Nothing Justifies US Inaction in Camp Ashraf’s Case

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“Following crimes against humanity in Ashraf in July 2009 and April 2011, nothing justifies United States’ refusal to interfere. The non-interference of the U.S. in Ashraf’s case is far more serious and unacceptable than the inaction of Dutch forces in Srebrenica tragedy. Doubtless, the United States, because of its irrefutable responsibility to protect the lives of Ashraf residents, should be the first investigator and inspector, and should answer for the crimes committed by the Iraqi forces.”

Extracts of statement released by the offices of NCRI, in view of the looming massacre awaiting Camp Ashraf

American inactiontowards Camp Ashraf looming massacre reminds one of the World “Indifference” towards the Holocaust. We are subjected to a highly controversial and yet monistic socio-political apathy which has the key to a bundle of unanswered questions visualized in one sentence: “Cowardice: verses Integrity.”

I would change the famous saying by C.P Snow to :

“When you look at the long and gloom of Camp Ashraf tragedy , you will find more hideous crimes have been committed in the name of obedience (read safeguarding interests) than have ever been committed in the name of rebellion (read : Legal right to Fight for Freedom lambasted by an FTO label).”

Ashraf City, as it were Known to many, a 14 square mile barren land turned into an icon of modern civilization and safe haven , visited by Lawmakers , journalists and Iraqis , entered its darkest history when the Americans along with the MNFI bombarded, killed and assaulted the City in a subtle coordination with Tehran to wipe the place off the region. Of course this thorn later proved to be more a bastion withstanding storms of unprecedented smear campaigns and a very hard one to swallow.

The reaction of the inhabitants, on the contrary to the expected, was not abusive and terrorist like, but rather self-controlled and peaceful. They abided with resolve to US intrusion and despite their basic rights, co-operated with the intrusive forces in a bid to curb any excuse that would off course from their historic goal which was to lead a fierce struggle in face of the most ominous regimes ever existed in the history of mankind: the Ayatollahs and their never ending lust for power.

They signed a treaty with the US forces, which was never kept on behalf of the latter, to give up their only protection including a defensive mechanism, in return for a “CARD” which labeled each of the residents as “Protected Persons.” The newly given status was to “protect” the residents until a final destination. The US of course “cheated “out of the “deal” as the situation became more complicated and this left the victim with a “Card reading ‘Protected Person’,” which was pierced through by Live bullets on April 8 leaving 36 dead and more than 350 wounded.

Protected persosns Card of Camp Ashraf residents
Protected Card given to Ashraf Camp residents in return for them giving up all defense mechanisms

Where were the US forces which had promised them protection? Obviously not at the scene! They had left the Camp premises hours before 5 heavy armored military battalions stormed dashed the Camp to carry out a blood bath.( Ref1)

A WikiLeaks cable identified by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism at City University in London showed the US was aware the Iraqi government planned to crack down on the MEK, with potentially grave humanitarian consequences. (Ref2)

In a recent Decree, the court in The Hague ruled that the Dutch forces dispatched in 1995 to Bosnia as UN peacekeeping forces to monitor the situation during the siege of Srebrenica, were unsuccessful in protecting the lives of civilian Muslims against the danger of attack of Serbians in Bosnia.

SabasMessage
Saba 29 was shot to death by Iraqi forces supposed to protect her. She was a protected person by US definition in 2004 but was not protected

The court stipulated: ‘Following the fall of Srebrenica, “an extraordinary situation” had aroused which led the Dutch government and its forces to play a more active role in monitoring the evacuation operation and therefore, the Dutch government is responsible in this case.’

If we were to take the fundamental legal principles disputed at the ‘Dutch” court, the irrefutable chain of events of the past years concerning Camp Ashraf are far too projected to elude the truth that “US forces have been responsible” as under the R2P protocol and other International Conventions for the bloodbath witnessed at the Camp , April 2011, and more responsible for the looming Humanitarian Catastrophe there.

The argument has been so far documented in 16 Legal opinions written by the most prominent legal advisers. One such opinion was that of Eric David, professor and president of the Center on International Law at the Free University of Brussels, which concluded that under both The Hague and the Fourth Geneva Conventions the United States must ensure the protection of the refugees at Ashraf. No other authority in Iraq, he adds, is capable of this protection except the American forces.

When the US Command argued that they had no more obligation towards to Camp, since they were leaving Iraq, the law firm Greenberg Traurig in Washington warned that, “The United States may not hand over the people of Ashraf to the Iraqi government without becoming legally responsible for the humanitarian catastrophe that is virtually certain to result.”

