For immediate release – 28 November 2012
Camps Ashraf and Liberty in Iraq
Four-Month Report to the UN Security Council
The Council, in its November 29 meeting, should stress on classifying Liberty as a ‘Refugee Camp’, rights of residents to own their movable and immovable property, end of the prison conditions in the camp, the necessity to form a fact finding committee to review the UN Envoy’s conduct, and appoint an impartial representative for Ashraf and Liberty. The Council should also hear the representative of the residents.
In light of the November 29, 2012 meeting of the UN Security Council on Iraq, Dr. Alejo Vidal-Quadras, Vice-President of the European Parliament and President of the International Committee ‘In Search Of Justice’ (ISJ) which enjoys the support of over 4000 parliamentarians on both sides of the Atlantic, in a letter to President and members of the Council, presented the ISJ’s report. This report covers the developments in-between the two Council meetings, related to the condition of Iranian dissidents in Iraq in Camps Liberty and Ashraf. The report, consisting of 8 chapters, is based on ongoing communications with camps’ residents, their daily reports, UNAMI reports, meetings and discussions with representatives of the residents, the United Nations, the U.S. and the European Union, and other relevant experts, and numerous correspondences with relevant stakeholders. Many members of ISJ have visited Ashraf and have deep understanding of the residents and the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran, to which the residents generally belong.
In his letter Mr Vidal-Quadras writes, “The motivation for preparation of this report, which is the third report of its kind, is the lack of an impartial and comprehensive vision on the situation in Ashraf and Liberty by UNAMI and the UN envoy in Iraq, Ambassador Kobler. Members of the European Parliament, the U.S. Congress, the British and the French Parliaments, and many prominent international figures and jurists, have been in contact and cooperation with Mr. Kobler with good faith since the first weeks that he took over the Ashraf case, but unfortunately our bitter experience showed that Mr. Kobler was following a specific political agenda which is far from being impartial. In previous sessions of the Security Council on Iraq, in particular the July 2012 session, it became evident that Mr. Kobler was not a trusted rapporteur with respect to Ashraf and Liberty, and political considerations with respect to the governments of Iraq and Iran overshadowed his perception of facts and his analysis..”
Based on this report, in between the two Council’s sessions, Ashraf residents showed a lot of flexibility, and despite the Iraqi government’s failure to provide their minimum humanitarian needs in Liberty, they accepted to move to Liberty and except 100 residents, who have remained in Ashraf to maintain and sell residents’ property, all of the residents (over 3100 people) are now in Liberty. Meanwhile, according to the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, Liberty has the profile of a prison. The lack of freedom of movement, lack of access to lawyers, lack of the possibility of meeting family members in the camp, high walls, intensive police presence in and around the camp and infrastructure problems in the camp, are part of the camp’s problems. Management of the camp on behalf of the Iraqi government is by Colonel Sadeq Mohammad Kazem, who had ordered firing on the residents in both July 2009 and April 2011 massacres, and is wanted by the Spanish court.
The Iraqi government at the behest of the Iranian regime and with the intention of stealing residents’ property has a calculated plan for the expropriation of residents’ property and their confiscation. What is in the camp is the result of 26 years of work and investment of thousands of people, which according to experts’ assessment amounts to about 500 million dollars of fixed assets and 50 million dollars of movable assets.
The Iraqi government, through various means including denying property rights of the residents over their immovable property, denying their rights on a large portion of their movable property, preventing the entry of merchants to Ashraf to buy items, and preventing the implementation of residents’ agreements with merchants, obstructs the resolution to the issue of resident’s property.
The residents were only allowed to transfer less than 5 percent of their movable property to Liberty. For example out of 1200 vehicles only 30 vehicles, out of hundreds of industrial machines less than two dozen, and out of 300 generators only 30 generators were allowed to be transferred to Liberty. Thousands of air conditioners, electric heaters, and many other appliances, or any of the advanced medical equipment such as CT scans, which are badly needed, were not allowed to be transferred.
Unfortunately SRSG practically is on the side of Iraq in this regard and provides no help in resolving this issue. On November 22 he sent a plan on behalf of the Iraqi government to resolve the issue of property to the residents’ representative that only helps a complete stealing of the residents’ property by Iraq. According to this plan, the residents must collect all their property in a small section of Ashraf and give it to Iraqi government until they can find an occasion to sell them, and immediately leave Ashraf. This is not fair. This means orderly and quick stealing of the property.
In his letter to the Security Council, Alejo Vidal-Quadras adds, “Problem with Ambassador Kobler is unfortunately not only over property. His unacceptable communication with the regime ruling Iran over the issue of the opposition is absolutely dangerous and troublesome. This is an issue that has been repeated over the past year and our calls for not involving the regime in the fate of its opponents have yielded no results. The testimony of a senior UNAMI official in the U.S. Congress on September 13, which is also fully consistent with our data, is very alarming. He said that UNAMI decisions about Ashraf are taken in the Iraqi Prime Minister’s office and the Iranian Embassy in Baghdad.”
In section, “Immediate and Necessary Suggestions to the Security Council” of the ISJ report and also in the Vice-President’s letter, the Security Council is asked to:
1. To give the Secretary General the responsibility to form a fact finding committee regarding SRSG’s deeds in Iraq with respect to Ashraf and Liberty, his relations with the Iranian regime and the Government of Iraq and particularly to examine the testimony and remarks of Mr. Tahar Boumedra, a former senior UNAMI official, before the U.S. Congress.
2. To have the Secretary General assign an impartial representative for the dossier of Ashraf and Liberty instead of Mr. Kobler, and to condemn officially and publicly any involvement of the Iranian regime in the fate of Ashraf and Liberty residents and banning it for the UN officials and staff.
3. Since enmity of the government of Iraq and its UN representative towards the PMOI and Ashraf-Liberty residents is no secret to anyone, and considering that the SRSG’s reports about Ashraf and its residents is one-sided and unfair, the Council should hear the explanation on this subject of a representative on behalf of Ashraf and Liberty residents in its meeting on November 29.
4. To ask the UNHCR to designate Liberty as a Refugee Camp and not to allow Iraq to violate the rights of the residents by calling it a Temporary Transit Location (TTL).
5. To underscore Ashraf residents’ right to ownership of their movable and immoveable property, and to ask Iraq to respect this right and allow the residents to freely sell these property, and to transfer the remaining 100 residents in Ashraf once the sale of property is over.
6. To implement guidelines of two opinions adopted by the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention in May and August, and to end prison-like conditions at Liberty