Usually today, the competent parliamentary commission votes for an exchange treaty with Iran. Yesterday, there were so many critical questions and comments from both the opposition and the majority that they haven’t been voted on yet. What exactly does the treaty say, and why does it attract so much criticism?

What is included in the treaty?

Our country has signed an exchange treaty with Iran. The treaty still must be approved and ratified by our parliament and the Tehran parliament. Today, for the second consecutive day, Ball is in court on the House Foreign Affairs Committee. There, after (potential) approval is obtained, the plenary session is (probably) followed by the final green light.

After that, Japan can send inmates of Iranian nationality to Iran for the rest of their sentence. Conversely, Iran can send us prisoners of Belgian nationality. The two countries must agree on a case-by-case basis. At the same time, the recipient country is free to shorten the judgment or even grant an amnesty.

Justice Minister Vincent Van Quickenborn (Open VLD) yesterday emphasized at the House Committee that the treaty includes guarantees of privacy and human rights. “The detainee will never be transferred against his or her will,” he said.

Which prisoner we may be talking about?

Specifically, I know one Belgian who is currently housed in an Iranian cell. This is about Olivier Vandecasteele, a Belgian employee of the NGO. According to his family, there is no motive for his imprisonment. What Minister Van Quickenborn emphasized at House yesterday. “There are no slight signs that these claims are based on true facts,” he said.

This plan was generally thought to have been set up to release Ahmad Rezajarari. This is a VUB Swedish and Iranian visiting professor who has been detained in Iran since 2016 and sentenced to death on suspicion of espionage. Jalari is not covered by the treaty because he does not have Belgian nationality. Van Quickenborn also confirmed this.

Conversely, there are currently about 25 Iranians in Belgian prisons who may be eligible for exchange. The most popular name is the name of the Iranian terrorist Assadollah Assadi, who was convicted in Antwerp.

He was planning a bomb attack on Iran’s opposition in Europe. He was intercepted with his wife and a bomb bag on the way to the attack. He is currently serving 20 years in prison.

Why is the treaty criticized?

Iran is not a country known for its exemplary respect for human rights. For example, Jalari has been tortured and detained for very suspicious reasons. The allegations against Vandecasteele are doubtful, to say the least.

Critics fear that the treaty will further increase Iran’s tendency to arrest Belgians and use them as a means of extortion. Prominent Americans, including former FBI Directors and former NATO Commanders, had previously written to Speaker of the House Elian Tillyu (PS) that they thought the treaty was a bad idea.

Iran’s opposition has also strongly criticized the agreement with countries that violate human rights. “It’s unacceptable. If we do this, we encourage the administration to take more people hostage. It’s like deploying the red carpet for Iran’s terrorists in Belgium,” Iran said. Behzad Nazari of the National Council of the Resistance (NCRI) said.

We will also be the first Western countries to conclude such a treaty with Iran. Australia and Britain also exchanged prisoners of war with the Tehran administration, but in a closed room. So there is no treaty.

Will it be approved?

Actually, I intended to approve it yesterday, but that didn’t work. I didn’t have time to vote on the bill because there were so many important questions and comments. The House Committee could not be extended due to agenda issues. The vote is scheduled for today at the earliest.

“Rogue nations know that Belgium can be kneeled and blackmailed through this treaty,” said N-VA leader Peter de Louver. “We fundamentally increase the risk that our compatriots will be used as currency. In the end, our country can be blackmailed, so we invite terrorists to Belgium to plan an attack here. Frams Belgian pointed out that after the possibility of exchange with Asadi, nothing would immediately prevent Iran’s liberation.

To be clear, these critical statements weren’t just from the opposition bench. Some of the majority of lawmakers also had serious reservations about the treaty. “Will this open the door to a sort of hostage diplomacy,” asked Green MP’s Wooter de Vriend. “Assadi is a terrorist. Are you willing to voluntarily release the handcuffs of a convicted terrorist and give it to Iran as a big bowed gift?”

Other majority parties also asked serious questions. “We don’t want to give Iran a blank check,” Ecolo said. “How do you avoid being blackmailed?” They questioned the MR. CD & V was interested in the guarantees that the treaty would provide in the future, and PS was also important.

On paper, as the name implies, the majority have a majority of votes to approve the bill. However, given the high criticism of the same majority, we cannot deny being voted.

According to political journalist Bert Ferfurst, the treaty will probably be approved. “There is still a lot of talk behind the scenes in the majority, but the Minister of Justice expects this to be approved. The same sound can be heard by the chair of the CD & V Commission and the leader of the PS.” Says Verhulst. .. “According to him, there is already an agreement within the top of the government.”

What if I get a vote?

According to Justice Minister Van Quickenborn, the treaty needs to be approved. “My compass is a security service compass. They say very clearly. Not signing a treaty means more hostages tomorrow,” said the minister. “This is about protecting the interests of our country and our compatriots.”

At the same time, the treaty with Iran is only one of five treaties created by the same bill. He is also involved in an agreement with India on mutual legal assistance. And a similar agreement with the United Arab Emirates (UAE) related to extradition treaties.

The latter is especially urgent. This is because it involves a SkyECC file suspect who may escape in the Emirate. No specific details have been disclosed for security reasons, but it may relate to organized crime and the violent war on drugs that rage in Antwerp.

Therefore, if the bill is rejected, there is a risk that the other four treaties will not be approved for the time being. According to opponents, the majority are abusing the urgency of those other files to promote an exchange agreement with Iran.

Source: vrt

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