By Tahar Boumedra
The Hill – July 17, 2013 – This week the UN Security Council session will discuss the possibility of extending the mandate of the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI). It is expected on this occasion that the head of UNAMI, the Special Representative of the Secretary General (SRSG) Ambassador Martin Kobler will present his periodic and last report on the situation of the residents of Camp Ashraf/Liberty before he leaves Iraq for the Democratic Republic of Congo, where he will lead another UN complex mission. SRSG Kobler made it his priority to assist the Government of Iraq to close down Camp Ashraf where about 3400 Iranian exiles lived for the last 27 years and transfer them to a former U.S. Army base (Camp Liberty) at Baghdad Airport where they would be awaiting departure from Iraq. To do so, SRSG Kobler signed on December 25, 2011 a memorandum of understanding with the Government of Iraq setting conditions for their relocation and for the Office of UN High Commissioner for Refugees to undertake their refugee status determination process as a first step for settling them outside Iraq.
The SRSG promised the population of Camp Ashraf that their relocation to Camp Liberty is to ensure their safety and security. The UNHCR made it a condition that the RSD process takes place in a neutral and safe location outside Camp Ashraf. While the MOU had other undeclared cynical objectives, the residents of Ashraf were lured into Camp Liberty with the false promise that the latter Camp provides safety and security and meets international standards. UNHCR promised a period of six months to deliver and start resettling the resident in third countries. I had repeatedly warned that Camp Liberty is neither safe nor secure nor meeting the applicable international humanitarian standards including the UN guidelines on the process applicable to forcible eviction. I also warned that the resettlement process will last for decades and the Government of Iraq publicly warned that they will not allow a de facto settlement in Iraq and that they will remove them by “all means.”
My warnings went unheeded. Camp Liberty quickly proved its humanitarian and security limits. It turned into a detention center, some called it a “killing field”, with a population facing deprivations and daily harassment and a ban on all visits of actors that would bring the matter to the attention of the international community in an independent manner. NGOs, independent media, parliamentarians, including Iraqi parliamentarians, diplomats and representatives of other UN agencies separately from UNAMI are prevented from reaching the camp. The residents of Liberty are deprived of the most fundamental rights, such as access to justice and freedom of movement. Even burying the dead has proved to be a serious challenge to the Liberty residents contrary to the Islamic teaching. The daily harassments of the residents soon turned into armed attacks against them. They were showered with war missiles on February 9th, April 28th and June 15th of this year, from a nearby location known to have a heavy presence of the Iraqi army. Eleven people were killed and scores of them were injured. UNAMI hardly condemned the attack. Instead, the SRSG called on the residents’ representatives to allow the residents more freedom to communicate. Could one enjoy freedom of communication if deprived of his/her freedom of movement, freedom to meet lawyers, NGOs, parliamentarians? What does freedom of communication mean to a population forcibly placed in a detention center without the due process of law?
As the situation stands today, Camp Liberty residents are locked up in a detention center lacking minimum security requirements and the minimum humanitarian conditions. They stand exposed to serious and imminent danger. If nothing is done to rescue them from this situation, no doubt there will be more rocket attacks against them, there will be more loss of life and lot of pain to the residents and their families.
Camp Liberty today is a real case where the responsibility to protect is most needed and most appropriate. It does not need any complex and costly operation. All it needs is to declare the Camp a prima facie refugee Camp and request the Government of Iraq to effectively ensure their safety, security and dignity while the UNHCR continues its effort in view of resettling them outside Iraq. The contribution of the international community to resettle this small population will go into history as an opportunity where UN member states lived up to their commitments and upheld the core values of the UN Charter. Any further attacks against this defenseless population will seriously undermine the integrity and credibility of the United Nations and its member states who took the responsibility of placing them at Camp Liberty.
Boumedra was chief of the Human Rights Office of United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI), and adviser to the Special Representative of the Secretary-General (SRSG) on Camp Ashraf affairs from 2009 until 2012.
