{mosimage}Birmingham Post: Birmingham lawyer has become the spokesman for the UK’s legal industry in condemning an attack by Iraqi forces on a refugee camp.

The Birmingham Post

by Tom Scotney

{mosimage}Birmingham lawyer has become the spokesman for the UK’s legal industry in condemning an attack by Iraqi forces on a refugee camp.

Malcolm Fowler, a former president of Birmingham Law Society and a partner at Jonas Roy Bloom, has said the national Law Society will be taking action after Iraqi police forces moved into the Ashraf camp, which houses about 3,400 members of the exiled Iranian opposition group, the People’s Mujahedin of Iran.

Mr Fowler is a member of the Law Society’s international human rights committee, as well as a former chairman of the criminal law committee.

He said: “We are calling for Iraqi forces to immediately cease the use of all violence against the residents of Camp Ashraf and to leave the grounds of the camp. These forces must also allow the International Committee of the Red Cross, relevant United Nations bodies, lawyers and the press into Camp Ashraf.

“The Iraqi authorities are also reminded of their obligations towards the 36 detained who should be returned to the camp. In particular, the rule of law and due process requires that the detained be treated humanely and be given immediate access to their lawyers, as well as relevant international agencies.”

Amnesty International has issued an ‘Urgent Action’ appeal in which it states that video footage it has seen shows Iraqi forces beating people repeatedly on different parts of the body, including the head. The footage also appears to show Iraqi forces firing at the residents, resulting in a number of deaths.

The Law Society’s human rights committee said the residents of Camp Ashraf were ‘protected persons’ under the Fourth Geneva Convention. As a result, they have extensive rights under international law, including the right not to be forcibly displaced, deported, expelled or repatriated in violation of the principle of non-refoulement (referring to refugees of a certain group not being returned to places where their lives could be in danger).

It is calling on all parties, including the United States and Iraq, to ensure Camp Ashraf residents are properly protected.

The attack at Camp Ashraf, which is home to 3,500 Iranian refugees, 1,000 of whom are women, has reportedly left 13 residents dead and more than 400 injured.

Until January 2009, the security of Camp Ashraf and the safety of its residents were guaranteed by Coalition forces in Iraq. However, those duties were transferred to Iraqi forces, following assurances given by the Iraqi authorities that they would be treated humanely and their rights under international law would be respected.

The Ashraf camp has been the home in exile of the PMOI since they were exiled from Iran. The group has been branded a terrorist group by the USA and the UK, although it was reclassified in the UK last year after a court battle.

The group has many supporters in the UK, including a large number of MPs, who say the group has been unfairly classified as a terrorist organisation because of pressure by the Iranian ruling regime.

They set up camp in Iraq under the protection of Saddam Hussein after being expelled by the Iranian government.