US Should Protect Rights for those in Camps Ashraf & Liberty
The US Should Protect Not Trample Upon the Rights of Residents of Camps Ashraf & Liberty
Five months after members of the Iranian opposition PMOI, started to abandon their homes in Camp Ashraf in Iraq to be relocated to Camp “Liberty” near Baghdad airport under UN supervision, the relocation has been stalled due to lack of cooperation and repressive actions by Iraqi Government.
Ashraf residents have shown their full cooperation to the UN-Iraq agreement. Since February, around 2000 of them have moved to Liberty. But the residents have not been allowed to bring their property from Ashraf; have not been given access to sufficient water and electricity; and are not even allowed the minimum constructions for the disabled and people with special needs.
To our surprise, the US State Department officials on Friday in a special press briefing blamed the residents of Ashraf for the “impasse” that exists since May 4, when six trucks of thoroughly-inspected-and-approved essential needs of the last convoy moving from Ashraf was returned mid-way and never arrived to Liberty.
Instead of reminding Iraq to fulfill its duties under the UN agreement for the relocation to proceed, US officials now point the finger at the residents and even threatened that “the patience of the Iraqi Government is wearing thin.” This is tantamount to a green light that if the residents don’t abandon their property and move to a prison-like condition, Iraq has the right to resort to violence and produce new bloodbaths.
The officials also called Ashraf a “paramilitary camp” and claimed that they were not sure the residents were not involved in terrorisms “on a case-by-case basis.”
This is an absolute distortion of truth. In 2004, New York Times quoted Senior US officials that 16 months of thorough US investigation (including taking finger prints, DNA test etc), did not find one single individual at Camp Ashraf that could be linked with terrorism. That was the basis for US granting all residents of Ashraf the status of “protected persons” under the 4th Geneva Convention.
The United States has a legal and moral obligation to uphold its commitment to the Iranian dissidents who voluntarily disarmed in 2003 in return for US protection. The US Secretary of State will be held accountable in the unlikely event of any new violence by Iraqi forces against these defenseless refugees.
On June 1, a unanimous three-judge panel of US Court of Appeals D.C. ordered the Secretary of State to decide about the removal of PMOI on US blacklist. If she fails, the Court will automatically remove the designation by October 1. Furthermore, the Court did not accept Secretary’s demand to make that decision conditional to the evacuation of Camp Ashraf.
But as has been stressed time and again, Ashraf residents are eager to keep their promise and relocate to Camp Liberty as soon as minimum humanitarian conditions are realised at that camp.
Leader of Christian Democratic and Flemish Group in Belgian Senate
President of Belgian Committee of Parliamentarians for a Democratic Iran
For the past 26 years, Camp Ashraf, north east of Baghdad, has been home to 3400 Iranian dissidents dedicated to overthrow the tyrannical rulers in their country.
Following the US-led invention of Iraq in 2003, residents of Camp Ashraf accepted – in signed agreement with US – voluntarily and full disarmament in return for US protection. But the US abandoned its agreement when it withdraw from Iraq in 2009 and handed over the residents to the pro-Tehran Iraqi Prime minister Al-Maliki who launched a repressive campaign against the dissidents. Ashraf was put under an inhumane siege and the defenseless residents were twice attacked by Maliki’s heavily armed forces which cost the lives of more than 50 innocent people and left hundreds wounded and many disabled.
Under UN’s insistence, and in order to avoid further bloodshed, Ashraf residents accepted to abandon their homes and move to Camp Liberty near Baghdad airport. There, the UN was meant to interview and find new host countries for them.
Five convoy’s of 400 people moved successively from Ashraf to Liberty but Iraq imposed increasingly repressive conditions on Liberty and turned it into a prison-like facility. When the last convoy moved from Ashraf to Liberty on 4 May, six trucks full of essential daily needs of the residents that had been thoroughly inspected and approved at Ashraf by the Iraqi government to move with the convoy to Liberty, was returned mid-way and never arrived to Liberty.
The residents of Ashraf then announced - as a security measure, that as long as their property that was approved under the UN-Iraq agreement is not delivered to Liberty no further groups will make the move. Two months later Iraq has not yet made that arrangement.