- Friday, July 26, 2013
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On the eve of International Holocaust Remembrance Day, Opposition satellite channel airs Holocaust film into Iran
On the eve of International Holocaust Remembrance Day, Simay-e Azadi television channel (www.iranntv.com) broadcast the 1982 Academy Award winning documentary, “Genocide”, produced by the Simon Wiesenthal Center, via satellite to millions of Iranians.
The broadcast of the film, in original sound track with Farsi subtitles, by the opposition television channel, was in stark contrast to the denials by the Iranian regime and its President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad that Holocaust never happened.
In a report on the broadcast, the New York Times wrote on January 25, “Rabbi Marvin Hier, who is the dean and founder of the Simon Wiesenthal Center here, as well as a producer of ‘Genocide,’ said two showings of the documentary were scheduled for broadcast on Friday by opponents of the current government of Iran.” “This is a big thing,” Rabbi Hier said in a telephone interview this week. “Iran is the center of denial of the Holocaust in the entire world.”
“A similar 2005 effort by the Wiesenthal Center broadcast a short clip of the film into Iran; but this time around, the entire documentary, which has a running time of 88 minutes, is being shown, and posted online and streamed on Iranntv.com,” the New York Times added.
In a statement, the Simon Wiesenthal Center described the “the first-ever broadcast of the film into Iran with Farsi subtitles” as an “historic break-through.”
One of the main programs of the U.S. Foundation for Liberty is to support Simay-e Azadi in maintaining and expanding its broadcasts and programming.
- Tuesday, January 29, 2013
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A political dissident tragically died on Sunday in Camp Liberty, Iraq, after being denied medical treatment by Iraqi authorities.
Behrooz Rahimian was 56 years old and belonged to the main opposition movement People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK). Some 3,200 dissidents were relocated in 2012 from Camp Ashraf, where they had resided for 25 years, to Camp Liberty near Baghdad’s international airport.
Since then, the residents have lived in intolerable conditions and have been systematically denied access to proper medical treatment. The residents are not allowed to transfer their medical supplies and equipment to CampLiberty from CampAshraf.
As a result of the medical siege on the camp, imposed by Iraqi authorities at the behest of the Iranian regime, 14 residents have thus far lost their lives. Their deaths could have been easily prevented.
The latest victim of the medical siege, Mr. Rahimian, had undergone heart surgery in 2003, and remained under treatment until four years ago when the Iraqi government imposed the blockade.
Mr. Rahimian reported intense chest pains on November 25, and was transferred to a hospital outside of Liberty in Baghdad. However, he said in a letter to the UN mission in Iraq a day after his visit to the hospital that the Iraqi agents escorting him prevented his hospitalization.
The Iraqi agents escorting Mr. Rahimian to the hospital, he wrote, had “created an intimidation atmosphere and openly told [the hospital staff] that they were not allowed to keep me over night.”
He was forced to return to Liberty without receiving his treatment and died less than a month later.
Multiple letters were sent to the UN Assistance Missions in Iraq (UNAMI), headed by Ambassador Martin Kobler, but the agency refused to intervene. Under international law, the residents in Liberty are considered “protected persons” in accordance with the Geneva Conventions and “asylum-seekers” according to the UN Refugee Agency.
Mr. Rahimian was a veteran activist for peace and democracy in Iran. Eight of his family members were brutally killed at the hands of the Iranian regime, including three of his brothers and his wife.
Families of Liberty residents in the U.S. and Europe condemned the Iraqi government’s siege on medical access for the residents of Camp Liberty and called on the United States and the United Nations to intervene to help lift the medical siege on Liberty.
The Iraqi government must be compelled to allow the residents to transfer their medical equipment to the camp in order to offer badly needed treatment to patients who
- Sunday, January 6, 2013
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What is a promise worth in the political world? For 3,200 Iranian refugees in Iraq a promise may be worth everything. The refugees, who had previously resided in Camp Ashraf in Iraq, are members of the opposition group Peoples Mojahedin of Iran, (PMOI). They now await relocation from what has been ironically named “Camp Liberty”, a facility many have compared with an internment camp. The residents of Camp Liberty have not forgotten the promise made to them by the United States in 2003, and continue to call on the U.S. to stand by its words.