The International Committee of Jurists in Defense of Ashraf, representing numerous concerned lawyers in Europe, the United States and Canada, wrote earlier this month to the outgoing commanding general of the Multinational Force-Iraq, stressing that “the transfer of the protection of Ashraf by the U.S. forces to Iraq would pose major risks to the safety and security of the residents there…. We are gravely concerned about a wholesale slaughter of the residents of Ashraf.”

After the transfer of protection to Iraqis and the lethal attack on Ashraf, the United States was obliged to retake the responsibility of protection of Ashraf residents from Iraqi forces in accordance with article 45 of the Fourth Geneva Convention. Jurists, parliamentarians and international organizations have on numerous occasions reminded the US of its legal, humanitarian and moral obligations but the US ignored, therefore, it must be held more accountable for the crimes committed in April 2011.

There is an endless list of International Organizations arguing the consequences of the retreat of obligation on behalf of the US forces.

Extracts from the recent statement by Camp spokesman lays out a good argument which if taken with sufficient sincerity and commitment, will serve to avert yet a greater Humanitarian catastrophe at Camp Ashraf :

“Contrary to the situation in Srebrenica, the current situation in Ashraf is caused by the occupation of Iraq by Coalition forces led by the U.S. and therefore, the responsibility wholly lies with the United States; while the Netherlands had no role in creation of the situation in Srebrenica.

The U.S. forces disarmed Ashraf residents and took away all their weapons, including the weapons they needed for their personal protection; therefore, this doubles the responsibility of the U.S. forces towards Ashraf residents.

The U.S. forces signed an agreement with each and every resident of Ashraf to protect them until their final disposition.

Contrary to the situation in Srebrenica, not only Ashraf residents are considered Protected Persons under the Fourth Geneva Convention by the ICRC and the United States as a group, but each of them were interviewed by U.S. agencies and after a sixteen-month investigation, the U.S. government recognized every one of them as Protected Person under the Fourth Geneva Convention and issued for them ID and “Protected Person under Fourth Geneva Convention” cards. The 47 residents of Ashraf who were killed in the assault of Iraqi forces in July 2009 and April 2011 and the 1071 who have been injured in the series of invasions of Iraqi forces since 20 February 2009 following their transfer of protection to Iraqi forces, all have legal status, have Protected Persons’ ID cards, and have signed an agreement with U.S. forces.

Prior to the transfer of Ashraf residents to the Iraqi forces, the U.S. government knew that Maliki’s government had enmity towards the residents of Ashraf. Hundreds of documents exist where Ashraf residents, their lawyers and representatives, the PMOI, the NCRI, and numerous international human rights organizations, both prior and subsequent to the official transfer of protection to the Iraqi forces in 20 February 2009, warned against serious perils of this transfer and wrote to U.S. Presidents, Secretaries of State, Defense Secretary, Commanders of MNF-I, and other relevant authorities that such transfer is deadly, illegal and unacceptable. Petitions carrying the signatures and ID card numbers of all Ashraf residents as Protected Persons under the Fourth Geneva Convention to President Bush (10 November 2008), to President Obama (3 October 2009), to Special Representative of Secretary-General for Iraq (20 May 2010), to United Nations Secretary-General (June 2010), to Commander of USF-I (11 July 2010), to United Nations Secretary-General (24 April 2011) are among these documents. Copy of these letters and petitions have been regularly sent to the then Secretaries of State and Defense of United States, US Ambassadors, and Commanders of U.S. forces in Iraq.

In addition, the close to one thousand female residents of Ashraf, in separate letters and petitions, including the petition of 10 March 2011, have spoken of their insecurity and the crimes committed by the Iraqi forces with the U.S. Secretary of State and other U.S. officials.( Ref3)

The US has clearly not fulfilled its duties concerning the inhumane siege on Ashraf, particularly the medical siege by the Iraqi forces that is considered a war crime with any definition. The US could have saved some of the wounded from death and more of them from being maimed or permanent consequences. Repeated requests by Ashraf representatives and international calls in this regard were left unanswered by the US. The US forces only transferred 7 out of 345 wounded residents to their medical centers and did nothing for the others.

During the past two and a half years, while the Iraqi government violated all vested rights of Ashraf residents, which are even recognized for the prisoners of war in international standards, the U.S. kept silence and did not take any effective measure in this regard. It has been for nine years that 3,400 residents of Ashraf have been kept in mass detention for the US grace and due to the policy of appeasement towards the clerical dictatorship in Iran and its proxies in Iraq.

