Blood on their hands
European Voice – 08.12.2011
The EU must do all it can to stop the brutality at Camp Ashraf.
In May, I wrote that Iraq appeared to prefer to shed the blood of Iranian refugees than to seek a solution with the EU, a reference to Iraq’s policy toward 3,400 Iranian dissidents and its rejection of offers to re-settle them in the EU (“Refugees without a refuge”, 12 May, EuropeanVoice.com).
In 2009 and in April 2011, the dissidents – members of the main Iranian opposition movement, the People’s Mujahideen Organisation of Iran (PMOI/MEK) – were brutally attacked by Iraqi troops. The 8 April raid alone caused the deaths of 36 people, including eight women, and left more than 300 injured.
I fully expect much more blood to be shed if the Iraqi government goes ahead with its plan to close the dissidents’ home, at Camp Ashraf, by 31 December.
In a 15 November letter to the European Parliament, the Iraqi government wrote that it “was left with no choice but to evacuate the camp based on principles of sovereignty, and transfer its residents to other camps in Iraq”. Alarmingly, Baghdad goes on to state that it regards Camp Ashraf’s residents as terrorists. It also claims that they have no status or protection under the Geneva Conventions or international humanitarian law.
All of Camp Ashraf’s residents are protected under the Geneva Conventions. In 2004, the US guaranteed in writing that all Camp Ashraf residents – in return for voluntarily disarming – would be protected until their final disposition. The US confirmed that of the Camp Ashraf residents none was a terrorist or had been engaged in terrorism. The United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) has declared that Camp Ashraf residents are asylum-seekers and has urged Iraq to postpone any closure. Catherine Ashton, the EU’s foreign policy chief, is promoting a peaceful resolution, and has appointed a special envoy for Camp Ashraf.
Sadly, none of this has failed to dissuade Iraq’s prime minister, Nuri al-Maliki, who lived as a dissident in Iran for eight years in the 1980s. In Iran’s constitution, support for the PMOI/MEK carries the death penalty.
Since early 2009, when the US handed over responsibility for Camp Ashraf’s security to the Iraqi government, the camp has been under a suffocating siege. Residents have been subjected to psychological torture, with 300 loudspeakers blaring threats and propaganda day and night at ear-shattering levels. The Iraqis have also denied the residents access to basic needs, including fuel and medical services.
After April’s deadly raid, Iraq refused to allow a European Parliament delegation (headed by me) to visit Camp Ashraf. Since then, the Parliament has put forward a plan under which Camp Ashraf residents would be settled in EU member states and other countries (such as the US and Switzerland). The Camp Ashraf residents have agreed to this plan.
Yet the Iraqi government insists on relocating Camp Ashraf residents within Iraq. It claims that the UNHCR could start interviewing the Camp Ashraf residents in their new locations. But who can believe Iraq’s promises?
Just a few hours before the April massacre, Camp Ashraf residents were assured that there would be no violence.
If the world and the EU in particular are silent, the forcible relocation of Camp Ashraf residents will lead to a crime against humanity. Those who do nothing will be complicit.
Left without a choice, Camp Ashraf residents may resist any re-settlement order, as some Jews did in the Warsaw Ghetto during the Second World War. That way, they will reason, at least the world would witness the government of Iraq’s genocide. In so doing, they would deprive al-Maliki of the ability to deny responsi-bility when, later, the torture and killing takes place in secret locations, just as it did in Auschwitz and Treblinka.
When the Warsaw Ghetto genocide and Holocaust happened, everybody clai-med not to know. But in the case of Camp Ashraf, we know. We have been told. We have been warned. We have seen bloodshed already.
The EU should reject loudly and clearly the re-settlement of Camp Ashraf residents. It should push for the UNHCR to start interviewing the residents to re-affirm their refugee status for evacuation to other, friendly, countries.
Struan Stevenson MEP