Friday, January 8, 2010

URGENT APPEAL: Take control of the camp Ashraf before the residents are transferred to an EU country

Hon. Ban Ki-moon
United Nations

Dear Secretary-General,

Camp Ashraf in Iraq is residence to 3,400 members of the People's Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI) who have built it during the last 23 years.  Following occupation of Iraq, in 2004, the residents of Ashraf were recognized as 'protected persons' under the Fourth Geneva Convention. The deadly attacks on defenseless Ashraf residents in July 2009 - carried out by the Iraqi forces - have made the situation in Ashraf into an international humanitarian issue.

The U.S.A. handed over the protection and control of the camp to the Iraqi forces at the beginning of 2009. However, the Government of Iraq, contrary to the guarantees it had given for respecting the rights of camp's residents, through a Committee at the Iraqi prime minister's office, expeditiously imposed a complete siege on Ashraf.

The Committee has forbidden the entry of human rights monitoring delegations, lawyers of the residents, and even residents’ relatives to Ashraf. The Committee has seriously limited or suppressed the residents' access to medicine, doctors and medical necessities. It has forbidden the entry of fuel for civilian use for many months. In order to incapacitate and crush the moral of the residents, the Iraqi government does not allow residents to sell their handicrafts or industrial productions for their daily income. The committee has practically turned the Camp into a prison for its inhabitants.

The policy of suppression and exerting pressure on the residents, which has been repeatedly demanded by the Iranian government, turned violent.  Concurrent with the suppression of the opposition and the Iranian people seeking freedom and a democratic change during nationwide demonstrations inside Iran, on 28-29July 2009, the Iraqi army and police forces brutally attacked the unarmed civilian residents of Ashraf.  During these unprovoked attacks against the camp, 11 residents were killed, more than 500 wounded, and 36 residents were arbitrarily arrested. According to independent reports, the Iraqi forces immediately placed these 36 residents under torture.

The following day, the Iranian authorities fervently welcomed this humanitarian catastrophe at the camp. For example, in a state-run TV program, Iranian regime parliament speaker Ali Larijani, expressed hope that the Iraqi government would not allow the residents to remain in Iraq. He added, "we welcome the move (raiding the camp) although it was late."

In addition to the deadly attacks and inhumane pressures on Ashraf - all in flagrant violation of Iraq's international obligations - the Iraqi government is trying to illegally displace Ashraf residents and send them to exile to remote deserts in southern Iraq. “Prime Minister Maliki wore to expel PMOI members…” He wrote, “Relocating them to Noqreh Salman is a first step for their final expulsion from Iraq” (Reuters, December 9, 2009). Noqreh Salman is a deserted location in southern Iraq and has been known as the most notorious prison and exile point for political prisoners with inhumane living conditions.

Unfortunately, the Iraqi government has acted in complete disregard for continuous protests of thousands of European and American lawmakers and international and humanitarian organizations. A year-long experience has shown that the Iraqi government not only has no intention of protecting defenseless Ashraf residents, but it has placed them under complete siege and has conducted attacks against them.

Therefore, in order to save the lives of Ashraf residents whose annihilation has become the mandate of the Iranian regime more than ever due to escalating uprisings for freedom inside Iran, the following articles should be immediately pursued by the monitoring organs of Camp Ashraf – the U.S. and the UN - to prevent another humanitarian catastrophe:

1.                  The United Nations should undertake the responsibility to protect Ashraf residents because the Iraqi government has proven during last year that it has neither the intention nor the ability or the competence to protect Ashraf residents.

2.                  Until UN forces assume responsibility for protection of Ashraf residents, U.S. forces in Iraq should guarantee that residents would not be subject to attack, brutality and forced displacement

3.                  Until Ashraf residents are transferred to a member state of EU or the U.S., the Iraqi government should officially admit to the rights of Ashraf residents according to the resolution adopted by the European Parliament on April 24, 2009, on Ashraf.

Adv. Shahanur Islam Saikot
Executive Director
Bangladesh Institute of Human Rights (BIHR)
27, Bijoy Nagar, Dhaka-1000, Bangladesh

Copies to:

Ms. Navi Pillay
High Commissioner for Human Rights

Ambassador Christopher R. Hill

Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, Commanding General, USF-I

Mr. Ad Melkert, Special Representative of Secretary-General  for Iraq
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