The U.S. never published a report on crimes committed on July 2009 and April 2011 and did not respond to the U.S. Congress insistence on publishing the result of visiting Ashraf by the U.S. Embassy representatives, the U.S. forces and doctors two days after the April 8 attack.”

In June, there was a major rally in Paris, which drew as many as 100,000 Iranians and non-Iranians from across the world, to condemn Iraqi human rights violations at Ashraf and to call for the establishment of a permanent UN monitoring team at the camp. There was a bipartisan show of U.S. support for the cause, as Democrats such as former Congressman Patrick Kennedy and Republicans such as former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani came to urge President Obama to support this option.

In May a French court the terror probe of the Iranian opposition MEK(PMOI) and further than that stated that the group had every right to dispute Freedom in their homeland Iran.

The 7 year old legal dipute was one of several which won grounds on the fact that “there was nule evidence suggesting the group having to do with terrorism.” In his case prominent French and international jurists underscored from the beginning that resistance against mullahs’ dictatorship is the legitimate right of the Iranian people, and terrorist label and various false accusations against the Resistance is only an embarrassment and a brand in the history of Judiciary of France.

During the procedure, the anti-terrorism Pubic Prosecutor acknowledged that the main origin for the accusations against the Iranian Resistance and the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran was in fact the EU terror list in which the PMOI was included at the behest of the Iranian regime.

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Appendix to the Article :

Ref1: The US forces that were present in Ashraf between 3 and 7 April 2011, left the camp in the evening of April 7th, a few hours before the attack which started at 4:45 a.m. on April 8th. While they were watching Iraq’s invasion clearly, they received orders to withdraw from Ashraf. The events in Ashraf after 5pm of April 7 were reported every minute by the Ashraf residents, their representatives abroad, their families and lawyers and many supporters of Ashraf in international level to the US government in various levels from the US officers on the ground up to the US Command in Iraq, the US Embassy in Iraq, the President, Vice-President and the Secretaries of State and Defense. Nevertheless, the deadly shellfire and shootings at the residents continued for six hours. It happened while the US Secretary of Defense was in Iraq and had met with Maliki the day before the attack. Nobody can deny the fact that active political intervention, let alone preventive military intervention, could easily prevent the catastrophe or at least let that merciless massacre occur in a smaller scale.

Ref2: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/apr/08/us-iraq-iranian-dissidents-mek

Ref3 : On 16 February 2006, General Gardner, a Deputy Commander of the MNF-I, wrote in a letter addressed to the Ashraf residents: “Multi-National Force-Iraq appreciates our responsibilities with regard to the Geneva Convention Relative to the Treatment of Civilian Persons (GCIV)…the coalition remains deeply committed to the security and rights of the protected people of Ashraf.” Earlier, General Brandenburg, Deputy Commanding General of the MNF-I, had also underscored in a letter to the Ashraf residents on 7 October 2005: “The residents of Camp Ashraf have the right to protection from danger, coercion, and intimidation, and to special protection for the dignity and rights of women.”

Chronology of Events on Camp Ashraf

Background:

  • On April 2, 2011, At-least 30 armored vehicles including Humvees and BMP-1 armored personnel carriers enter Camp Ashraf.

    Warnings ignored:

  • Based on specific information obtained from inside the Iranian regime, the Iranian Resistance declared that Nouri al-Maliki plans new round of killings in Camp Ashraf at behest of Ali Khamenei
  • In numerous letters to American and European officials and the United Nations, Ashraf residents and the National Council of Resistance of Iran warned about an imminent massacre of the camp residents. Unfortunately, on one paid any attention to the warning.

    No actions were taken:

  • On Wednesday, April 6, 2011, 36 hours prior to the catastrophe, Residents once again warn of an attack on the Camp, during a visit by the representative of UNAMI to the Camp.
  • On Thursday, April 7, 2011, after the U.S. Defense Secretary Gates met with Nouri al-Maliki , while it was expected that U.S. forces reinforce their positions in Ashraf, surprisingly the limited U.S. forces that had a presence in the camp since April 3, left the camp.
  • Immediately after al-Maliki’s meeting with U.S. Defense Secretary, some 1500 suppressive Iraqi forces entered Camp Ashraf on Thursday, raising the total to 2500.
  • On the same day, in several letters to President Obama, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and United Nations’ Secretary General, Mrs. Maryam Rajavi, the President-elect of the National Council of Resistance of Iran warned about the imminent crime at Camp Ashraf. But unfortunately, this was to no avail.

