Spanish court launches probe into refugee killings in Iraq

The Telegraph – By Fiona Govan, Madrid – Jan 4, Spain’s National Court number 4 ruled in favour of opening an investigation into a complaint filed by victims of a raid by Iraqi soldiers and police on the Ashraf camp which left 11 people dead and dozens injured.

Magistrate Fernando Andreu has ordered Iraqi Lieutenant General Abdolhossein Shemmari to appear before the court in Madrid on March 8 as the first step in the probe. Although he is not expected to attend, it would not prevent the judge from hearing the case.

 Shemmari is accused of leading the attack against the camp near the Iranian border which is home to around 3,500 dissidents from the Mojahedin-e-Khalq organisation, an opposition group calling for the overthrow of the Islamic Republic of Iran.

The complaint is being considered under the legal doctrine of “universal jurisdiction” which allows human rights crimes to be tried in an international court irrespective of where they were committed.

Spain has earned a reputation for pursuing alleged war criminals – notably issuing an arrest warrant for Chilean General Augusto Pinochet in 1998 – and carrying out advanced investigations against, amongst others, Rwandan leaders, and Argentine officials for “dirty war” killings.
But Spain approved a law in 2009 limiting its application only to cases where there is a clear link to Spain after investigations involving China, Israel and the USA caused diplomatic headaches for Madrid.

However, Judge Andreu argued that this case should be investigated in Spain as it could violate the 1949 Geneva Convention on humanitarian protection of civilians in war zones. He said he was not satisfied that Iraqi authorities has launched a proper probe of deaths at the camp.

“This is the first time that an Iraqi official is being summoned before a court for serious violations of international law,” said Juan Garces, the lawyer for the victims.
Shemmari denied the accusations. “I am innocent,” he said. “The force that entered the camp came from Baghdad, and they were an army force, not from the police.

“After they entered the camp, they asked Diyala police to establish a police station in the camp, and this is what we did,” he said.

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