July 27, 2017

Return Camp Liberty residents’ personal weapons for self-defence, NGO demands

Iranian dissidents in Camp Liberty should have their personal protection weapons returned to them for self-defence following serious threats and attacks as the Iranian regime’s intervention in Iraq grows, the International Committee in Search of Justice (ISJ) has demanded.

Threats against the camp near Baghdad airport have escalated on a daily basis and the West must now act urgently to protect them, ISJ President Alejo Vidal-Quadras said.

He wrote in a statement: “Following serious terrorist threats by the Qods Force and the extremely slow resettlement of the residents, their personal protection weapons should be returned for self-defence.

“The 2,500 defenceless Iranian refugees from the PMOI-MEK in Camp Liberty near Baghdad airport face a grave and imperative threat. The Iranian regime’s interventions in Iraq grow by the day and its terrorist affiliated militias have escalated their threats against the Iranian dissidents in Camp Liberty.

“The record of the past three years shows no prospect of a swift resettlement of these residents. Therefore the ISJ calls on the United States and the United Nations to assume special protective provisions on Camp Liberty.

“If the U.S. government is not going to transfer all Camp Liberty residents to the United States immediately, then, considering its direct responsibility for protection of each and every resident, it should hand over part of their personal protection weapons, which it consolidated in 2003, so that the residents could protect themselves against possible assaults by terrorist Qods Force and its militias that have an extensive presence in large parts of Iraq, including Baghdad.”

Mr Vidal-Quadras added: “This is crucial to prevent further tragedies. These weapons would offer them the least means of self defence against attacks that the Government of Iraq claims are perpetrated by unknown entities. This is the residents’ basic right to be able to preserve their lives in the current turmoil in Iraq.”

The statement by ISJ presented the following background on issue:

Background information

Atrocities by Qods Force and militias worse than ISIS
1. In an investigative report, Reuters wrote on December 31, 2014: “More than 130,000 people, mostly Sunnis, fled central Iraq in 2014, counting just Baghdad’s agricultural belt and northeastern Diyala province, the International Rescue Committee told Reuters. The exodus has left villages empty as Shi’ite paramilitaries, tribes and security forces fill the void.”

2. On December 27, the Washington Post quoted a cleric close to Iran’s Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei stating that since last June “Iran has sent more than 1,000 military advisers” and “elite
units to Iraq and has conducted airstrikes and spent more than $1 billion on military aid”. The Post added that: “Iraq’s Shiite-led government is increasingly reliant on the powerful militias and a massive Shiite volunteer force, which together may now equal the size of Iraq’s security forces”.

3. General Hossein Salami, IRGC Deputy Commander in Chief, said on December 30: “Today, we see that the capacities of the Islamic revolution have gone over from Iran to Iraq and we have a popular army in Iraq that is linked to the revolution. This army is dozens of times bigger than the Lebanese Hezbollah…” (Fars News Agency, affiliated with IRGC – December 30, 2014)

4. The atrocities of the Iranian regime and its militias in Iraq are even more horrendous than that of ISIS. On December 1, Khebat Daily, the official paper of Iraq’s Kurdish Democratic Party (KDP) led by President Masoud Barzani, quoted Sheik Jafar, Chair of the KDP branch in Khaneqain: “The conduct of Shia militias is similar to ISIS or even worse. They are skilled in killing, burning and looting… Their aim is to expand their rule and influence… They seldom use the Iraqi flag and usually hoist a flag with the emblem of the Islamic Republic of Iran… They have now begun to cleanse out the Sunnis and kill people anywhere they can…”

5. On December 9, Al-Jazeera TV reports from the town of Jaloula recently retaken by the militias from ISIS: “More than any damage caused by airstrikes or military engagements, the city has been destroyed by the militias of popular Basij who the residents said entered the city after ISIS left. They began to take vengeance, burned properties, and destroyed homes of those said to be close to ISIS.”

