‘Prison-Like’ Camp Liberty Not Suitable For Long-Term Stay of Ashraf Residents

I would like to draw your attention to the blatant violation of the rights of Ashraf residents and they call for guaranteeing the minimum assurances sought by Ashraf residents in order to prevent a greater catastrophe.

1. Iraqi government should provide the minimum assurances for the camp.

2. US and SRSG in Iraq should stop the Iraqi Government from establishing a prison-like environment at Liberty, and to provide a peaceful solution for the Ashraf crisis.

3. For us humanitarian and human rights standards and international norms for the protection of Ashraf residents cannot be waivered.

Background information:

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As you know, despite the fact that the circumstances at Camp Liberty do not meet the minimum international standards, the first group of Ashraf residents moved to Liberty on 18 February, the second group went on 8 March 2012 and a further group moved on March 19, to Camp Liberty showing maximum flexibility and good will; however, the camp is by no means in a suitable state for long-term stay of the residents.

Agreements for the departure of the third group were finalized after 10 days of negotiations with concerned parties in the UN and the U.S. and only after many transcripts of a possible agreement were reconsidered on a daily basis; and after the letter by the UN Special Representative in which the UN provided assurances for the protection and security of residents in camp Liberty. Further discussions about other essential needs and basic humanitarian rights and resolving the issues related to the residents’ properties, which are necessary for the departure of subsequent groups, have been scheduled for the days to come.

Mr. Bardia Amir-Mostofian, an engineer and with refugee status from Germany, who was among the third group that was transferred from Ashraf to Camp Liberty, soon after entering the camp had a cardiac arrest due to intense fatigue and lost his life. The Iraqi government and UNAMI for the past few days in an unjustifiable haste demanded that the third group of residents be transferred on March 19 and did not accept the pleas of the residents and their representatives for the transfer to take place on March 22 following the Persian New Year.

Camp Liberty in no way has the facilities to house 3400 individuals. The water, electricity and sewage problems have yet to be resolved and any construction or the entry of building materials is banned. Water has to be brought in by tankers every day. The electricity is supplied by generators which are in bad conditions. However, the Generators were prevented from being transferred from Ashraf to Liberty.

There are no concrete or asphalt routes in Liberty, and all that exist are mud roads, and this is especially intolerable for the injured and ill residents.

The camp’s inner courtyards and roads are paved with gravel which is an insurmountable restriction for the sick and handicapped who cannot traverse in such conditions and are confined to their living quarters. The health of the handicapped and wounded will certainly deteriorate as a result of such circumstances. The greater majority of them were shot and handicapped by the Iraqi forces.

The Iraqi government prevented them from building a simple route in Liberty for the sick and handicapped.

Sadegh Mohammad Kazem, one of the main elements of this committee who is also under prosecution by the Spanish National Court for his role in the April 8, 2011 massacre of Ashraf residents, is controlling everything in the Camp and prevents the residents from entering any items needed for reconstruction or maintenance of the infrastructures inside Camp Liberty. ** **

During the inspection of Ashraf residents’ personal belongings, they were banned from taking many of their personal belongings. Special chairs for the ill, bicycles, desks, kitchen utensils, basic tools, microwaves, wheelchairs, refrigerator, freezer, public service vehicles, different kinds of power generators, forklift trucks, and water heater were among the items that were prevented from being transferred during the inspection.

Please watch interviews with handicapped and ill people of Ashraf:

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.