U.S. responsibility towards Ashraf is far greater than the Netherlands’ towards Srebrenica

Military occupation of Ashraf – No. 124

• Mrs. Rajavi: Dutch court’s decree demonstrated once again that United States is responsible for protection of Ashraf residents until their final disposition and nothing justifies United States’ non-interference to stop crimes of Iraqi forces

• Representative of Ashraf residents outside Iraq: This decree confirms that U.S. government should answer for 47 dead and 1071 injured in Ashraf and should conduct official investigation into them

Following decree by the Dutch court of appeals in condemning that country’s government in the case of massacre in Srebrenica, the Iranian Resistance warns the U.S. government regarding the protection of Ashraf residents and in preventing the continuation of their massacre by the Iraqi forces. Considering the indisputable and documented events during the years 2003-2011 in Ashraf, United States’ responsibility towards Ashraf residents is far greater than that of Dutch forces in Srebrenica.

The President-elect of the Iranian Resistance Mrs. Rajavi noted: The decree by the Dutch court again demonstrates U.S. government and forces have full responsibility in providing protection for Ashraf residents until their final disposition; nothing removes this responsibility from the United States. Following crimes against humanity in Ashraf in July 2009 and April 2011, nothing justifies United States’ refusal to interfere.

The non-interference of the U.S. in Ashraf’s case is far more serious and unacceptable than the inaction of Dutch forces in Srebrenica tragedy. Doubtless, the United States, because of its irrefutable responsibility to protect the lives of Ashraf residents, should be the first investigator and inspector, and should answer for the crimes committed by the Iraqi forces.

Mrs. Rajavi added: The issue of Ashraf and preventing the massacre of its residents is the very test for the universal values that President Obama has committed himself to. Ashraf is an indicator for the Iranian people to judge as to which side the U.S. is on; on the side of the mullahs’ dictatorship and its proxies in Iraq, or on the side of freedom-lovers and those who struggle for freedom in Iran.

According to court’s decree, the Dutch forces dispatched in 1995 to Bosnia as UN peacekeeping forces to monitor the situation during the siege of Srebrenica, were unsuccessful in protecting the lives of civilian Muslims against the danger of attack of Serbians in Bosnia. Judges ordered the Dutch government to pay retributions to families of the victims.

According to court’s decree, the Dutch government is responsible for the death of those men because the Dutch peacekeeping forces should not have handed them over to Serb military in Bosnia.

The court rejected the argument offered by the Dutch government that its soldiers were acting under command of United Nations and therefore it has no responsibility.

The court stipulated: Following the fall of Srebrenica, “an extraordinary situation” had aroused which led the Dutch government and its forces to play a more active role in monitoring the evacuation operation and therefore, the Dutch government is responsible in this case.

According to these fundamental legal principles and considering the indisputable events of the past nine years in Ashraf, the responsibility of the U.S. government and its forces is far greater  because:

1. Contrary to the situation in Srebrenica, the current situation in Ashraf is caused by the occupation of Iraq by Coalition forces led by the U.S. and therefore, the responsibility wholly lies with the United States; while the Netherlands had no role in creation of the situation in Srebrenica.

2. The U.S. forces disarmed Ashraf residents and took away all their weapons, including the weapons they needed for their personal protection; therefore, this doubles the responsibility of the U.S. forces towards Ashraf residents.

3. The U.S. forces signed an agreement with each and every resident of Ashraf to protect them until their final disposition.

4. Contrary to the situation in Srebrenica, not only Ashraf residents are considered Protected Persons under the Fourth Geneva Convention by the ICRC and the United States as a group, but each of them were interviewed by U.S. agencies and after a sixteen-month investigation, the U.S. government recognized every one of them as Protected Person under the Fourth Geneva Convention and issued for them ID and “Protected Person under Fourth Geneva Convention” cards. The 47 residents of Ashraf who were killed in the assault of Iraqi forces in July 2009 and April 2011 and the 1071 who have been injured in the series of invasions of Iraqi forces since 20 February 2009 following their transfer of protection to Iraqi forces, all have legal status, have Protected Persons’ ID cards, and have signed an agreement with U.S. forces.