    Attack begins:

  • On April 8, at 4:45 a.m. (local time) eight battalions of Iraqi Army’s Ninth and Fifth Divisions began the attack on the defenseless residents. The massive fire by armored vehicles’ heavy machine guns and snipers continued for six hours in various parts of Camp Ashraf. In a short time, numerous residents were killed.
  • By the afternoon, the total number of Ashraf residents killed during the attack reached 33.
  • Over 350 residents were injured with a number of them in highly critical conditions. Since the early hours of Thursday morning, the Iranian Resistance repeatedly called on U.S. to evacuate the wounded residents. But until the following midnight no actions were taken in this regard and more lives were at risk.

    2500 Iraqi forces involved in the attack:

  • The attack by some 2500 suppressive Iraqi forces which began approximately 4:45 a.m. (local time) on April 8, continued until 10:45 a.m. (local time). The Iraqi forces occupied more than one third of Camp Ashraf. Eyewitnesses reported the presence of a number of Persian speaking individuals among the attackers.
  • On April 9, 2011; International outrage over attack: Representatives worldwide including the British Foreign Office Minister, Norwegian Foreign Minister express extreme concern and demanded an investigation into the crime
  • On April 9, 2011, Maryam Rajavi calls on UN and US Government to take immediate measures to save the lives of the wounded in Ashraf.
  • On April 9, 2011, 3 of the 8 women wounded in the attack die due to medical siege and prevention of transfer to hospital by Iraqi forces.

    Iraqi forces prevent apt and in time medical care for the wounded:

  • On April 10, 2011, Ahmadi Jayhoon Abadi and Morteza Beheshti, Majid Ebadian Dehkordi, dies because of delayed medical rehabilitation by Iraqi forces.
  • On April 11, 2011, Baroness Catherine Ashton, High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy ; “what happened on the 8th of April is deplorable.” She demands for a strong United response and an inquiry into the massacre.
  • On April 11, 2011, Alireza Taherlou, passes away in a hospital in Baghdad due to lack of medical care.
  • On April 14, 2011 , Senator John Kerry , Chair U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations calls the violent attack “inacceptable” asking all relevant parties to “seek a peaceful and durable solution and permanent homes for the residents of Camp Ashraf.”
  • On April 14, 2011, UNAMI visits Camp and reports to UNHCHR.
  • On April 15, 2011, Navi Pillay, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights statement reads; “There is no possible excuse for this number of casualties.” Its report also stated : “at least 34 people were killed in Camp Ashraf. Most were shot, and some appear to have been crushed to death, persumably by vehicles and demands an investigation.”
  • On April 17, 2011, Leg amputation of one of Camp Ashraf wounded residents due to delay in treatment
  • On April 19, 2011, Mark Toner, State Department Spokesman ; “U.S. government is deeply troubled by reports of deaths and injuries resulting from the attack.”
  • On April 22, 2011, Iraqi forces prevent entrance of 50 cartons of medicine, especially serums and syringes purchased by the residents, while 225 of the 350 wounded need desperate treatment for bullet wounds.
  • On April 22, 2011, Iraqi government prevents transfer 11 of critically wounded patients to the Erbil hospital.
  • On April 23, 2011, Bahman Atighi, 38, PMOI member , wounded on April 8 attack, passes away in Baquba Hospital after 16 days of agony due to being denied medical care.
  • June 11, 2011; Mansoor Hajian, wounded resident of 8 April Attack dies due to lackof medical care.

    International observers & journalists barred:

  • The Iraqi forces deny UNAMI monitoring team entry into the camp. Mr. Taher Boumdra, the Assistant on Camp Ashraf issues to Mr. Ad Melkert, the Special Representative of the United Nations’ Secretary General in Iraq, tried to visit the camp but was denied entry by the Iraqi forces.
  • A number of journalists have gone to Ashraf, but Iraqi forces prevent them from entering the camp.

    Ashraf City turned into a concentration Camp:

  • The Pearl Memorial (Ashraf’s cemetery) continues was occupied by Iraqi forces and the burial of the 35 dead residents was impossible for at least 40 days, while the opposition leader tried much to get permission for their burial in vain.
  • Iraqi forces have built up widespread military establishments in Ashraf, an embankment 6,500 meters long has been built along with 3 meter watch towers which look into residential areas of residents imposing psychosocial pressure into their privacy.
  • Sixty new loudspeakers have been brought to the site to intensify the scope of the psychological torture after installation
  • Occupied areas of Camp Ashraf bear logistical material all looted. The collection of the stolen property and belongings of the residents and the destroyed properties add up to over $9 million. Among the stolen items are 59 trailers, 57 large tents, 15 big electric generators, 17 big electric transformers, 33 large tanks of camp Ashraf water supply, a large amount of water and electricity equipment, 23 Lorries, tankers and trailer trucks, 19 vehicles, 189 air conditioners, 126 electric heaters, 53 sets of computers and printers. In addition many of the infrastructures and public places such as roads, installations, and electric cables, internal telephone system of the camp, Pearl Cemetery (camp Ashraf public cemetery) and its roads were destroyed by Iraqi forces.

