October 24, 2017

EX- UN Iraq envoy demands Camp Liberty recognition as refugee camp

The West must unite to address the plight of Iranian dissidents in Camp Liberty by ensuring their protection and recognizing the camp as a refugee camp until they can be taken to safety in third countries, a new report has urged.

Ad Melkert, former Special Representative of the UN Secretary¬-General for Iraq, wrote: “The Governments of Iraq, the US, the EU member states and other states involved have been looking too long at each other and too little at their own capacities to address the humanitarian plight of several thousands of people without security or future prospect.

“As a consequence the UN role tends to be reduced to being bystander instead of driver of change and above all protagonist and protector of fundamental human rights.”

He identified seven areas of concern at the Camp as access to medical treatment, policing, infrastructure and provisions, intimidation by Iraqi guards, restricted consultations with government of Iran representatives, impartial reporting and lack of clarification of UN roles at the camp.

Mr Melkert made six key recommendations to ‘break the impasse’ that has left Camp Liberty residents abandoned and suffering repeated abuses of their human rights.

These are:

1. The US, EU and UN should begin the process of granting asylum to the residents and pledge funds for their resettlement.

2. UNAMI should begin the process of having Camp Liberty recognised as a refugee camp.

3. Iraq should replace its ‘Ashraf Committee’ which oversees the daily business of the Camp, by an impartial ‘mixed committee’ consisting of an equal number of representatives of key ministries and international representatives agreed upon by both the Government and the Camp Liberty residents.

4. UNAMI should appoint two impartial liaison officers that would reside in the Camp and take part in meetings of the Mixed Committee and report independently to the UN Security Council.

5. Iraq should ensure access to unrestricted medical and interpretation services.

6. Iraq should ensure that the Camp is connected to the Baghdad electricity grid.

He wrote in conclusion: “I have heard voices whispering that the Camp Liberty issues are the least of all the concerns regarding Iraq. This may be understandable given the magnitude of the challenges the state and the people are faced with. However it is short-sighted to miss out the clear opportunity of this particular moment.

“The change of Government in Iraq should encourage all sides to turn the page and start a new chapter. The international community should see the window that is now more open than ever to solve a seemingly intractable problem – before the window might close again.

“Hardly has a humanitarian issue been politicized as this one. Yet already for many years the victims are not the players. It is essential for the international community to understand this and thus consider it a duty to intervene in defense of international law and human rights, regardless of political interests or bias.

“This, therefore, should be the moment for governments and lawmakers to step up and let reason and compassion prevail.”