6. On December 15, Al-Jazeera TV also disclosed the bombing of Sunni areas and the forced migration of Sunnis in Iraq by the militias affiliated with the Qods Force (QF), including in Diyala, Salah ad-Din (especially in Samarra), various districts of Baghdad and its perimeter like Mahmoudiya, Arab Jabour, Jarf al-Sakhar, Yousefiya, Latifiya, Abu Ghraib, Taji and Moshahedeh. Those forced to migrate reach one million in Baghdad. A Jarf al-Sakhar resident said: “The militias set houses on fire and round up the youth killing them in unknown locations… not one Sunni family remains in Jarf al-Sakhar… we are witnessing the beginning of an Iranian caliphate much like ISIS announced its own caliphate.”

7. On 14 October 2014, Amnesty International published a detailed report titled “Absolute Impunity, Militia rule in Iraq” and wrote in a related statement: “Shi’a militias are ruthlessly targeting Sunni civilians on a sectarian basis under the guise of fighting terrorism, in an apparent bid to punish Sunnis for the rise of the IS and for its heinous crimes… Militia members, numbering tens of thousands, wear military uniforms, but they operate outside any legal framework and without any official oversight… Iraqi government is sanctioning war crimes and fuelling a dangerous cycle of sectarian violence that is tearing the country apart.”

8. On 18 September 2014, Foreign Policy Website posted in an article titled “Iraq’s Shiite militias are becoming as great a danger as the Islamic State”: “These groups, many of which have deep ideological and organizational links to Iran… In early June, Shiite militias, along with Iraqi security forces, reportedly executed around 255 prisoners, including children…The growth of these pro-Iranian Shiite militias, and many more like them, helps demonstrate Iran’s goals for the domination of Shiite Iraq. These groups not only benefit from Iran’s patronage and organizational capabilities — they also all march to Tehran’s ideological tune. They are loyal to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei and Iran’s ideology of absolute wilayat-e faqih.

Setting the stage to massacre Camp Liberty residents

9. In these circumstances, in a letter on January 1 to the U.S. and UN officials, residents’ representative quoted resistance’s sources inside the Iranian regime:” the regime is planning to fallaciously attribute the death of a number of Qods Force commanders and others affiliated with it in Iraq, such as Hamid Taqavi and Wathiq al-Battat to the PMOI/MeK and use this as a pretext to seek revenge by targeting Camp Liberty with another criminal attack and conduct another massacre”.

10. Concurrently, in the recent weeks, the clerical regime has resorted to fabrications in its propaganda regarding PMOI’s illusionary link to ISIS. On December 28, 2014, some regime’s media disseminated a report given to them by the QF about the “extensive intelligence and operations cooperation between PMOI and ISIS in Iraq” stating that “PMOI has given ISIS intelligence and maps of some regions of Iraq”. They quoted an imaginary PMOI statement that PMOI has set out to “overtly support ISIS” and has stated that “actions against ISIS are blatant breach of Security Council accords”.

11. Regime’s foreign language media disseminated similar propaganda and carried a report from Iranian regime Press TV on December 29 that “Terrorist group, Mujahedin–e Khalq Organisation (MKO), has openly expressed support for the Islamic State (IS) militants and their acts of terror in a clear indication of its wrath over Iran–Iraq cooperation against the group.” Or wrote that “the Iranian news agencies are also reporting that the anti-Iran terrorist group, Mujahedin-e Khalq Organization (MKO), is proudly expressing its support for ISIS and the group’s terrorist operations in Iraq and Syria.” The objective of these fabrications is to pave the way to attack residents of Camp Liberty and conduct another massacre.

U.S. and UN commitment to protect the residents

12. In its report of July 2013 to the UN Security Council, ISJ stated the basis for this U.S. and UN responsibility to protect Liberty residents is as follows:

• In July 2004, the U.S. government and the MNF-I endorsed the fact that Ashraf residents are civilians who enjoy protection of the Fourth Geneva Convention. Legally speaking, there have been no elements that would have annulled this status of the residents.

• Transfer of protection to Iraq has been an illegal measure by the United States. Especially following the July 2009 attack on the residents, according to Article 45 of 4GC, U.S. should have reassumed protection of residents from the Iraqi government. This matter is presentable to any court.