5. Prior to the transfer of Ashraf residents to the Iraqi forces, the U.S. government knew that Maliki’s government had enmity towards the residents of Ashraf. Hundreds of documents exist where Ashraf residents, their lawyers and representatives, the PMOI, the NCRI, and numerous international human rights organizations, both prior and subsequent to the official transfer of protection to the Iraqi forces in 20 February 2009, warned against serious perils of this transfer and wrote to U.S. Presidents, Secretaries of State, Defense Secretary, Commanders of MNF-I, and other relevant authorities that such transfer is deadly, illegal and unacceptable. Petitions carrying the signatures and ID card numbers of all Ashraf residents as Protected Persons under the Fourth Geneva Convention to President Bush (10 November 2008), to President Obama (3 October 2009), to Special Representative of Secretary-General for Iraq (20 May 2010), to United Nations Secretary-General (June 2010), to Commander of USF-I (11 July 2010), to United Nations Secretary-General (24 April 2011) are among these documents. Copy of these letters and petitions have been regularly sent to the then Secretaries of State and Defense of United States, US Ambassadors, and Commanders of U.S. forces in Iraq.

In addition, the close to one thousand female residents of Ashraf, in separate letters and petitions, including the petition of 10 March 2011, have spoken of their insecurity and the crimes committed by the Iraqi forces with the U.S. Secretary of State and other U.S. officials.

6. Ashraf residents, especially prior to their transfer of protection to the Iraqi government, on 10 November 2008 wrote to President Bush:
 “We, the undersigned, are the Iranian dissidents residing in Camp Ashraf in Iraq who have been protected by the U.S. forces as “protected persons” under the Fourth Geneva Convention after we delivered to the U.S. forces in May 2003 all our weapons including the ones used for our protection and self defense. With grave concern, we were informed of the decision of the U.S. government regarding transfer of our protection to the Iraqi forces.

Under current circumstances, should the U.S. forces stop protecting Ashraf, there are serious threats that will endanger the lives of Ashraf residents.  Because of such threats, all of us, who were interviewed individually by the U.S. forces on 9 and 10 August 2008, expressed our disagreement and deep concern about the transfer of protection. We also underlined our concern and disagreement during interviews by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) visiting Ashraf on 24 and 25 August and also on 28 and 29 October 2008, as well as during the visit of European Parliament delegation on 17, 18 and 19 October…

The anxiety of Ashraf residents that in case of handover of protection they would face harassment and their very primary rights would be violated is based on undeniable facts. Remarks made by Iraqi senior officials clearly show that transfer of protection would have unacceptable consequences and threats against us. They explicitly vow to prosecute and expel us from Iraq. Among other things, the statement ratified by the Council of Ministers of Iraq on 17 June 2008 orders for suppression, trial, imprisonment of Ashraf residents and their expulsion from Iraq; it also regards the Iraqis and foreigners who come to Ashraf as criminals. This statement is still posted on Iraqi government’s official websites. Moreover, the Iraqi government has refrained from selling food, fuel and medicine to the Ashraf residents since September 2005.

Once the protection by American forces is removed, the military and terrorist operations by the Iranian regime against us shall escalate.

“One can refer to the August 2005 kidnapping of two Ashraf residents, the May 2006 bombing of a bus carrying Iraqi workers to Ashraf (which resulted in the death of 11 passengers), the July 2006 bombing of Ashraf water pipelines, the October 2007 attempt to poison the water going to Ashraf, the November 2007 bombing of a vehicle carrying Ashraf workers, the February 2008 bombing of the water pumping station, the May 2008 missile attack on Ashraf City , the July 2008 second missile attack on Ashraf and the murder of more than 50 Iraqis who supported the residents of Ashraf…

Transferring protection of Ashraf under the present circumstances violates the principle of non-refoulement, the Fourth Geneva Convention, the Refugee Convention, the Convention Against Torture, IHL and International Law and would result in a humanitarian catastrophe, thus we urge U.S. forces for as long as they remain in Iraq to continue to protect Ashraf residents and uphold their judicial protection under international law.”

