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International community must stop Iraqi abuse of Iranian opposition

By BRIAN BINLEY, UPI Outside View Commentator   |   Jan. 20, 2012 at 6:29 AM   |   Comments

LONDON, Jan. 20 (UPI) -- It seems that the respite regarding the fate of Camp Ashraf residents in Iraq is going to be short-lived.

Every indication suggests that the Iranian regime, cornered by expanding international sanctions and worried that the Arab Spring will catch up with its restive young population has resorted to a two-pronged strategy for survival: building nuclear weapons and crushing its principal opposition through its Iraqi proxies.

Camp Ashraf in Iraq has been home to 3,400 members of the People's Mujahidin of Iran for more than 25 years. Since 2009, the residents, all civilians, have been victims of the most brutal human rights abuses at the hands of the Iraqi government. And that comes as no surprise when one recognizes that Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki owes his second term in office to the Iranian regime. The debt is being paid off with the blood of the freedom fighters in Camp Ashraf.

The residents have had vital supplies such as food, fuel and, most importantly, medical services heavily restricted directly resulting in a number of deaths. In addition Iraqi forces, at the behest of Iran, have attacked the camp twice, killing 47 residents and wounding more than 1,000 defenseless residents.

This has all happened despite the fact that the residents are "protected persons" under international law and every one of them has signed an agreement with the United States that, following their voluntary disarmament in 2003, the United States would guarantee their protection until their eventual resettlement. Furthermore the U.N. High Commissions for Refugees recently designated them as asylum seekers.

This has not deterred Maliki who is showing an increasing disregard for international law as are his sponsors in Iran.

Maliki vowed to close Ashraf by the end of 2011 and that could have turned into a humanitarian catastrophe. Yet, in the last days of 2011 due to a massive international campaign the deadline was extended. After receiving assurances from the United Nations and U.S. Secretary of State Clinton, the residents agreed to move to Camp Liberty, a former U.S. military camp near Baghdad, thus allowing the U.N. relief agency to start reaffirming their refugee status.

Sadly, the Iraqi government continued to place obstacles in the way of a peaceful resolution and prevented the first group of 400 residents from moving to their new location with their personal assets. This is in direct violation of the Memorandum of Understanding that was signed on Dec. 25 between the Iraqi government and the U.N. secretary-general's special representative, Ambassador Martin Kobler. Iraq's conduct during this saga has shown that its leaders have little respect for the document or, indeed, international law.

The truth is that Iraq planned to send the 3,400 Ashraf residents to a concentration camp 1km-by-1km with unacceptable facilities and they planned to have Iraqi soldiers placed within the camp; the very same soldiers who attacked and killed residents.

In an interview broadcast throughout the Iranian regime's official media on Jan. 12, Maliki, blatantly disavowed the Memorandum of Understanding proving yet again that he is beholden to Tehran by failing to observe the Iraqi government's obligations to the international community.

On Jan. 6 an international conference was held in Paris attended by many senior former U.S. officials including Howard Dean, former presidential candidate; Tom Ridge, former governor of Pennsylvania and the first U.S. Homeland Security secretary; Louis Freeh, former director of the FBI; Ambassador Mitchell Reiss, former director of Policy Planning at the U.S. Department of State; and John Bolton, former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.

During that conference Maryam Rajavi, the president-elect of the National Council of Resistance of Iran called on the secretary-general and the U.N. Security Council to take action before it became too late.

The participants also urged the U.S. State Department to repeal the terrorist designation of the PMOI pointing out that the United Kingdom had delisted the PMOI in 2008, an action quickly followed by the European Union in 2009. The European Court of Justice, the highest judicial authority in Europe, thereafter reaffirmed the decision in December.

Furthermore the U.S. Court of Appeals, which in July 2010 found no reliable evidence to support the continuation of the proscription, ruled in favor of the PMOI and remanded the case to the State Department for review.

The U.S. Congress, in a bipartisan initiative has called for delisting as have dozens of the most prominent and senior U.S. national security officials from past administrations.

Yet, the State Department, possibly in an attempt to further appease Tehran, continues to procrastinate.

Sadly this terror label has provided the sole excuse for the Iraqi government's mistreatment of Ashraf residents including inflicting violence to the point of death.

The United Nations and the U.S. government must say enough is enough. Maliki must understand that he cannot be allowed to repeatedly violate human rights and get away with it.

The residents of Camp Ashraf have declared they will not move until minimum guarantees have been met by the Iraqi government. It is the United States' and United Nations' responsibility to ensure this now happens.

--

(Brian Binley is conservative member of British Parliament for Northampton South and a leading member of British Parliamentary Committee for Iran Freedom.)

--

(United Press International's "Outside View" commentaries are written by outside contributors who specialize in a variety of important issues. The views expressed do not necessarily reflect those of United Press International. In the interests of creating an open forum, original submissions are invited.)

© 2012 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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