The promise in question was made following the invasion of 2003, when the United States signed a ceasefire agreement with the residents of Camp Ashraf, guaranteeing every resident protected person status under the fourth Geneva Convention. Yet this promise was repeatedly broken after the United States surrendered control of the camp the Iraqi military in 2009. Iraqi Prime Minister, Nouri Al-Maliki’s close relationship to Tehran put the dissidents in Ashraf firmly in his crosshairs. Since 2009, 49 residents of Ashraf have been killed in clashes with Iraqi police, and hundreds have been wounded. The second raid which killed 34 residents was referred to as a “massacre” in a statement by the Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, Senator John Kerry, Chairman of the Committee on Foreign Relations.
Since that time evidence has been exposed, including leaked cables which revealed not only that Iraq was taking orders from Iran, but that the United States turned a blind eye to the massacre. Previous raids against the residents were preceded by meetings with high level Iranian officials, and even received formal approval by Iranian Supreme leader Khamenei.
Over the last year, Ashraf residents were transferred to a new facility near the Baghdad airport called “Camp Liberty”, in the hopes of relocating to a third country with the cooperation of the UN and the international community. Yet this effort has been mired in scandal as, Tahar Boumedra, who was the former chief of the UNAMI Human Rights Office, accused UNAMI of acting as an agent of the Iraqi government in putting pressure on residents in the camp. In an interview with the Washington Post, Boumedra outlines the questionable actions employed by Martin Kobler, U.N. special representative for Iraq, in misrepresenting the adequacy of facilities in Camp Liberty to Ashraf residents.
The problems with Camp Liberty were confirmed in a report published by the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, referring to the situation of residents in Liberty as violation of international laws, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Despite these hardships, almost all of Camp Ashraf has been emptied and residents have stood by their commitments to relocate, cooperating with UNAMI and the Iraqi government in the process of relocation.
Yet there are disturbing reports that the Iraqi government has begun to confiscate the property at Camp Ashraf with no intention to return the items or reimburse residents for them. These plans come after increased pressure on the Iranian regime from sanctions, economic turmoil and their desperate state in Syria. The Iranian regime is still desperate to get their hands on the residents of Liberty, and looks at them as a symbol of resistance that cannot be tolerated. The recent de-listing of the PMOI from the State Department’s list of terrorist organizations has left Tehran scrambling for ways to discredit the organization.
The United States must ensure that Iraq guarantees the safety and security of the residents in Liberty, and ensures a transparent and safe transfer or property and equipment from Camp Ashraf. The United States must also take a leading role in finding countries which will accept the residents of Liberty in order to expedite their transfer and avoid a prolonged conflict.
That is why the United States must keep its promise. Now is the time to protect those who stand on the right side of history. Now is the time to protect Iranian dissidents against a failing dictatorship. The United States’ words used to carry weight in foreign affairs, and their promises served as the foundation for action. It is time to ensure that the promise made to the resident dissidents in Camp Liberty are honored and not forgotten.
- Saturday, December 15, 2012
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International Human Rights Day is observed every year on December 10. It commemorates the adoption in 1948 by the United Nations General Assembly of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
When the assembly adopted the declaration, with 48 states in favor and eight abstentions, it was proclaimed as a “common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations”, towards which individuals and societies should “strive by progressive measures, national and international, to secure their universal and effective recognition and observance”.
The declaration with its range of political, civil, social, cultural and economic rights is not a binding document. However, it provides the foundation for more than 60 human rights instruments.
This year, however, the United Nations has chosen to focus on inclusion and the right to participate in public life. The UN says this right is fundamental to a functioning democratic society and an effective human rights protection system.
Each person should be able to choose those who represent them in all governance institutions, to stand for public office, and to vote on the fundamental questions that shape their individual and collective destinies.
The above mentioned ideals are very much far fetched when it comes to Iran. Under the mullahs’ rule which is fundamentally governed by the so-called “vali-e faqih” the supreme leader, there is no room left for such standards.
Iran is a country which has been condemned fifty-nine times by the United Nations for its gross violations of human rights. The mullahs’ regime has a long history of mass and arbitrary executions for the last three decades including at least 100 inmates who were executed from October 22 to November 14 this year.
