Iraq: ICRC activities in behalf of Iranian nationals living in Ashraf

21 08 2009
Iraq: ICRC activities in behalf of Iranian nationals living in Ashraf
In late July, Iraqi police moved into Ashraf, about 80 km north of Baghdad, where several thousand Iranian nationals are living. During the ensuing confrontation several people were killed, injured or detained. Juan-Pedro Schaerer, the ICRC’s head of delegation in Iraq, explains.
Juan-Pedro Schaerer, ICRC head of delegation for Iraq
ICRC photo

Juan-Pedro Schaerer, ICRC head of delegation for Iraq

How would you describe the situation in Ashraf?On 28 July the Iraqi government set up a police presence in Ashraf. It is the legitimate duty of any government to maintain law and order within its own territory. The ICRC does not question the legitimacy of the Iraqi police presence in Ashraf, and it is not up to the ICRC to comment on it.

The ICRC has visited Ashraf several times in the past year, but was not present during or after the recent events. It is therefore not in a position to confirm the reported number of casualties or to comment on what has happened in Ashraf since 28 July.

What is your reaction to recent events in Ashraf?

The escalating violence and the use of force are a cause of concern for the ICRC. We regret the loss of life and the injuries. We call on all those involved to exercise restraint and to comply with applicable law, which requires, among other things, that the wounded have access to proper medical care, that the treatment and conditions of detention of those arrested respect international standards, and that the remains of the dead be afforded dignified handling and burial.

What about Ashraf residents who have reportedly been arrested?

As part of its regular activities in places of detention, the ICRC has visited several persons detained during the recent events. Anyone in Ashraf who is suspected or accused of having committed criminal offences must be afforded the judicial guarantees provided for in international and Iraqi law.

Some people have criticized the ICRC for not doing enough in response to recent events in Ashraf. What is your response?

The role of the ICRC is to remind all those concerned – be they States or other entities – of their obligations under international humanitarian law. In this respect the ICRC has been neither passive nor silent regarding Ashraf; on the contrary, it has maintained a confidential dialogue about the fate of Ashraf residents with all the authorities concerned and with the residents themselves. In particular, the ICRC has regularly reminded the authorities of their obligation to respect the principle of non-refoulement and to ensure that civilians in Ashraf – as elsewhere in Iraq – have access to such basic necessities as food, water and medical care.

Clearly, then, the fact that the ICRC hasn’t always expressed itself publicly should not be taken to mean that it has been inactive.



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