• United States has signed an agreement with each and every resident of Ashraf that in exchange for their disarmament, it would assume their protection until their final disposition. United States is responsible for this compact and its unilateral revocation is considered a criminal act.

• All the residents are refugees or asylum seekers and are ‘People of Concern’ and enjoy international protection.

• Transfer of residents from Ashraf to Camp Liberty took place on the basis of UN and U.S. assurances and the U.S. government, through its most senior officials including its Secretary of State, has numerously announced that safety and security of residents in Camp Liberty would be provided.

• On 25 December 2011, Secretary Clinton supported the Memorandum of Understanding between the United Nations and the Government of Iraq (GoI) and emphasized on the safety and security of residents. She stated that U.S. diplomats would frequently and regularly visit Camp Liberty.

• According to the four-party agreement between U.S., UN, GoI, and the residents (August 16, 2012), on the transfer of the rest of residents to Camp Liberty, U.S. committed itself to support residents’ safety and security.
These agreements aside, in conditions where Ashraf and Liberty residents are threatened with massacre — a matter experienced four times — the international community, especially the Security Council and the U.S. government should provide for residents’ protection according to the principle of responsibility to protect (RtoP).

13. It should be mentioned that Ashraf residents have handed over to the United States all their heavy, light and personal weapons, including 17000 pieces of personal protection weapons, and in return the U. S. government assumed the responsibility to protect them until their final disposition.

However, in flagrant breach of all these commitments, in February 2009, the U.S. government handed over protection of Ashraf residents to the Maliki government that U.S. knew quite well that he is an Iranian regime proxy and an enemy of the PMOI. Documents that were later disclosed show that before this transfer of protection, the UNHCR and the ICRC had warned the U.S. government that if Ashraf is handed over to government of Iraq, a humanitarian tragedy would ensue.

Protection of Camp Liberty residents and swift resettlement is but a mirage.

14. Contrary to U.S. and UN promises in 2011 and 2012 that the residents would be quickly resettled after their relocation to Camp Liberty, three years after residents’ transfer to Liberty Prison, only 15% have been resettled abroad. This is despite the fact that the residents and their representatives have presented U.S. and UN with various plans of resettlement, including a request for the transfer of all residents to the United States, even on a temporary basis and under control, until third countries for permanent residence may be found.

15. In its report to the Security Council in March 2013 which followed the first missile attack on Camp Liberty, in paragraphs 37 to 41, ISJ assessed four alternatives for protection of Camp Liberty residents and concluded: “The most effective solution is clearly the third option where all residents are temporarily transferred to the United States or a European country and final resettlement takes place from there. As U.S. is the party responsible here as it disarmed the residents and signed an agreement with each and every one of them assuming their protection until final disposition. By transferring them to the United States, the U.S. can permanently end an outstanding problem that has tarnished America’s image while it is a completely practical solution that only requires a political decision. We invite all our colleagues in the United States to work for and advocate this solution.” Almost two years after this call that had been and was numerously repeated before and after, no effective measures were taken by the United States and any resettlement of the residents has been almost solely the work of the residents or their representatives.

16. We, the residents, and their representatives have fruitlessly and numerously repeated since 2011, when the issue of transfer to Camp Liberty was brought up, that the sole solution for protecting the residents in Camp Liberty is for UN Blue Helmets to be stationed in this camp. In April 2014, forty-five members of parliament of Iraq called on the United Nations to station its Blue Helmets to protect Liberty residents against the assaults by elements that they called the security forces.

On 20 November 2013, in a letter to the President of the European Union, the President of the European Commission, and the EU High Representative, members of the European Parliament Foreign Affairs Committee urged a “ Call for the Security Council and the United Nations to station a UN monitoring team at Camp Liberty along with a unit of UN Blue Helmets”.

17. Residents even declared that they are prepared to pay the expenses for the Blue Helmets and that if this is not possible, then they are ready to sign contracts with private security companies to protect Camp Liberty, a proposition left unanswered by the Iraqi government.

