Outside View: No more 'pressure campaign' on Iranian refugees in Ashraf

By STRUAN STEVENSON, UPI Outside View Commentator

BRUSSELS, July 27 (UPI) -- With respect to Iranian refugees in camps Ashraf and Liberty in Iraq, the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention of the United Nations in its recent report declared : "The situation of the residents of Camp Liberty is tantamount to that of detainees or prisoners ... The Working Group considers that there is no legal justification for holding the above-mentioned persons and other individuals in Camp Liberty, and that such detention is not in conformity with the standards and principles of international human rights law, and more specifically violates Article 9 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and ..."

In the meantime the U.N. envoy in Iraq, Martin Kobler, while being fully cognizant with the above report, in an unfair report to the U.N. Security Council on July 19, tried to ignore the deplorable situation in Camp Liberty, attempted to blame Ashraf residents for the impasse in the relocation.


He called on the residents "to cooperate with Iraqi authorities and to relocate from Camp Ashraf to Camp Hurriyeh" and "to abide by Iraqi laws and avoid provocation and violence."

From the perspective of the government of Iraq and the Iranian regime these remarks are a clear and unambiguous green light for attacking and suppressing the residents and are a matter of serious concern.

RELATED Outside View: U.N. should press Iraq on Ashraf and Liberty

This week Kobler and U.N. Assistance Mission for Iraq have provided the Iraqi government with a road map and called upon the residents "to start the preparations for the next move without delay" and asked the government of Iraq "to be generous when it comes to the humanitarian needs of the residents and to continue to seek a peaceful solution to this issue under any circumstances."

The fact that Kobler, despite all the realities on the ground and despite his own assertions that there is no prospect for relocation in the near future, and despite the report by the U.N. Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, insists on squashing all of the Ashraf residents into Camp Liberty without first meeting their basic humanitarian needs, is not comprehensible at all.

It seems that irrespective of the intentions of Kobler, squeezing all the Ashraf residents into the tiny 1/2-square-kilometer area of Camp Liberty solely fulfills the desire of the Iraqi government and the Iranian regime.


During the last months, Ashraf residents and their representatives have constantly reduced their humanitarian demands to go to Liberty. They have reiterated their demands in a July 23 joint letter to the U.N. secretary-general declaring that without fulfilling these demands they would not move to Liberty.

These demands are: Connecting Liberty to the city water network or pumping water from a channel 150 meters from Liberty; transferring all generators in Ashraf especially the six main generators; delivering six utility vehicles to the residents; transferring the special containers for the disabled from Ashraf; transferring five forklifts for relocating heavy loads; transferring one personnel vehicle for each 40 residents; authorizing minimum construction in Liberty and starting the sale of mobile and immovable properties.

All of the above mentioned articles are normal and vital needs of the residents. The reason that Iraq does not accept to apply these minimum humanitarian requirements is the clearly on the direct instruction of the Iranian regime that wants to exert more pressure on Liberty residents in order to make them submit, surrender and return to Iran, where they will face arrest torture and execution.

RELATED Outside View: Time to listen to Iranian voices for freedom

The problems of Camp Liberty residents are not limited to the above mentioned points and include several important issues such as: declaring Camp Liberty as a refugee camp; increasing the camp area until the majority of the residents are transferred outside Iraq; freedom of movement; access to lawyers; expediting refugee status determination of the residents and expediting transfers to third countries must be resolved as the next step in order to make the life situation of camp Liberty refugees tolerable before their resettlement to third countries.


I wrote this week to EU authorities that "These events reaffirm my and other senior members of the European Parliament's determination to insist on U.N. and U.S. intervention at the highest level to sort out this shambles, force the Iraqi authorities to fulfill their commitments to humanitarian treatment of the residents of Ashraf and Liberty and speed up the resettlement of these people to safe countries outside Iraq. Until such assurances are received and evidence of their implementation on the ground can be witnessed we cannot urge the final transfer of the remaining 1,200 Ashraf residents into these appalling conditions in Liberty."

Unfortunately these days we are witnessing a pressure campaign by Ambassador Kobler as well as the U.S. State Department on Ashraf residents that seeks to force the residents to leave Ashraf without fulfilling their minimum humanitarian demands. This campaign is a violation of the elementary principles of human rights and International humanitarian laws as well as principles that the United Nations has been based on, therefore we strongly condemn it.

We in the European Parliament urge the United Nations, United States and the European Union to shift their focus from this unproductive campaign and to further their efforts to provide safety and security for the Ashraf and Liberty refugees, meeting the minimum humanitarian requirements of the residents and their urgent resettlement to safe third countries.



(Struan Stevenson, MEP, is president of the European Parliament's Delegation for Relations with Iraq.)


(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.)

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