EU calls on Iraq to respect rights at Ashraf camp

BRUSSELS, May 23, 2011 (AFP) – European Union foreign ministers Monday stressed the need for Iraq to respect human rights following a raid by Iraqi army forces last month on the Ashraf camp housing thousands of exiled Iranians.

EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said the raid, in which at least 35 Iranian opponents died, was discussed for the first time by ministers from the 27-nation bloc.

 “Without questiong Iraq’s sovereignty we’ve emphasized the importance of respecting human rights,” she said at a news conference closing the ministers’ talks.

Europe would work with the United Nations and United States to try to find a lasting resolution to the issue, she added.

European parliamentarians have said urgent international action is needed to avert “a Srbrenica-style massacre” at the camp.

Scottish conservative MEP Struan Stevenson, who headed a parliamentary delegation in Iraq from April 25 to 29, said earlier this month that “We’ve had so many threats from the Iraqi government… of what could happen if Ashraf is not cleared by the end of this year.”

The visit took place two weeks after an Iraqi army raid in the camp housing 3,500 people.

“Having seen the massacre that took place on April 8th, I can only anticipate that if we do not resolve the situation… there will be a Srebrenica style massacre,” he added.

The People’s Mujahedeen of Iran (PMOI) who have lived there for some 30 years, “are deeply reluctant to abandon Ashraf, which they regard as their home,” he added.

“However they recognise the seriousness of this problem and the potential threat of a Srebrenica-style bloodbath if nothing is done.”

Iraqi security forces raided the camp as tensions between the opponents of Iran’s clerical regime and the Iraqi authorities reached new heights.

Iraq, which denied the military carried out the killings, said after the raid that the PMOI must leave the country by the end of the year.

The Euro-MPs, who were not able to visit the camp, want the refugees to be resettled in Europe, Austalia, Canada and the United States.

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