Iraq Takes New Steps in Turning Camp Liberty Into a Prison

New Dimensions In Turning Liberty Into Prison, And Violations Of International Law And Memorandum Of Understanding By The Iraqi Government

The government of Iraq, at the behest of the Iranian regime, is taking new steps in turning camp Liberty into a prison and imposing restrictions on camp residents.

1. On Sunday, June 18, Iraqi forces under the command of Mohammad Kazim Sadeq, stopped a UNHCR vehicle taking a number of residents to the nearby location of the agency for interviews, and returned them to Liberty. The arrangement is based on the MoU signed by the government of Iraq and has been in progress for the past 140 days. This is while UNHCR has repeatedly announced during the past year that the residents of Ashraf and Liberty are “asylum seekers” and “people of concern” who enjoy international rights and protections. Obstructing the process in presence of the UNHCR are blatant defiance of refugee and international laws and serious violation of the MoU.

2. It is 20 days that Iraqi forces are imposing an unannounced food blockade against residents of Liberty. During this time, after repeated interventions by the United Nations, only one food shipment has received permission to enter the camp. The bulk of the content of this shipment, after staying 11 days outside the camp in 50°C (130F) heat, has rotten and rendered useless.

Since Tuesday, June 13, Iraqi forces, in spite of agreement between UN representatives and Iraqi Prime Ministry’s committee charged with suppression of Ashraf residents, have prevented food a truck from entering the camp. This truck imported flour, rice, beans and oil worth over 70 thousand dollars. Even after Iraqis reached an agreement with representatives of the United Nations to allow the truck to enter the camp, Sadeq prevented it. He said all bags should be unloaded from the truck one by one for the content to be inspected carefully.

Unloading of 20 tons of food under the heat and returning them back into the truck, without using facilities such as a lift truck, should be considered harsh labor and will destroy the food under the current extreme weather condition. UNAMI representatives have repeatedly stressed to Iraqis that there is enough room inside the truck for inspections to take place and there is no need for the content to be unloaded. In additions, the cargo was inspected at the boarder going through the costumes, and then in Liberty, by the sniffing dogs unit and also scanner and sonar devices. In reality they don’t need to be inspected anymore. But the explanations have no effect as the inspections are intended to blockade and torture the residents.

Since July 8, the plain-clothes agents stationed in Liberty, whose identities are not known and their mission is harassment of the residents, started wearing uniforms to pretend that they are official forces. They have been stationed in the camp since June 2 and are the same forces who have been involved in the inhuman and psychological torture of the residents for the past three years and half against Ashraf residents and are in direct contact with the Iranian Quds force.

Shahriar Kia is a member of the Iranian opposition (PMOI /MEK). He is a human rights activist and political analyst on Iran and the Middle East.