The news of atrocious mass executions in various cities across Iran, and the cruel murder of political prisoners such as Sattar Beheshti and Jamil Soveidi under brutal tortures shocked the world.
It was a timely occasion when dozens of Iranian-Americans gathered outside the White House to call for an end to the atrocious executions and express solidarity with the family members of the Iranian regime’s victims.
The participants’ message was clear and simple: Fight for victims of torture. Raise your voice for thousands who languish in various jails and be the voice of Iranian dissidents in Camp Liberty, who have stood tall in their struggle for human rights and democracy in Iran.
- Wednesday, December 12, 2012
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On November 27, 2012, while the imprisoned Iranian Human Rights lawyer and recipient of the 2012 Sakharov Prize Nasrin Sotoudeh was on her 6th week of hunger strike, the United Nations General Assembly’s Third Committee passed two resolutions again this year, condemning the governments of Iran & Syria for rights violations in their respective countries.
Ms. Sotoudeh, known for defending Iranian dissidents, was arrested in September 2011 and later convicted of spreading propaganda against the government and acting against national security. She had represented many imprisoned Iranian opposition activists and politicians following the disputed June 2009 Iranian presidential elections. She also represented many prisoners sentenced to death for crimes committed when they were juveniles. Iran is currently the only UN member state that still executes children. While jailed at Evin Prison, Ms. Sotoudeh has protested the restrictions placed on her, her husband, and their 12-year-old daughter, who are barred from leaving the country or visiting her. She went on hunger strike on October 17th, 2012. Her family has reported that Ms. Sotoudeh spent 17 days in solitary confinement in punishment for her hunger strike. Nine other female prisoners also went on hunger strike this fall, alleging abuse by guards, including access to medical care.
Also this October, Sattar Beheshti, a 35-year-old Iranian blogger who maintained a site on which he criticized the Iranian government, was arrested on by the cyber police without a warrant. He was taken to Tehran’s Kahrizak detention facility, where he was reported to have been subjected to ill-treatment and/or torture. On November 6th, prison authorities contacted his family, asking them to collect his body. The United Nations has called for an investigation of this incident. Mr. Beheshti’s murder while in custody resembles many other previously reported instances of extrajudicial killings by Iranian authorities.
“Harsh prison sentences handed down to journalists and bloggers, following trials in which defendants’ rights to due process and a fair trial are not guaranteed, exemplify broader conditions of severe restrictions on freedom of expression and opinion”, noted the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, Frank La Rue on November 15, 2012.
The U.S. Foundation for Liberty condemns Iranian government’s inhuman treatment of its citizens, disrespect for international law, and its crimes against humanity committed or enabled in both Iran & Syria. With these crimes, Iranian and Syrian governments are trying to suffocate voices of Liberty. It is on us to refuse to be silent. It is on us to be the voice of those who, because of these crimes, cannot speak for themselves. We call on the international community, especially concerned citizens of the United States, to help us shed light on these atrocities and on those who are responsible for committing them.
To help, please click here.
- Wednesday, December 5, 2012
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We have received the following statement by Congressman Dana Rohrabacher, Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations. about Camp Liberty.
Conditions Worsen at Camp Liberty in Iraq, Administration Breaks Promises
Washington, D.C. –Today, Congressman Dana Rohrabacher (CA-46) sent a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, inquiring why no US officials have conducted an inspection visit of Camp Liberty, Iraq in almost a month. Camp Liberty now holds almost all the former residents of Camp Ashraf, members of the Iranian dissident group Mujahedeen-e Khalq.
“During the lead up to the planned transfer of the Camp Ashraf residents, I was repeatedly assured that officials from the US Embassy in Baghdad would frequently visit Camp Liberty to ensure the residents’ safety and well being,” writes Rohrabacher. “A month gap between visits is entirely unacceptable. America’s credibility has been and is currently being tarnished by our failure to safeguard a group of civilians who we disarmed and left at the mercy of the Iranian regime and its allies in Baghdad.”
Since the US military left Camp Liberty, the camp was looted and its infrastructure has not been maintained. The Iraqi military has limited the type of supplies that may enter the camp, the sewage system is now broken and leaking and heating units needed for the winter months are breaking down.