We remind that on 16 February 2006, General Gardner, a Deputy Commander of the MNF-I, wrote in a letter addressed to the Ashraf residents: “Multi-National Force-Iraq appreciates our responsibilities with regard to the Geneva Convention Relative to the Treatment of Civilian Persons (GCIV)…the coalition remains deeply committed to the security and rights of the protected people of Ashraf.” Earlier, General Brandenburg, Deputy Commanding General of the MNF-I, had also underscored in a letter to the Ashraf residents on 7 October 2005: “The residents of Camp Ashraf have the right to protection from danger, coercion, and intimidation, and to special protection for the dignity and rights of women.”

7. The Ashraf residents in the same letter to the U.S. President, copies of which were sent to the UN Secretary-General, the President of the ICRC, UNHCHR, UNHCR and the Amnesty International Secretary General, reiterated:
 
“Mr. President,
In order to prevent a human catastrophe, we request you to instruct an urgent halt on the process of transferring protection of Ashraf residents.

We would also ask for your intervention so that the Iraqi government acknowledges in writing: The Ashraf residents are covered by the Fourth Geneva Convention, principle of non-refoulement, International Law and International Humanitarian Law and enjoy the right to residence and judicial security in Iraq, and the current restrictions on them would be removed.”

8. Many documents and evidences testify to the fact that in the July 2009 attack, the U.S. forces witnessed the massacre of Ashraf residents closely; however, they refrained from any intervention upon the orders of their higher-ups. Even when the wounded residents in critical condition approached them, they did not pay any attention to them. Some of these disgusting scenes were shown on the American TVs.
 
9. The US forces that were present in Ashraf between 3 and 7 April 2011, left the camp in the evening of April 7th, a few hours before the attack which started at 4:45 a.m. on April 8th. While they were watching Iraq’s invasion clearly, they received orders to withdraw from Ashraf. The events in Ashraf after 5pm of April 7 were reported every minute by the Ashraf residents, their representatives abroad, their families and lawyers and many supporters of Ashraf in international level to the US government in various levels from the US officers on the ground up to the US Command in Iraq, the US Embassy in Iraq, the President, Vice-President and the Secretaries of State and Defense. Nevertheless, the deadly shellfire and shootings at the residents continued for six hours. It happened while the US Secretary of Defense was in Iraq and had met with Maliki the day before the attack. Nobody can deny the fact that active political intervention, let alone preventive military intervention, could easily prevent the catastrophe or at least let that merciless massacre occur in a smaller scale.

10. In December 2010 and March 2011, the Spanish National Court issued two verdicts ordering investigations on five criminals who participated in July 2009 attack, other assaults, and aggressions and summoned them to appear before the court. The Spanish National Court described the lethal attack of July 28 and 29, 2009 on Ashraf that left 11 killed and more than 500 wounded as war crime, crime against humanity and crime against international community based on Rome Treaty and Fourth Geneva Convention.
 
After the transfer of protection to Iraqis and the lethal attack on Ashraf, the United States was obliged to retake the responsibility of protection of Ashraf residents from Iraqi forces in accordance with article 45 of the Fourth Geneva Convention. Jurists, parliamentarians and international organizations have on numerous occasions reminded the US of its legal, humanitarian and moral obligations but the US ignored, therefore, it must be held more accountable for the crimes committed in April 2011.
 
