On behalf of the International Committee of Jurists in Defense of Ashraf, I welcome you. The others to speak are Ahmad and Sara Hassani of Ottawa, whose son/brother, Ali, is a Canadian citizen and lives at Ashraf, and Mahboubeh Etemadi, whose daughter, Mahvan, resides there. Shahram Golestaneh will speak on behalf of the community.
Statement by Ahmad Hassani (the others did not use texts):
"Since July 27, the Iraqi forces brutally attacked Camp Ashraf, home to some 3500 Iranian dissidents in Iraq, who are members of the main Iranian opposition group, PMOI (People's Mojahedin Organization of Iran). They have been recognized as protected persons by the US and multinational forces and Camp Ashraf was protected by them until January 2009. In the past seven months after the US gave the protection of the Camp to the Iraqi government, Camp Ashraf has been under siege. Access by parliamentarians and lawyers, international observers and media has been denied.
"The situation is a prime example of genocide happening before our eyes. So far at least 12 PMOI members have been killed. More than 400 people have been injured. The Iraqi forces do not allow humanitarian aid to go through. They have denied access to the cemetery to bury the dead and, in 57 degree Celsius weather, the situation is unbearable.
"We hold the government of President Obama responsible for these atrocities, since the US has abandoned its obligation under international law and its own written commitment to Camp residents. Maliki has committed a crime against humanity on the direct order of Ali Khamenei, the detested Supreme leader in Iran.
"Many of our loved ones and thousands of others are in great danger. We ask Prime Minister Harper to urge the Obama administration to intervene immediately to stop bloodbath. Canada also has to send delegation to the Camp immediately and put direct pressure to the Iraqis as officially promised by the former Foreign Affairs."
In closing, let me stress some points.
The horror of what occurred to unarmed women and men at Ashraf can best be understood by watching videos available on Youtube. These include:
Worst Fears Realized
A catastrophe has occurred for the refugees at Ashraf, including the 50-60 who are reported to be Canadian citizens. What happened two days ago is by far the most brutal in a series of attempts to close Ashraf in recent months by the Iraqi government. Where on earth were the American soldiers? The latest reported toll of the victims I have are twelve persons dead, 400 injured, 13 in serious condition and two in comas, 31 taken prisoner.
As Mr. Hassani mentioned, I understand that Iraqi soldiers have even blocked the road leading to Morvarid cemetery; anyone trying to go there is shot. This is preventing the burial of the persons who were killed. Their bodies are still lying on the ground. The Ashraf residents are appealing to the U N Secretary General to send his representatives to move back the Iraqi forces and observe proper burials.
MEK/PMOI De-listed across Europe
In 2008, the Court of First Instance of the European Community ordered the EU Council of Ministers to delist the opposition movement MEK/PMOI as a terrorist group. The 27 member governments of the EU complied in January this year.
Following a 16-month screening of every resident of Ashraf after 2003, the US government announced that no Ashraf resident had any links to terrorism. The National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), the coalition which includes the MEK/PMOI, has reiterated its respect for the independence of the Iraqi government and has extended its full cooperation to it. Mrs. Maryam Rajavi on behalf of the NCRI has offered to return the residents of Ashraf to Iran, provided the UN Security Council and the Iranian and American governments guarantee their safety. A day after she made this offer, the siege of Ashraf began.
Many of the Iraqi people, religious figures, politicians, intellectuals, and responsible persons across the world, from Palestine to Egypt, and from Jordan and Europe to the U.S., Canada and Australia, stand in solidarity with the residents of Ashraf. Responsible Iraqi leaders have repeated that anyone who seeks the expulsion of the PMOI from Iraq does not represent the interests of Iraqis.
Fourth Geneva Convention
The Iraqi actions throw into doubt the al-Malaki government's commitment to the Fourth Geneva Convention, which obligates it to protect all Ashraf residents. In fact, the ongoing campaign by elements in it are fully in support of the Iranian regime, which has made no effort to hide its intention of wiping out all Ashraf residents.
The international community must now heed the warnings about the grave risks to Ashraf residents following the transfer of protection from the US forces to the Iraqi government. Failure to respond to the atack will only embolden the dictators of Tehran, who have demonstrated time and again their willingness to impose ruthless oppression, including murder, on dissidents.
We appeal to both the Obama administration and the Harper government to follow the lead of the EU countries and de-list the MEK/PMOI as a terrorist group. In addition, immediate efforts must be taken to end the siege of Camp Ashraf and restore the situation there to its pre-January 2009 status, when the Ashraf residents were under U.S. military protection. The US-led multinational force promised to protect Ashraf residents when they disarmed in 2003. Who will be responsible for 3500 lives now?
Legal Responsibility of Iraqi Government
Here are some conclusions of a legal opinion, which relate to possible liability of the Iraqi government should it complete the closure of Ashraf and the forceful relocation of Ashraf residents:
1- "Iraqi officials ordering or taking part in the forcible transfer (of Ashraf residents) may incur international criminal responsibility for crimes against humanity."
2- "...the planned forcible transfer raises particular concerns in relation to the following principles and standards applicable to the residents of Ashraf: -the obligation that they must be treated in all circumstances humanely; -the prohibition on violence to life and person;and -the prohibition on cruel treatment, torture, and outrages upon personal dignity, including humiliating and degrading treatment."
3- "By forcibly displacing the residents of Ashraf, Iraq might be in breach of its obligations under one or more of the following rights guaranteed under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights: -the right to life, should lethal force be used in breach of Article 6; -freedom from torture, or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment (article 7); -the right to liberty of movement and freedom to choose one's residence (article 12);and -the right of aliens lawfully in the territory to be expelled only in pursuance of a decision reached in accordance with the law (article13)."
4- "In addition, it is also likely that the forced eviction of the residents of Ashraf would breach their right to an adequate standard of living, and in particular their right to housing (article 11). In its general comments on this right, the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights has observed that 'all persons should possess a degree of security which guarantees legal protection against forced evictions, harassment and other threats' and that 'forced evictions are prima facie incompatible with the requirements of the Covenant'.
5-Any forced eviction of the refugees in Camp Ashraf would also appear to violate article 7 of the Statute of the International Criminal Court, which defines 'crime against humanity' to include a "systematic attack directed against any civilian population", including a "forcible transfer of population". Iraq has not yet acceded to the Statute, but Iraqi officials can incur criminal responsibility under customary international law for crimes against committed within Iraq.
Canada was a major advocate of the Responsibility to Protect concept accepted at the World Summit of 2005. All states are now expected to use peaceful means to help protect 'populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity'. Any forceful removal of the residents of Ashraf to Iran or some other location in Iraq would appear to be a crime against humanity, which the international community as a whole must strongly oppose.