“The US Government must not allow the situation at Camp Liberty to continue as it is,” the letter states. “The State Department must let the Maliki Government know that it has to end its harassment of the MeK and afford them humane, safe, and decent living conditions as required by UNHRC standards until their relocation out of Iraq can be arranged.
- Friday, November 30, 2012
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The Le Monde website published an article written by Iranian blogger Sattar Beheshti recently murdered under torture by the mullahs’ regime. This article is entitled “Iran Tragedy Continues”.
This is the translation of one of Sattar’s last articles which cost him his life at the age of 35. The mentality of Moussavi and Karrubi is to maintain the system, while the mentality of the people is to change the system.
Sattar writes, “I wrote this article some time ago. However, those who only tolerate their point of view, infiltrated into my website and deleted this article. I say to these elements if you repeat this 100,000 times over and again, for the 100,001th time I will rewrite my beliefs, and I am not afraid of any party, group or individual. The month of Khordad (equivalent to June-July) arrives and the memories after June 12th, 2009, where the people’s votes were stolen in a huge deception. Many people took to the streets demanding their vote and had hopes to change this system.
“In 2009, although the demand was to retake the votes, most of the people expected a change in the system. However, Misters Moussavi and Karrubi were seeking to get their vote under the system’s framework. They only intended to have a vote recount under the framework of the same system, not to change the system. Elements of the system, from conservatives to reformists, all in posts such as judges, interrogators, torturers and others involved in repression, were all seeking to maintain the system. The problem they are facing is their internal feuds for power. None of them have any problems with the system itself, but it is the policies of the system they have problems with. The system that is in power on the blood of the people, will only leave power after bloodshed. Look at the region’s dictators and how each have been overthrown, and now take a look at the Islamic republic’s pupil, Bashar Assad, and how it is learning from its instructor, the Islamic republic. Is there still any hope of changing the system under the same framework?
“I ask my friends to be very careful in choosing their method of struggle. It has been 33 years that we have been on hold with these promises, sinking in the swamp of this corrupt system, just like in 1997 in the name of reform. It’s better for us to pull ourselves out this time and seek the path of freedom. Take a look at the important posts that these individuals held in the past, then see for yourself that after all the blood that has been spilled in these 33 years, are these individuals willing to bring change in the whole system? Finally, if our struggle is to be aimed at changing the system’s policies, it won’t make a difference for this system to be under Khamenei or Moussavi, because the framework and guidelines will be the same. Our goal for freedom must be to bring change in all of the system. Once again, in the end I say long live Iran and Iranians. My life for Iran.”
- Tuesday, November 27, 2012
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As the wave of protests spreads throughout the Middle East, American influence in the region appears to be at an all time low. Perhaps the most striking example lies in Iraq, which now appears to be sliding into a repressive regime backed by Iran. This, after billions of American dollars and thousands of American lives were invested with the supposed intention of bringing a new era of stability and democracy. And what of the 3,200 Iranian refugees who are now trapped in the Iraqi prison dubbed “Camp Liberty”, after being promised protection by the U.S.? Is this the legacy the United States wanted to leave in Iraq?
Since the U.S. withdrawal, the Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s has moved to consolidate power leave little doubt of his intentions to dominate the political scene, pushing out Sunni and Kurdish participants from government. In fact, Maliki waited less than one day after the withdrawal of U.S. troops to put out an arrest warrant for vice-president Tariq al-Hashemi, sending troops and tanks led by Maliki’s son to surrounded Hashemi’s house. Earlier this month, Hashemi was sentenced to death in absentia in a trial many labeled as a sham. Maliki has also turned its back on requests by the U.S. to stop supply routes from Iran to Syria using Iraqi airspace, effectively enabling the Assad regime to survive. Maliki’s brutality is on par with those of Iran and Syria, as has been documented in numerous allegations of torture and murder in government prisons. Maliki also commands his own unit of highly trained Special Forces which have been dubbed “Fedayeen al-Maliki” by Iraqis.
