ISJ Statement- 1 March 2012
During the past 10 days that 400 Ashraf residents have been transferred to Camp Liberty, we have received very worrisome news. Yet, contrary to the January 31 statement and promises made by the Special Representative of the UN Secretary General, Liberty does not meet humanitarian and human rights standards and encompasses a very decedent infrastructure in need of significant improvement. This place, with the pervasive presence of Iraqi armed forces and a great number of surveillance cameras and lack of freedom of movement is in practical terms a prison. This is what has instigated the loath of the international community, from the U.S. Congress to the European Parliament. In a letter, signed by every resident of Liberty to the UN Secretary General and the U.S. Secretary of Sates, Hillary Clinton on February 27, they wrote:
” When we entered Camp Liberty, the condition of the camp was shocking. It was a place filled with garbage, no drinking or service water, and serious electricity shortage. The sewage system was not working and spread of black water in the Camp seriously endangers the residents’ health. The camp contains extremely dirty worn-out trailers which only a handful of them after repair could be temporarily used.
Among us are well-experienced engineers which have turned Camp Ashraf from a barren desert into an advanced city. However, they were prevented to take more than 90% of their vehicles and a large portion of their movable assets including utility vehicles and necessary maintenance tools and equipments. Therefore, our ability is limited. Not only we have been evicted from our homes but we are also denied to construct a temporary home.
The Camp is surrounded by tall walls. There is one police headquarters and several other police posts 150 armed police, in addition to round the clock patrolling. We were promised 24/7 UN monitoring, but we have 24/7 presence of the armed police inside Camp. We cannot leave the Camp. Our lawyers are not allowed into the Camp. Access to medical service is subject to permission from Iraqi authorities. In short, Liberty is a detention centre in poor condition”.
But what is more despicable is a campaign of disseminating lies with the intention of blaming the residents of Liberty responsible for the current state of affairs. As such it has been claimed that :
“The residents sabotaged the sewage tanks and sent photos around the world. They sabotaged the generator. They drained the water tanks. They scattered garbage around. Some even used nail files to remove their own finger prints. They initially refused to 2 sewage trucks, 2 water wagons and 2 garbage trucks into Liberty. They are not cooperating with UNHCR, not signing the papers and some or them sanded off their fingers.”
These charges are obviously irrational and senseless and it is abundantly clear what ominous objectives these cruel and malicious lies pursue. But when the Special Representative raised these charges with the representative of the residents outside of Iraq and at Camp Liberty on February 22 and 23, they offered oral and written, logical and convincing responses.
The documents to this effect are available. The residents wrote on February 27:
To cover up this scandal, we are facing a demonizing campaign with the aim of blaming us, the victims, for “lack of cooperation” or even “sabotage”. This is paving the way for next steps of conspiracy. It is continuation of demonizing campaign started 33 years ago by Khomeini, when he said the PMOI torture its people to tarnish the image of the “Islamic system”. The Iraqi government, when killed 36 of our sisters and brothers on April 8, 2011 blamed us for the crime.
But it is rather astonishing that the campaign of lies and disinformation continued vastly in Washington, New York, Geneva, Brussels and Baghdad. What shocked me more were telephone calls of the UN Secretary General Special Representative to the European Parliament members repeating these allegations.
The Iranian regime has a long history of criticizing the victim instead of the murderer. This regime carried out murder of Christian priests, explosion of Imam Reza’s sacred shrine in 1994 and killings in Mecca in 1988. Later the Iranian officials admitted that they put the responsibility on the opposition to defame them.
While uttering these lies, there are renewed efforts by the Iraqi government to transfer other groups of residents to Liberty. They have stated that next groups should be transferred to Liberty soon. On 28 February, a few hours before Mr. Kobler’s phone call to the European Parliament members, an Iraqi General went to Camp Ashraf residents and threatened them with forced displacement. It is difficult for me not to draw connections between these two events.
One the one hand, the flaws of Liberty are covered up and its retouched photos are distributed and claims given that it housed 5000 American soldiers until a few weeks ago and on the other hand put the responsibility of these faults on the residents and then issue a political and moral authorization for transfer of a new group to the Liberty prison.
On 17 February, the head of the European parliament’s relations with Iraq, after the transfer of the first group started, announced in a statement, the necessary guarantees for transfer to Liberty. These guarantees were reiterated by the residents of Liberty and Ashraf in a statement by the secretariat of the National Council of Resistance of Iran in 24 February and in a separate petition on 27 February by the residents of Liberty and Ashraf to the UN Secretary General and Secretary Clinton.
Investigations show that propagation of lies against residents of Liberty is not only sheer lies, but despite lack of resources they have not hesitated of any effort to improve the situation at the camp in the past 10 days. The allegations of blocking entry to water, garbage and waste trucks is ridiculous.
The gates of camp are controlled by the Iraqi forces and the residents don’t have the ability to block them. The truth is that on 23 February while Mr. Kobler was attending the camp, the representative of the Iraqi government in a pretended act sent two trucks filled with water for agricultural use and two waste water trucks and two garbage trucks which were full and unusable. The water and waste water trucks were unusable and the garbage truck removed some of the garbage that was left over before the residents entered.
The residents are actively cooperating with the UNHCR to speed up the process. The UNHCR has been able to verify 300 residents during the 8 days it has started the process and has started interviews since 29 February. The residents have no problem with being fingerprinted or the signing of forms. Some technical issues with UNHCR computers have caused minor delays and the UNHCR personnel have repeatedly expressed regrets for that to the residents.
UNHCR commission who are doing the Verification and Interview process have strongly denied to the residents’ legal advisor that there have been cases of residents sanding out their figure tips and stressed that aside with UNHCR computer problems, there have been no problems.
And the claim that there have been 5000 American soldiers up until a few weeks earlier in Liberty is obscured. The 5000 American soldiers were stationed at the main camp inside Liberty which is at least 20 times the area of the current location including large and numerous buildings, an artificial lake, and sport facilities. Furthermore, the number 5000 goes back to 4 to 5 years ago when the U.S. had the most number of troops in Iraq.
But everyone knows that American military has advanced on the move logistical facilities and is not depended on fixed structures. Let alone that Liberty was only a sleeping compound for American soldiers and not a day and night living location and any American soldier would stay a maximum of six months there. Additionally, American Generals report that many soldiers, who stayed in Liberty for six months, are now suffering psychological disorders. Also, a large part of the facilities in the small camp were looted, following the takeover by Iraqi forces on 3 December 2011 and until the first convoy of Ashraf resident arrived on 18 February 2012.
International Committee In Search of Justice (ISJ) while expressing deep regret about the misinformation campaign against residents of Liberty, and while supporting the minimum assurances the resident have required, stressing that until the minimums are met, specially the removal of Iraqi armed forces and surveillance cameras from the camp, no more residents should be transferred to Liberty. ISJ asks the Secretary General of the United Nations to appoint an independent investigation committee who would also be trusted by the residents to investigate about the misinformation and not allow the demonization campaign and partiality of UN officials set the ground for forcible displacement and another massacre against the residents of Camp Ashraf. Additionally, we ask the Secretary General and the Special Representative, to extend visiting possibility of Ashraf and Liberty, at the first opportunity, to a delegation from the European Parliament so they can directly see the situation and the truth.
Alejo Vidal Quadras
President of the international committee “In Search of Justice” (ISJ)