11. The US has clearly not fulfilled its duties concerning the inhumane siege on Ashraf, particularly the medical siege by the Iraqi forces that is considered a war crime with any definition. The US could have saved some of the wounded from death and more of them from being maimed or permanent consequences.  Repeated requests by Ashraf representatives and international calls in this regard were left unanswered by the US. The US forces only transferred 7 out of 345 wounded residents to their medical centers and did nothing for the others
12. During the past two and a half years, while the Iraqi government violated all vested rights of Ashraf residents, which are even recognized for the prisoners of war in international standards, the U.S. kept silence and did not take any effective measure in this regard. It has been for nine years that 3,400 residents of Ashraf have been kept in mass detention for the US grace and due to the policy of appeasement towards the clerical dictatorship in Iran and its proxies in Iraq.
 
It is two and a half years now that the Iraqi forces have deprived Ashraf residents from visiting their lawyers, their families, human rights activists and the parliamentarians. Since the beginning of 2009, the residents have been prevented from their profit making activities which compensated for part of their expenses.

Ashraf neighbors and local laborers who regularly visited Ashraf in the past 20 years are prevented from going to Ashraf and not even allowed to go for prayers in Ashraf mosque. Drivers who deliver food and other basic commodities to Ashraf are being arrested and subjected to torture. In the meantime, the regime in Tehran has arrested hundreds of family members of Ashraf residents in Iran and executed some of them who visited their relatives in Ashraf.

For the past year and half, up to 300 powerful loudspeakers installed around Ashraf have been blaring into the camp, day and night, abusive remarks and threats that amount to constant psychological torture of the residents. So far there has not been a single ordinary public protest by the United States and its embassy in Iraq against this. This has emboldened the criminals and their agents even further. Killing patients in pain and depriving others from free access to medical services and medicine still continues. A number of residents have so far died due to this situation.
 
13. The U.S. never published a report on crimes committed on July 2009 and April 2011 and did not respond to the U.S. Congress insistence on publishing the result of visiting Ashraf by the U.S. Embassy representatives, the U.S. forces and doctors two days after the April 8 attack. Some members of the US Congress described it as an intentional cover up of crimes committed. This is something that Rohrabacher, Chairman of the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations of the House Foreign Affairs Committee has pointed out.
 
14. While delegations from the European Parliament and the US Congress or any international delegation are not allowed to enter Ashraf, the Iraqi Ministry of Defense have been turned into center for abhorrent shows and propaganda by agents of the Iranian regime’s intelligence against the PMOI and Ashraf residents. This is while the US Ambassador admits that the agents of the Iranian regime do not even attempt to wipe out the identity codes of the weapons dispatched from Iran and described them as no more than thuggish criminals of the Qods force of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards (Washington Post, July 6, 2011).

Earlier, addressing the U.S. officials, the official representative of Ashraf residents announced that, based on international laws and covenants, the U.S. Government that has taken Ashraf residents weapons and signed an agreement with every one of them is responsible for their protection until their final disposition. As it was implemented in Balkan case, after the end of conflicts those individuals who are liable to the Geneva Conventions will continue to enjoy the protections provided by the Conventions until final disposition.
 
Ashraf residents’ representative has iterated that by delivering the protection of Ashraf to Iraq while being aware of Iraqi government’s ominous intentions and its animosity towards Ashraf residents, the U.S. has violated the Fourth Geneva Convention and many other international laws including the Convention Against Torture. In addition, according to the Article 45 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, after the Iraqi government showed that it is not qualified to protect Ashraf residents, it was responsibility of the U.S. Government to reassume their protection. He also announced that, especially after the April 8 attack, the U.S. will be held responsible for any attack and harm by Iraqi forces against Ashraf residents.

After the verdict by the Dutch Court, once again representative of Ashraf residents iterated that the U.S. Government and Forces should be accountable for the war crime, crime against humanity and crime against international community committed by Iraqi forces in Ashraf including the killing of 47 protected persons and injuring 1,071 other protected persons in Ashraf and initiate a formal, comprehensive, transparent and independent investigation under the supervision of the UN Security Council.

Secretariat of the National Council of Resistance of Iran
July 8, 2011

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