International Humanitarian Standards: Facilities At Camp Liberty in Accordance


Tuesday night, 31 January, the public information office of UNAMI in Baghdad issued a statement about the readiness of Camp Liberty for the transfer of Ashraf residents, and announced:

“The UN High Commissioner for Refugees and UNAMI’s Human Rights Office has now confirmed that the infrastructure and the facilities at Camp Liberty is in accordance with international humanitarian standards expressed in the memorandum of understanding.”

Thus, once again, Ashraf residents are facing a fait accompli similar to the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between Mr. Kobler, UN Secretary General’s Special Representative, with the Government of Iraq.

It seems that the aforementioned statement is written without the knowledge of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, UN High Commissioner of Human Rights, and the World Health Organization which are the relevant parties in the Ashraf issue, and at the same time, it intends to ignore the full responsibility of Martin Kobler, UNSG Special Representative in Iraq and place the responsibility on the UN High Commissioner for Refugees and UNAMI’s Human Rights Office in Baghdad.

The goal, as Ashraf residents wrote to Mr. Kobler on January 25th and 29th: “Is quite clear: either you accept these conditions completely “voluntarily” and concur with them or the blame for the subsequent firing of missiles and then a massacre on the next deadline lies upon yourselves and your leadership!”

1. In the UNAMI’s statement and Mr. Kobler’s announcements the most basic human rights criteria are ignored, and only issues have been considered such as: in an area of more than half a square kilometer (exactly 0.683 square kilometers) that according to UNAMI has a capacity for 5500 people, for every 8 persons, one restroom, and for every 7 persons, one water faucet is available. The UNAMI’s statement points out that of course according to humanitarian standards, for every 20 people, one restroom, and for every 100 people, one water faucet is sufficient!

2. The reality of Liberty, as Mr. Kobler has explicitly stated to Ashraf representatives is something else:

. There is no drinking water.

. The residents have no right to free passage, to access lawyers, and to access medical services.

. They cannot take their vehicles and moveable properties with them and are only allowed to take their “individual belongings.” The issue of vehicles and the moveable and non-moveable properties is completely ignored.

. While Camp Liberty with concrete walls of 3.6 meters height is surrounded by the Iraqi security and military forces and all the possible entrance and exit points are controlled by them, armed security forces have widespread presence.

. The residents have, by no means, physical and personal 24-hour access to the UN observers and contacting them, like in Ashraf, is only by telephone.

. there is no mention of necessary facilities for the wounded and disabled persons.

. Instead of a refugee camp, they have illegally designated Camp Liberty as a “temporary transfer location – TTL” to cover up the excessive lack of necessary standards for refugee camps and violating the laws and regulations related to the refugees and asylum seekers.

3. On January 25th, Iraqi government’s representative, at the presence of Mr. Kobler, told Ashraf residents’ legal advisors that in the process of transfer to Liberty, the residents will go individually to the headquarters of the Iraqi forces’ brigade and after bodily inspection, they will be transferred to Iraqi busses, and their personal belongings will be separately taken to Liberty by Iraqi forces, and immediately after arrival at Liberty, they will be finger-printed. Procedures that are no different than transferring prisoners of war and captives.

4. The January 25 letter of Representative of Ashraf Residents outside Iraq to Mr. Kobler reminded: “Are we going to be surprised by another ‘done deal’ just as the signing of MoU, but this time about the readiness of Liberty?”

“Please allow time to meet as planed in Paris on the first week of February, prior to any political and propaganda announcements. So we can find a solution to the extremely tragic, complicated and terrifying situation. I expect only impartiality from you.”

“Allow for us and for the lawyers of both sides, in the legal committee that you proposed today, to find a solution. This can be a joint legal committee including lawyers of the government of Iraq, UNAMI, and UNHCR and meet in Geneva, Brussels, or Paris, chaired by you. This will enable us to try to sign a document for transfer appropriations acceptable to all sides as the Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has stated and you reiterated on December 6 in the Security Council. For the non-public joint legal committee, I personally invite, through you, representatives and lawyers of the government of Iraq, taking responsibility for all costs.”

5. United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) wrote to Ashraf lawyers in London on January 26, ” UNHCR has sent a shelter expert to advise the Government of Iraq.”

On January 27, SRSG wrote to Representative of the Residents of Ashraf outside Iraq: “I don’t exert any influence on the UNHCR site planner to confirm that camp liberty is in accordance with international humanitarian standards. During our meeting in Ashraf yesterday the site planner presented already his impressions to the representatives.”

However, in January 25 meeting with Ashraf’s legal advisors, the site planner clearly told them that his job was checking and assessing the infrastructures and not the standards which is a political matter and is not of his concern. You would agree that infrastructures, such as how many showers are required for a certain number of people, could be observed in any prison; while the main issue is the standards of behavior.