18. UN monitors were to keep a permanent 24-hour presence in Camp Liberty and the Special Representative to Secretary-General wrote to residents on 28 December 2011: “Upon arrival of residents at Camp Liberty, the United Nations will conduct 24×7 monitoring at the Camp until the last of the residents leaves Iraq.” However, not only such monitoring is not conducted, but the UN observers only spend a limited number of hours in the camp on some days. As soon as the risks and dangers increase, even these short visits are suspended. For example for several months since June 15 there was no such presence in the camp.

19. On 25 December 2011, after the Memorandum of Understanding was signed between the Iraqi government and the United Nations, Secretary Clinton announced that U.S. Embassy diplomats in Baghdad will regularly and frequently visit Camp Liberty. Nonetheless, there were never such visits
and the number of visits to the camp by the U.S. has been less than the number of fingers of one hand.

20. During this time, all endeavors by the residents and their representatives, as well as all the attempts by us and other refugee rights defending organs, to improve the security situation in Camp Liberty, such as returning of the T-walls that protect the containers, or transfer of protective helmets and vests from Ashraf to Liberty, or entry of sandbags, etc. have gotten nowhere.

21. Moreover, United Nations has proved intransigent to repeated requests by the residents and their lawyers and representatives, as well as calls by defenders of human and refugee rights, to declare Camp Liberty a refugee camp under UNHCR supervision. Thus, even this minimum protection has also been withheld.

Iraqi government’s irresponsibility

22. Ignoring calls for transfer to the United States and the implementation of protective provisions is while Government of Iraq officially declares to international bodies that it is unaware of the identity of the perpetrators of the criminal attacks on Ashraf and Liberty. In face of piles of document and evidence that indicate the full responsibility of the Iraqi government in these crimes, and despite international calls for independent investigations, Government of Iraq has announced that it is trying to find the perpetrators; but this search is bound to be futile as the investigators are themselves the culprits. This government uses every tool available to it to prevent an independent inquiry.

 

About ISJ:
International Committee In Search of Justice (ISJ) was initially formed in 2008 as an informal group of EU parliamentarians to seek justice for the Iranian democratic opposition. In 2014 it was registered as a non-profit NGO in Brussels expanding its membership beyond elected parliamentarians to former officials and other dignitaries with an interest to promote human rights, freedom, democracy, peace and stability. ISJ’s campaigns have enjoyed the support of over 4000 parliamentarians on both sides of the Atlantic.
President: Alejo Vidal-Quadras, Vice President of European Parliament (1999-2014)
Board of Advisors: Patrick Kennedy, Congressman (1995-2011); Günter Verheugen, Vice President of EU Commission (2004-2010); Nicole Fontaine, President of European Parliament (1999-2002); General Hugh Shelton, Chairman of US Joint Chiefs of Staff (1997-2001); David Kilgour, Canadian Secretary of State (1997-2003); Ingrid Betancourt ; Prof. Raymond Tanter, President of Iran Policy Committee, Washington D.C.; Prof. Horst Teltschik, Chairman of the Munich Security Conference (1999-2008); Colonel Wesley Martin, Antiterrorism/Force Protection Officer of all Coalition forces in Iraq (2005-2007); Senator Lucio Malan, Quaestor of Italian Senate; Alessandro Pagano MP, President of Committee of Italian Parliamentarians for a Free Iran; Antonio Razzi Secretary of Italian Senate Foreign Affairs Committee; Gérard Deprez MEP, Chair Friends of a Free Iran intergroup European Parliament; Ryszard Czarnecki, Vice President of European Parliament; Tunne Kelam, Member of European Parliament; Lord Carlile of Berriew QC, Co – chairman of British Parliamentary Committee for Iran Freedom, former independent reviewer of UK terrorism legislations; Lord Clarke of Hampstead CBE, Former Chairman of UK Labour Party; Lord Maginnis of Drumglass; Lord Dholakia OBE, Deputy Leader of Liberal Democrats in House of Lords