As far as the U.S. is concerned, the United States still has a lot of leverage over the Iraqi government. It cannot forsake the promises it. made to those it left behind? The United States is tied in with the fate of 3,200 Iranian refugees who previously resided in Camp Ashraf in Iraq. U.S. forces signed an agreement with members of the camp in 2003, and promised them status as protected persons under the 4th Geneva Convention. A promise which was broken repeatedly when the United States withdrew from the camp and delivered it to Iraqi forces, who subsequently killed 49 residents in two attacks in 2009 and 2011.
Not only has the United States failed to uphold its promise of security to the residents of the camp, but it has enabled Iraq’s continual suppression by calling for residents to relocate to the notorious “Camp Liberty”. This facility has been described as a prison, with the intention to make life miserable for resident, effectively at the mercy of Baghdad and Tehran. A report published by the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detentions, said the living conditions in Liberty blatantly violate international laws and of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Testifying before the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, former senior State Department official Lincoln P. Bloomfield, Jr. noted;
“My conclusion is that the US would be well served by a serious re-look at the facts on the ground in Iraq. I am concerned that Iran’s agenda, reflected in Iraqi government actions, is seriously at odds with the United Nations’ goal of conducting “refugee status determination” with each of the Iranian exiles and arranging for third countries to accept them as refugees.”
As the evidence mounts, it has become all too clear what will happen to these Iranian dissidents if the U.S. turns its back on the refugees in liberty. Not only does the United States have a moral obligation to these refugees, but also an international legal obligation which continues to this day. It is time or the United States to act to ensure the lives of those living in Camp Liberty, and to stand for justice in Iraq. The first step in this direction is to urge the United Nations Refugee Agency, UNHCR, to declare Liberty a refugee camp to ensure that the residents are accorded fundamental rights and protections consistent with refugee and international law.
- Tuesday, November 27, 2012
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Since the start of the 2012 calendar year, the Iranian regime has begun a barbaric campaign of brutality against its own population. For a short period in early 2012 the regime was executing 1 prisoner every 4 hours. At least 100 prisoners were hanged in three weeks (from October 22 to November 14, 2012), many in public places to terrorize the public. Several thousand on are death row, according to judiciary officials.
Ironically, the record pace of executions undertaken by the regime lays bare its desperation in the face of rising domestic discontent, growing international isolation, a faltering economy and escalating factional feuding.
The regime has used an assortment of charges against such prisoners, in order to try to legitimize the mass killings. The charges against each individual range from terrorism, espionage, drug trafficking, enmity with God, rape, and so on. Each of the prisoners has gone through a judicial system that offers no fairness, transparency, or due process. As a result, differentiating between ordinary criminals (if there are any at all) and opponents of the regime can be very difficult. Many prisoners face trumped up charges despite committing purely political offenses.
The mullahs have also employed various tactics to carry out domestic crackdown. Prisoners who require medical attention in order to survive, are purposefully neglected, and therefore die without being added to the list of formally executed individuals. This tactic masks the true intent of the regime to the outside world, but ensures that the terror will be felt at home. Hassan Nahid and Mohsen Dokmechi are two examples of political prisoners who died due to the regime’s deliberate medical negligence.
Other prisoners have been tortured to death while in custody, including Sattar Beheshti, the 35-year-old dissident blogger, and Jamil Soveidi, a 45-year-old factory worker from the southwestern city of Ahwaz,
Underlying these various acts of brutality is the implementation of a conscious policy designed to instill terror in the hearts and minds of Iranians. On the one hand, the regime faces ever growing isolation due to its nuclear program. On the other, the Arab Spring has engulfed the region in popular uprising and the instability in Syria is hitting too close to home for the Iranian Regime’s comfort.
The mullahs know all too well that its days are numbered. Since the protests in 2009, the regime understands the potential within the population for an explosive uprising and fears that at any moment a spark could set off another round of protests. There’s no doubt that it will resort to the most barbaric forms of repression in order to prolong its grip on power. However, despite the bloodbath, the regime is clearly on its last limb and will not likely be able to continue to drown its problems in the blood of its citizens.
What remains is a show of resolve by the international community to hold the mullahs to account for their murderous ways and empower the Iranian people in their quest for freedom, instead of continuing to placate the murderous gang in power.
- Tuesday, November 27, 2012
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