For that reason, the Representative of Ashraf Residents outside Iraq wrote to SRSG on January 27: “It is very clear that within the framework of the United Nations, you, as the SRSG, are the person responsible for the relocation plan to Camp Liberty and all its details, unless you declare, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees is responsible for the plan. In such case we will take up the issue with the UNHCR”.

6. In his letter to SRSG on January 29, the Representative of Ashraf Residents added: “We deeply regret that Government of Iraq (GoI) refuses permission to a team of Ashraf experts or their lawyers to visit Camp Liberty prior to the residents’ relocation. You confirmed that this opposition by GoI to grant such a simple request is due to a concern that following such a visit, residents would refrain from moving. However, a visit to Camp Liberty prior to transfer of residents is their minimum right and GoI’s obstruction lacks any logical or legal justification. It seems that by just presenting a few photographs that you passed on to us that absolutely do not reflect the reality on the ground, GoI wishes to drive Ashraf residents to a prison without giving residents’ representatives or lawyers a chance to see the site.”

“You stated that the Secretary-General has no time to look into the details given in our letters and you subsequently told us to reply in a single word, ‘yes’ or ‘no’, if the residents have the intention to go to Camp Liberty.

Our reply was: As you know, at the request of Mrs. Rajavi, President-elect of the National Council of Resistance of Iran, since December 30, four hundred Ashraf residents were prepared to move with their movable belongings and vehicles to Camp Liberty. However, many of them were disappointed after hearing public statements by Prime Minister Maliki about arrest warrants for Ashraf residents, together with the infamous statements that Hassan Danaifar attributed to you. Nevertheless, Madam Parsaei in Ashraf did her utmost to convince other residents to move to Camp Liberty.

As declared by Mrs. Rajavi on December 28, 400 residents of Ashraf are ready and committed to relocate to Camp Liberty with their vehicles and movable properties…It is indeed regrettable that GoI turns down this minimum request while it is taking from the residents their dwelling where thousands of people have worked and invested on for 26 years and is worth hundreds of millions of dollars. In his statement on December 21, 2011, Prime Minister Maliki himself said Ashraf “is a city of Iraq and not a camp as called by the media”.

So, why does the GoI not allow the residents to take along their vehicles and movable property with them to Camp Liberty? You have told us that you could only get an agreement from GoI for ten vehicles for the 400 people.

“Contrary to your promise, this MoU which determines the destiny and life and death of all Ashraf residents was signed with GoI without our knowledge and we had no participation whatsoever in the negotiations that led to it. None of the minimum guarantees requested by Mrs. Rajavi from you or were enumerated in writing in several letters to you by Ashraf residents’ representative outside of Iraq are anywhere to be seen in this MoU.”

“We informed you that based on all the evidence, the Iraqi government measures are considered forced eviction, the standards that must be taken into consideration based on the international law are different and far beyond the standards mentioned by the UNHCR site planner, and these standards cannot be neglected by UN officials.”

7. In the January 29 letter of Representative of Ashraf Residents to SRSG it was also stated: “You asked if Ashraf residents want UN’s and your personal work to continue regarding Ashraf. Surely we do want and insist on that. As prominent international jurists, including Professor Eric David, have said, the UN responsibility in the case of Ashraf is a legal responsibility and a judicial obligation so that cases such as Rwanda are not repeated.

Our request from SRSG what is happening on the ground in Iraq is that you only act according to what has been stated in the UNSG’s reports about “implementation of any arrangement that is acceptable to the Government of Iraq and the camp residents”, and UNSG’s assertions that “the agreement lays the foundation for a peaceful and durable solution to the situation, respecting both the sovereignty of Iraq and its international humanitarian and human rights obligations” (Dec 6. 2011).

Also you as the SRSG pointed out in the Security Council on December 6: “Any workable solution must be acceptable to both the government of Iraq and to the residents of Camp Ashraf. The solution must respect the Iraqi government on the one hand and applicable International humanitarian, human rights and refugee law on the other hand”.

8. The Representative of Ashraf residents reminded: “Concerning the meddling of Iranian regime in Ashraf’s case and the brazen statements attributed to you and widely broadcasted in all Iranian regime’s media against Ashraf residents by Hassan Danaifar, Iranian regime’s ambassador in Baghdad (Danaifar is a notorious commander of Quds Force), we reminded you of a well-known fact that no UNHCR, UN or other concerned international organizations’ official is allowed to sit down and discuss the condition of an asylum-seeker with a government that he has escaped from.”

9. “Now, after the signing of the MOU with GoI, as Mrs. Rajavi requested from you in Paris, we emphatically urged you and continue to do so that a comprehensive document regarding the detailed arrangements for transfer of residents from Ashraf to Camp Liberty that leaves no room for further tensions and crises be reached and signed by our lawyers and GoI, but also SRSG and representatives of the U.S. and the EU. Although you refrained, we nevertheless once again insist on our legitimate, logical and legal request that would prevent copious future problems; we urge you to bring this suggestion to the attention of UNSG. This comprehensive document would facilitate the transfer of Ashraf residents to Camp Liberty.”

