Inhumane Conditions Await Iranian Asylum Seekers in Camp Liberty
On Friday, February 17, 2012, as a goodwill gesture, 400 Iranian dissidents residing in Camp Ashraf in Iraq, many with families and relatives in the United States, began their relocation from Camp Ashraf, their home of 25 years, to Camp Liberty, a former U.S. military base near Baghdad international airport. They volunteered for this transfer even though minimum guarantees for their safety and security have yet to be provided by the Iraqi Government or the United Nations.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has formally recognized the residents of Ashraf as “asylum seekers” and “persons of concern,” which entitles them to fundamental protections and security based on humanitarian standards.
Nevertheless, the Iraqi Government, with the tacit approval of the UN Secretary General’s Special Representative, Martin Kobler, relocated the Iranian dissidents to Camp Liberty which, contrary to its name, is more like a prison than a transitional facility for “asylum seekers.” The Iraqi-imposed inhumane and humiliating conditions under which 400 residents were transferred to Camp Liberty, as well as the atrociously sub-humane living conditions of the camp amply reveal the nefarious intentions of the Iraqi Government.
Equally appalling is the fact that the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI), which is expected to be playing a humanitarian role, has increasingly acted to accommodate the Iraqi Government in exerting pressure against the residents. Not surprising, emboldened by the UNAMI chief’s repeatedly one-sided actions and positions to the detriment of Ashraf residents, the Iraqi Government has heightened it’s blatant and repeated violations of the residents’ human rights and the December 25 Memorandum of Understating.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton must uphold the United States’ long-standing moral and legal obligations to ensure safety and security of the residents of Camp Ashraf, particularly those 400 who are now at the mercy of Iraqi Government in Camp Liberty.
Specifically, Secretary Clinton, in line with her assurances provided on February 15, should ensure that the Iraqi Government removes its draconian restrictions on the 400 Iranian dissidents in Camp Liberty, guarantee the withdrawal of the Iraqi police from inside the camp and the freedom of movement of the residents – as stipulated by the UNHCR, as well as the unhindered access of the residents to their lawyers and families.
Absent these guarantees, the stage would be set by the Iraqi Government to seriously jeopardize the safety and security of our loved ones in Camp Liberty. The United States must address the serious concerns regarding this camp, otherwise, the relocation of the rest of residents of Camp Ashraf will be rendered moot.