Dear citizens – from Belgium, from other European nations or from elsewhere in the world, most in particular from Iran; dear representatives of the Iranian opposition in Belgium,
Madam Hadja Lahbib, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of Belgium!
It was with outmost shock and bewilderment that I, as so many others, were informed of the secret negotiations between the government you now represent in Foreign Affairs and the Islamic Republic of Iran – negotiations leading to an ‘international treaty’ allowing for European hostages in Iran to be exchanged by Iranians who organised terrorist acts in Europe.
The Belgian judicial authorities have temporarily blocked this infamous deal and are now scrupulously reviewing its legitimacy. It is not my intention to address the legal and constitutional aspects of the suspended treaty, for a competent team of lawyers (representing some of the victims of the Iranian authority’s terrorist operations in question) are now challenging your government’s acts.
Notwithstanding, I take this opportunity to express my deepest respect and gratitude to all the Belgian magistrates, police officials, and civil servants in general whom during the years following the 2018 Paris terrorist attempt gave so much of themselves. Those who risked so much so as to ensure the rule of law and the fair trial of the culprits; those who worked so hard to protect their citizens from foreign terrorist powers.
It is certainly not their fault that the Belgian Government decided to disrespect these efforts and professionalism and conduct such an elusive deal with terrorists.
Earlier this month, the main Iranian opposition group presented an impressive compilation comprising over four decades of the Iranian regime’s hostage taking acts. Whereas up to now no Western democracy dared to transform shady deals with Iran into an ‘international treaty’, the study provides ample evidence that these informal, secret arrangements only led to further terrorist action by Iranian authorities.
I would like to express my outmost solidarity to Mr Olivier Vandecasteele, whose liberation from solitary confinement in Iran, as a Belgium hostage, has been presented by the Belgian government as the reason for the Belgo-Iran deal.
As his family, as the Belgium security services claim, and as the common practice of the Iranian confirms, he is undoubtedly but an innocent victim of the barbaric theocracy.
Every innocent hostage of the Iranian regime, as any other victim of these ruthless authorities, deserves the outmost attention by his elected representatives – in this case by Belgium, a free and humanitarian country. Like all human-rights advocates, I think that Belgium shall not spare efforts to defend this citizen’s rights. In the present case, this means his unconditional and immediate release.
However, can we consider advisable to trade his rights to life and freedom against the rights to life and freedom of any other innocent citizen? Would this be morally acceptable? Further, is it not an incentive for Iran and indeed other terrorists to take more hostages, more often, if the Belgian authorities’ actions confirms this to be a rather efficient way to achieve their goals?
To give a concrete example, does anyone doubt that the other group encompassing the terrorists who are now in public trial in Brussels for their attacks of 2016 is certainly meditating on how to follow Iran’s example and obtain some hostages to trade for impunity to their crimes?
The Brussels terrorist attacks of 2016, as the Paris terrorist foiled attack of 2018, showed the same resolve by terrorists to undermine human rights and to bend freedom-loving nations to the will of fanatics.
Can anyone seriously believe that sabotaging the functioning of Justice in one case will not have repercussions on the function of justice in the other?
The line of action by the current Belgian government is completely contrary to the interests of citizen security and well-being! The policy of betraying the victims of aggression, terrorism, and genocide so as to obtain basic citizen rights as ‘favours’ can only result in disaster.
There is an alternative to this course of action, and there is ample evidence that the Iranian dictators are scared that democratic countries will follow it, and this alternative is to stand firm on the defence of the principles of liberty and humanity!
The Belgian government must demand the unconditional and immediate release of Belgian hostages in Iran and shall to this aim the vast leverage it possesses – starting, obviously, with the expulsion of Iranian diplomats from Belgium.
For a stronger result, Belgium must wholly cooperate with other human-rights conscious nations – starting with Sweden, the other European country threatened by Iran for sentencing one of the assassins engaged in the 1988 massacre (which resulted in 30000 victims, mostly members of the People’s Mujahedeen Organisation of Iran). It must also cooperate with nations suffering from the Iranian imperial aggression and – most importantly – with the main victims of this evil regime, the Iranian people.
To overrule a judicial sentence condemning to the maximum penalty the main organiser of the terrorist act against a rally promoted by the Iranian opposition is also to fail the duty of solidarity with those who fight for freedom in Iran and elsewhere.
In a world where, unfortunately, countries like Iran repeatedly violate the basic principles of humanity, strong policies are needed. We need a strong and transparent security and defence policy, supporting an independent and responsible judicial system, for this is the prerequisite for defending the most important humanitarian goals – including peace.
Madame Minister. There is only one way to defend the values and interests of the Belgian people: to demand respect for Belgian nationals by third countries as a precondition to normal diplomatic relations; to prepare your country to defend the values you rightly cherish; to cooperate with all humanity-conscious countries; to revoke this shameful treaty!
(Speech of ARCHumankind director on a demonstration promoted by the National Council of Resistance of Iran in Brussels, 2022.09.19)