The European Iraqi Freedom Association (EIFA), led by Struan Stevenson, Chairman of the European Parliament’s Delegation for Relations with Iraq from 2009 to 2014, who was deeply involved in diplomacy aiming to safeguard the lives and human rights of the residents of Camp Ashraf, stated that to avoid further bloodshed just condemning the atrocity is not enough.

EIFA urged the USA to provide air cover for Camp Liberty, the UN to "stop any further obfuscation and officially recognize Camp Liberty as a refugee camp under its direct supervision and protection" and asked that the "international assistance to Iraq must be suspended forthwith until the security of the Camp Liberty residents is assured".

Since the 29 October 2015 missile attack on Camp liberty and notwithstanding the international condemnation by a host of politicians and other role players in the Western World, the Iraqi Government, in a clear show of contemptuous defiance of the feelings and opinions of the West, has intensified the blockade imposed on the camp and prevented the delivery of basic daily necessities.

Fuel and sewage discharge trucks, along with machinery needed to clean up the remaining debris after the attack and supplies necessary for repairing damaged trailers, various equipment and appliances were blocked from entering the Camp in a blatant attempt to seriously harm the survivors of the missile attack.

What the American people are not told

As mentioned earlier, Camp Liberty was established as a military base during the Gulf War and was officially recognized as American territory.

After the Obama administration withdrew the American forces from Iraq in 2011, Camp Liberty and the Iranian refugees were left behind, unprotected and uncared for.

Not only were the refugees left to fend for themselves, but the entire multi billion dollar military installation was abandoned without taking any further responsibility for the Camp and its residents. 

Assets worth billions of American tax payers’ money and 3000 helpless Iranian refugees, sympathetic to the American cause, were left abandoned and unprotected.

Not to mention the legal agreements with the residents that was simply just walked away from; ignored and dishonored.

This disgraceful act of dishonesty will remain a stain on America’s good name until the US Government has corrected this atrocity.