    European Parliament delegation proposal :

  • From 26-29 April: An official delegation from the European Parliament, led by Mr. Struan Stevenson, President of EP Relations with Iraq visited Iraq in the last week of April 2011. In a press statement, Mr. Stevensson wrote: “We asked the Foreign Minister Zebari for permission to visit Ashraf but he said bluntly that this was out of the question.”
  • On 29 April, head of EP delegation, Mr. Struan Stevensson released a statement saying; “- We can then begin to broker a deal with the EU, US, UNAMI, UNHCR etc., but this is totally conditional on the following demands being met, namely: The removal of Iraqi forces from the perimeter of Ashraf; an end to the siege of Ashraf; immediate access of the residents in particular those critically wounded, to medical services in public hospitals and private clinics in Iraq; and an independent inquiry about the incident of April 8, with those responsible for the killing of 35 unarmed civilians held to account.”
  • On 4 May, head of the EP delegation held urgent meetings with Mrs Maryam Rajavi – President-elect of the Iranian Resistance and official representatives of Ashraf residents outside of Iraq in her headquarters in Paris,to discuss EP proposal for Camp Ashraf situation.
  • During the first week of May 2011, the European Parliament proposed long term and viable solution to resolve Camp Ashraf crisis with pre conditions demanding a complete withdrawal of Iraqi forces from the Camp, lifting of the two year siege and guaranteeing security of residents during the transitional period of the plan by US and UN collective effort.
  • On 11May, honorable Cathering Ashton , during the EP plenary at Strasbourg encouraged the EP delegations efforts for a peaceful and long term solution and stressed; “I have condemned that violence and have called for an inquiry …Several options for a long term solution have been considered; United Nations is in the lead.”
  • An International campaign to support EU proposal raised support of the majority members of parliaments and senates from 30 countries worldwide which was announced in a public audience of more than 90 000 people at Villipinte , Paris on 18 June 2011.
  • 25th June : Iraqi President Jalal Talabani after a visit to Iran said, “We have decided to close down Camp Ashraf before the end of the year… and a trilateral committee between Iraq, the Islamic Republic of Iran and the Red Cross has been established to plan-out the necessary solution in this regard, and we have decided to prevent any kind of aggression against our neighbors.”
  • 25th June, Iran’s Minister of Intelligence said, “In order to accelerate the dissolution of the Monafeqin terrorist group, the intelligence apparatushas plans in its agenda and is taking measures… in this regard, we have had talks in Iraq with Iraqi authorities in order to clarify the situation of the Ashraf garrison.” He added, “The country’s intelligence apparatus is conducting significant measures in controlling and arresting members of terrorist groups…the group called the Monafeqin is being dissolved and vanishing.”(Mehr News Agency, affiliated to Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence)
  • 3rd July , Ambassador Jeffry Feltman in an interview with McClatchy Newspapersl; The U. S. was working with the United Nations to move the 3,000-plus Iranians “to a place that is a bit safer, a bit further from Iran,” but they would have to disband and allow themselves to be registered as refugees by the U. N. High Commission for Refugees and that he understood the MEK was “chewing over the possibilities” of disbanding and taking on refugee status
  • 8th July, In a statement Mrs. Rajavi remarked: “The decree by the Dutch court again demonstrates U.S. government and forces have full responsibility in providing protection for Ashraf residents until their final disposition; nothing removes this responsibility from the United States. Following crimes against humanity in Ashraf in July 2009 and April 2011, nothing justifies United States’ refusal to interfere. The non-interference of the U.S. in Ashraf’s case is far more serious and unacceptable than the inaction of Dutch forces in Srebrenica tragedy. Doubtless, the United States, because of its irrefutable responsibility to protect the lives of Ashraf residents, should be the first investigator and inspector, and should answer for the crimes committed by the Iraqi forces.”
  • 8th July, Ashraf Representative in Europe : This decree confirms that U.S. government should answer for 47 dead and 1071 injured in Ashraf and should conduct official investigation into them.