10. In the above-mentioned press release that UNAMI issued in Baghdad, there was no reference to the fact that the presence of Ashraf residents in Iraq in the past 26 years have been legal and peaceful, and this was stipulated by the court for 36 Ashraf residents who were taken hostage by the in 2009. The change of government in Iraq could not have altered the acquired rights and legal status of Ashraf residents and the obligations of the GoI towards them. Not acknowledging this reality, is covering up the forced eviction, that makes transfer to Camp Liberty without the minimum guarantees as a forced relocation.

11. The National Council of Resistance of Iran has obtained secret documents from inside the clerical regime regarding a “joint working plan” for dismantling the main Iranian opposition force through imposing conditions at Camp Liberty on the Iranian opposition by exploiting UNAMI in Iraq. According to this plan, Ashraf should be closed down prior to April 2012 deadline and the residents would be transferred in groups of 350, and subsequently in groups of 200. According to the plan, UNAMI should be placed in constant contact with the Iranian Embassy in Baghdad and this has been made clear and understood. The objective is to make as many as of the residents possible to be forced to repent, surrender and return to Iran. The objective of placing Ashraf residents faced with a fait accompli situation is to make them submit to inhumane and illegal conditions at Camp Liberty. And if they would not submit, in the subsequent steps they would be construed as being responsible and would be blamed for the attack on them and the massacre.

12. Hassan Danaifar, the mullahs’ regime Ambassador in Iraq, stated on January 30th brazenly that consular representatives of the clerical regime would be stationed in Camp Liberty (State-run Mehr News Agency).

The International Committee of Jurists in Defence of Ashraf (ICJDA), comprised of 8500 jurists in Europe and North America, wrote to SRSG, “Any intervention by a regime with which Ashraf residents have opposed because of their political beliefs and now are charged by it for “Moharebeh” (waging war on God) and are condemned to death, is completely illegal and unprincipled… It is a known fact that none of the officials of the United Nations are allowed to engage a government from which an asylum seeker has escaped on his/her situation.”

As the National Council of Resistance of Iran stated on January 30, “as the Iranian resistance has reiterated on several occasions, it considers any meddling of the mullahs’ regime in the fate and future of Ashraf residents as a red line and Ashraf residents would never accept that.

These statements once again reveal the Iranian regime’s efforts to fail the peaceful solution for Ashraf that the Iranian resistance has times and again warned against. It therefore deserves that the UN and specially the UN Special Representative in Iraq immediately condemn statements of the Iranian regime’s Ambassador in Baghdad and declare that the UN and its relevant bodies such as UNAMI and UNHCR will prevent direct and indirect meddling of the Iranian regime in Camp Liberty and the fate of Ashraf residents.”

13. The January 31 UNAMI press release in Baghdad has been decorated with this phrase: “The Government of Iraq is committed to respect the rules of international human rights law. Nobody will be forcibly returned to Iran. Relocation by the residents of Camp Ashraf is entirely voluntary. The Government of Iraq is responsible for the safety and security of the residents of Camp Ashraf during their transfer and for the duration of their stay.”

But realities are something else:

. The GoI has continuously treated Ashraf residents inhumanely and with denigration. In the last three years it has killed 47 people and wounded 1,071 people or ran over them by armored vehicles. Through imposing a siege and refusal to allow them access to medical services, it has caused the death of 12 residents. While the United Nations is silent about these crimes, the National Court of Spain has summoned those accused of crimes against humanity, war crimes, and crimes against the international community.

. Ashraf residents will only believe Iraqi government’s respect for the international human rights law when they see that an independent investigative commission reports on the slaughter of 47 residents and, as the High Commissioner of Human Rights, Mrs. Pillay, and the SRSG, Ad Melkert, asked in the April 15th, 2011 statement, holds responsible the perpetrators.

. The northern part of Ashraf is looted by the Iraqi military and continues to be pillaged. Liberty has been looted after the withdrawal of U.S. armed forces. Relocation without transferring Ashraf residents’ belongings is the permit for looting and pillaging Ashraf’s properties in the next step.

14. Mr. Kobler has repeatedly stated that the UNHCR will issue a certificate of compliance with international standards, but despite all pressure, UNHCR has refused to do so and has reported that the technical infrastructure are in accordance with the international standards for refugee camps.

In UNAMI’s press release, the standards of treatment are intentionally ignored. Is this a measure to cover up the truth or is it to escape the responsibility of forceful dislocation of Ashraf residents and to escape the responsibility for the next massacre?

Secretariat of the National Council of Resistance of Iran

Shahriar Kia is a political analyst and human rights activist who is a member of Iranian opposition, PMOI. He graduated from Texas State University, USA. Connect with him on Twitter.