Iraq must end its suppression of some 3,300 Iranian refugees - members of the opposition PMOI - residing at Camp Ashraf and the United Nations refugee agency must immediately begin its work at the camp to voluntarily relocate residents to third countries, MPs and Peers announced Tuesday (31 Jan 2012) at a press conference in the House of Commons.
Tuesday's meeting was attended by Rt. Hon. Baroness Boothroyd, Lord Clarke of Hampstead , Prof. Lord Turnberg, Baroness Harris of Richmond, Lord Maginnis of Drumglass, Baroness Turner of Camden, Lord King of West Bromwich, Lord Cotter, Lord Eden of Winton, Baroness Scott of Needham Market, Brian Binley MP, David Amess MP, Roger Gale MP, Mark Williams MP, Mike Hancock MP, Matthew Offord MP, Alan Meale MP, Sir Geoffrey Bindman QC, specialist in Human Rights Law, Prof. Guy Goodwin-Gill, specialist in International Law, Malcolm Fowler, representing Law Society of England and Wales, and the special gust Col. Wesley Martin, former Senior Anti-terrorism Force Protection Officer for all Coalition Forces in Iraq and Commander of Forward Operation Base in Camp Ashraf in 2005-2006.
UNAMI chief Martin Kobler on 25 December 2011 signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Iraq about the future of the residents without their agreement, seeking their relocation to Camp Liberty. This MoU has serious decays that allow Iraq to abuse it. The Special Representative of the Secretary General for Iraq must act quickly to remove these shortcomings.
Baroness Boothroyd the former Speaker of the House of Commons who chaired today's meeting said: '' I am still puzzled why did Ashraf residents have to leave their home for the UN to start its work to identify each and every one of the 3300 people there? Why couldn't they go through the UNHCR process without having to relocate inside Iraq? Obviously the expenses for this transfer are enormous for Iraq. Why the UN agreed to this is still a puzzle, what is more bewildering is the current situation.''
Lord Clarke of Hampstead said: ''recent remarks made by Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki have shown that his government has no intention of abiding by international law or the MoU his government signed with UNAMI. The signing of the MoU without the involvement of the Ashraf residents was a disastrous mistake. Far too much trust was placed in Al-Maliki and his government, the same government that had massacred close to 50 residents in two separate military attacks and kept them under siege for three years. At Camp Ashraf the residents have continued to be denied access to even urgent medical treatment.''
David Amess MP stated: '' We have watched as the Iraqi government has time and again broken its promise to the people of Camp Ashraf to the UN and to the wider international community it is time we declared loudly with the same bravery as the people of Camp Ashraf that enough is enough.
It is time that the UNHCR stood up to that Iranian puppet Maliki and declared that the residents are being collectively designated as refugees. The UNHCR must now place the protection of the residents of Camp Ashraf ahead of conciliating this Iraqi government that has shown nothing but contempt for the UN and international law from the very beginning.''
Baroness Turner of Camden, former deputy speaker of the House of Lords said in her speech: "the Iraqi government led by Nouri al-Maliki has persistently trampled on international law and has breached countless rights relating to the people of Ashraf. We are here to say enough! The Iraqi government must obey international law relating to the rights of the residents of Camp Ashraf."
Colonel Wesley Martin said "the US State Department regards the PMOI as terrorists I find this totally hypocritical. The PMOI were already practicing democracy before we arrived in Iraq. The real terrorists are the people who committed the attacks in 2009 and 2011." He also regretted that the UN has remained silent as Iraq continues to transform Camp Liberty into a prison. The initial area allocated to the residents in Camp Liberty has been reduced by 80 times and the living conditions have been substantially degraded compared to what was initially agreed. The limited area is becoming enclosed by concrete walls; Iraqi police will be present inside the camp; freedom of movement is not allowed; the residents are not being allowed to transfer their vehicles and other movable property to Camp Liberty and they have been denied permission to send a team of Ashraf technicians in order to assess the conditions of the new camp. Col Martin called this process "a forcible relocation to a prison".
Prof. Guy Goodwin-Gill, specialist in International Law said: "Five months have passed since the UNHCR received the residents' asylum applications for asylum and declared them to be "asylum seekers" with certain rights associated with this status including 'non-refoulement'. It is time for the UNHCR to start its work at Ashraf without any further delay to expedite the residents' resettlement in third countries.
The MPs and Peers is the meeting agreed that Iraq has used its sovereignty as an excuse to murder defenceless residents at Ashraf. International community, in particular the UN, US and UK must strongly reject this excuse for slaughter. The principle of R2P (Right to Protection) compels the international community to protect the residents of Ashraf. The reality is that Iraq's sovereignty is under threat from the regime in Iran and no one else. The US and UK must bring up Iraq's violations of Ashraf residents' rights to the UN General Assembly and Security Council. Silence is no credible option in the light of the atrocities witnessed so far. Quite diplomacy has a limit. That limit cannot and should not be further loss of precious lives.
The US and UK must bring up Iraq's violations of Ashraf residents' rights to the UN Security Council. Silence is no credible option in the light of the atrocities witnessed so far. Quite diplomacy has a limit.
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office must permit a number of Ashraf residents to relocate to Britain as refugees, in line with appeals by Amnesty International and EU foreign policy chief Baroness Ashton.
It is now time for the UN, US, and UK to defend the rights of these residents by publicly expressing their support for the basic demands of the residents including:
• The UN should not approve Camp Liberty as a viable alternative to Ashraf so long as movement of the residents is prohibited there. This is against all known principles of International law and regulations. An adequate portion of Camp Liberty must be allocated to the residents;
• A team from Ashraf must firstly be permitted to inspect the new site and find it suitable for inhabitants before the transfer of other residents;
• No Iraqi security forces must be permitted to enter the section of Camp Liberty allocated to the residents;
• The residents must have freedom of movement in and out of the Camp and full access to medicine, medical treatment, their belongings and vehicles, family visits, lawyers and journalists at Camp Liberty;
• Camp Liberty must be continuously guarded by a UN or US protection team with UN monitors on site at all times.
• The UNHCR must start its work to process the residents’ resettlement in third countries without any further delay.
The British Parliamentary Committee for Iran Freedom
31 January 2012