PRESS RELEASE- Iraq: New violence in Camp Ashraf raises concerns for the safety of its residents
Geneva, 11 April 2011. The World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) is deeply concerned about a new raid by the Iraqi armed forces on Camp Ashraf, home to the 3, 400 members of the People's Mojahedin Organisation of Iran (PMOI), an Iranian opposition movement, which led to the death of at least 35 residents and leaving many others injured.
According to the information received, on 8 April 2011, at around 4:40 a.m., around 2500 soldiers of the Iraqi armed forces entered Camp Ashraf, in Diyala province, north of Bagdad. The soldiers reportedly fired indiscriminately at the residents, including women and unarmed men, killing at least 35 residents, among them at least four women, and leaving over 325 injured persons. Several residents are also reported to have been abducted. The Iraqi armed forces remain, to date, in the camp. The adviser on Camp Ashraf of the UN Secretary General Special Representative in Iraq was allegedly prevented from entering the camp.
OMCT has already expressed many times its concern over the security conditions for the residents. In July 2009, despite guarantees by the United States (US) forces and the Iraqi Government, the camp was raided by Iraqi forces in view of expulsing its residents to Iran. The raid left eleven dead and around 500 injured. The residents of Camp Ashraf have since reportedly been deprived of basic needs, such as medical care, fuel and necessary supplies for the camp. In 2010, they were also subjected to numerous acts of harassment, among others, family members or lawyers being prevented from entering the camp and the use by Iraqi forces of powerful loudspeakers to psychologically harass them.
The situation is particularly critical now that the United States has closed down its Forward Operating Base at Ashraf (FOB Grizzly), leaving the facilities entirely in the hands of the Iraqi authorities, who oppose the presence of Camp Ashraf in Iraq. With this decision, the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) was on its turn forced to leave the camp as it relied on the protection of the FOB Grizzly to carry out their work.
OMCT recalls that, since PMOI members living in the camp have been disarmed, they have been designated as “protected persons” under Article 27 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, of which guarantees were clearly stipulated in various protocols signed with US forces.
In light of these recent events, OMCT reiterates its previous call to set up an international and permanent presence in Camp Ashraf to ensure the protection of its residents.
Eric Sottas, Secretary General, OMCT