By Muriel Turner, Baroness Turner of Camden
"The conditions in Camp Liberty are synonymous with those in a detention centre", says the report. "Residents have no freedom of movement, nor interaction with the outside world, nor do they have freedom of movement and the semblance of a free life within the Camp. The situation of the residents of Camp Liberty is tantamount to that of detainees or prisoners."
Make no mistakes. This is not an extract from a propaganda sheet produced by a refugee support group, but rather a quote from the United Nations Human Rights Council Working Group on Arbitrary Detention. Meeting to discuss the case of ten Iranians, all members of the National Council of Resistance of Iran, the political coalition that the People's Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK) is its biggest member organization, working group concluded that there was "no legal justification for holding the above-mentioned persons and other individuals in Camp Liberty" - which is near Baghdad. "Such detention is not in conformity with the standards and principles of international human rights law", the UN body concluded. The Working Group called for their "immediate release and lifting of all restraints on the free movement of these persons as well as an enforceable right to compensation".
All of the detainees in question volunteered to be transferred from Camp Ashraf, their home for more than 25 years, to Camp Liberty, a former US military base, only to find that they had been betrayed. As the UN report points out, Camp Liberty is surrounded by a four-meter high concrete wall. Armed Iraqi police guard checkpoints inside the camp. Police patrols regularly enter the residents' resting area, "just as prison guards would inspect the cells of inmates".
Those who agreed to be transferred were doing so at the request of the Iraqi government and after having received guarantees from both the UN and the US that their new "home" would meet basic humanitarian standards. What they found was an "open-air detention centre" were basic hygiene was so bad that it puts their health "at risk", to quote the report once more.
Electricity is only intermittent and running water supplies are insufficient. The private life of those who have agreed to be transferred, around 2,000 of a total of 3,400, is under constant surveillance.
But there is a lingering unanswered irony in here: Given that this is the official verdict of the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, why on earth is it that Martin Kobler, the UN's special envoy to Iraq, has singled out the residents for criticism? In his last report to the UN Security Council, Kobler accused the residents of stalling tactics, as if there were no justifiable reason for them to refuse to move from Camp Ashraf to Camp Liberty. The Iraqis, who have twice raided Camp Ashraf, killing dozens and injuring hundreds, will not even allow vehicles into Camp Liberty for the transport of the handicapped. But despite these prison-like conditions, Kobler thinks the residents that remain in Ashraf are being unreasonable by refusing to complete the transfer, without having their minimum humanitarian needs guaranteed.
Struan Stevenson, the Euro MP who is President of the European Parliament’s Delegation for Relations with Iraq, labeled the UN report “deeply shocking”. He said in a statement that "the UN Working Group describes Camp Liberty as a prison in all but name, which is in direct contradiction to the assurances we have received in the European Parliament from the UN Special Representative in Iraq Martin Kobler and US State Department Ambassador Dan Fried, who have gone out of their way to support the Iraqi Government and criticize the Iranian residents in Ashraf and Liberty".
Worse still, Mr. Stevenson pointed out that had disabled transferees followed Kobler's advice and moved into a nearby hotel, they would almost certainly have been killed. "An offer to move residents from Camp Liberty to the Yamamah Hotel in Baghdad was in fact a trap," said the Euro MP. "The hotel has been rented by the Iranian regime’s embassy in Baghdad since the beginning of 2011. Had any of the Iranian dissidents from Camp Liberty moved there, they would have faced extradition to Iran and certain torture and execution." Given these circumstances it was "almost unbelievable" that Kobler "strongly recommended that even disabled residents should move from the Camp Liberty to the Yamamah Hotel", Stevenson said.
The UN Working Group has directly contradicted the Secretary General’s special envoy in Iraq who has shown himself to be more than willing to do the dirty work of the Iraqi government. And Iraq under Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, as everyone familiar with the Middle East knows, is merely the puppet of the mullahs in Iran.
Iran wants to round the residents of Ashraf up into a concentration camp before annihilating them. The residents, who have "protected person" status under the Fourth Geneva Convention, represent a direct threat to the mullahs' regime simply by their presence. In his report to the Security Council, Kobler has given the Iraqi government just the excuse it needs to launch its third deadly raid. If and when they do, he will have blood on his hands.
But we cannot wait to witness another massacre at Ashraf. It is time for Europe to take the lead and European leaders to consider seriously their pledge after Kosovo; never again to allow such carnage to reoccur. The solution is simple. Press Iraq by economic and political means to respect human rights and property rights of the residents of Ashraf and Liberty.