July 19 (UPI) -- An angry row has broken out between the European Union and the Iranian regime following an explosive statement by Janez Janša, the prime minister of Slovenia.
Janša was addressing the three-day Free Iran World Summit organized by the key Iranian opposition movement, the National Council of Resistance of Iran). On July 10, Janša told the conference the "Iranian people deserve democracy, freedom and human rights and should be firmly supported by the international community." He went on to say, "The Iranian regime must be held accountable for human rights violations."
Normally, a statement like this from the prime minister of Slovenia would have barely raised an eyebrow. But under the rotating presidency of the EU's 27 member states, Slovenia assumed that role at the beginning of July and Janša has taken on the lofty position of president in Office of the Council of Ministers, effectively speaking on behalf of the EU's elected governments.
Deeply riled by the NCRI's summit, which had attracted scores of former prime ministers, foreign ministers, senators, congressmen, parliamentarians, ambassadors and other dignitaries from around the globe as keynote speakers, together with tens of thousands of attendees, the Iranian regime blew a fuse when it heard Janša's speech.
Javad Zarif, the theocratic regime's foreign minister, summoned the Slovenian ambassador in Tehran to lodge a strong protest. He then telephoned the EU's High Representative for Foreign Affairs Josep Borrell, demanding that he distance the EU from Janša's comments. Predictably, Borrell acquiesced, issuing a statement saying that Janša's comments were "most definitely not" a reflection of the EU's position.
Borrell's attempts at appeasement were quickly condemned by Professor Alejo Vidal-Quadras, a Spanish former senior vice president of the European Parliament, and Giulio Terzi, former foreign minister of Italy, who wrote to the high representative asking for clarification. They wanted to know what exactly Borrell objected to in the statement by Janša. They asked in a letter to Borrell, "Is it your definitive position that the EU does not believe the Iranian people deserve democracy, freedom and human rights? Do you believe the Iranian people should not be supported by the international community? Is it your opinion that the Iranian regime should not be held accountable for human rights violations?"
In their highly charged letter to Borrell, Vidal-Quadras and Terzi told the high representative, "Your comments can also be seen as implicitly condoning the Iranian regime's crimes against humanity, which are well documented. It is our understanding that EU officials have a legal obligation to condemn rather than condone violations of human rights. We would seek your explanation for this apparent breach of EU normal procedures? We are also interested to understand the exact circumstances of the Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif's phone conversation with you on this matter. Did Mr Zarif lobby you to condemn the president in office's statement?"
Their letter concluded with the remark, "We are deeply concerned that your rush to distance the EU from Prime Minister Janša's statement on Iran has seriously undermined the EU's credibility and its longstanding position as a leading exemplar of human rights."
Last month, the Iranian people boycotted the sham presidential elections, which saw the notorious executioner and torturer Ebrahim Raisi proclaimed as president-elect. Despite the regime's claims of a near 50% turnout at the election, monitoring of polling stations across the towns and cities of Iran by resistance units of the Mojahedin e-Khalq estimated the true turnout to be less than 10%. Speaker after speaker at the NCRI Free Iran World Summit condemned the fake elections and called for President-elect Raisi to be held accountable for genocide and crimes against humanity for his role in the massacre of more than 30,000 political prisoners in 1988, most of whom were supporters of the MEK.
In a robust reaction to the mullahs' hysteria over his summit speech, Janša tweeted July 12: "#Slovenia will never give up supporting #HumanRights and #Fundamentalfreedoms. We were not afraid defending them 30 years ago, and we will always put values before ideology and paid interests."
His pointed remarks in reference to Slovenia's emergence as a democracy during the breakup of the Balkans in 1991 will have acted as a sharp reminder to other European leaders who escaped from decades of oppression by the Soviet Union. The vicious oppression of the mullahs is not something that can be appeased.
They have shown their contempt for the EU's policy of appeasement by sending an accredited diplomat to bomb a major NCRI opposition rally in Paris in the summer of 2018. Forty-two years of medieval brutality has seen tens of thousands of dissidents executed simply for opposing the regime. Nationwide protests are repeatedly crushed. Some 1,500 unarmed, mostly young, protesters were shot dead in a mass uprising in late 2019. Thousands more were injured, with many dragged off to prison from their hospital beds, never to be seen again.
This is the regime that Borrell and the EU appeasers want to reopen nuclear negotiations with. Borrell failed to utter a word of reproach following the arrest, trial and conviction of the Iranian diplomat and his co-conspirators for their attempted bomb outrage. Instead of seeking to resurrect the failed nuclear deal, Borrell and the EU should be seeking the urgent indictment of Raisi in the international courts for crimes against humanity. The EU should take a lead from the courageous statement by Janša and give their full support to the oppressed Iranian people.
Struan Stevenson is the Coordinator of the Campaign for Iran Change. He was a member of the European Parliament representing Scotland (1999-2014), president of the Parliament's Delegation for Relations with Iraq (2009-14) and chairman of the Friends of a Free Iran Intergroup (2004-14). He is an international lecturer on the Middle East and president of the European Iraqi Freedom Association.
The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.