Law Society committee urges US to protect Iranian refugees in Camp Ashraf Iraq

12 09 2009

New legal report by Finers Stephens Innocent law firm unveiled outlining US/UN obligations at Camp Ashraf

The International Human Rights Committee of the Law Society of England and Wales on Wednesday accused the US of having some responsibility for the massacre of Iranian refugees in Camp Ashraf six weeks ago by Iraqi forces and it urged the Obama administration to protect people in the camp.

Press Conference for release of 36 Ashraf residents in Iraq
Press Conference for release of 36 Ashraf residents in Iraq

Press Conference for release of 36 Ashraf residents in Iraq
Press Conference for release of 36 Ashraf residents in Iraq

Press Conference for release of 36 Ashraf residents in Iraq
Press Conference for release of 36 Ashraf residents in Iraq

At a press conference outside the American embassy in London, Morteza Sheikh representing the IHRC said: “There is not much debate that what is happening at Camp Ashraf is blatantly against international standards and morality”.

Sheikh said picture and documentary evidence within a legal report drawn up Mark Stephens of the Finers Stephens Innocent LLP law firm was “damning” and “leaves little doubt as to the motive of the attack. Footage of bullets having penetrated people’s chests appears to have the hallmarks of summary executions”.

“The purpose of the attack was to terrorise the protected population of Camp Ashraf, including the women and children. What makes this all much worse is that the people committing these atrocities are uniformed security forces”.

“The US has some responsibility in what happened and what continues to happen in Camp Ashraf under its international obligations and given that it was present when the attack was being carried out”, he said, adding that all camp residents are “protected persons” under the 4th Geneva Convention.

“The International Human Rights Committee of the Law Society of England and Wales urges the US to take steps to stop the situation in Ashraf. The US has a specific responsibility to protect as they are on the ground in Iraq, however international law duties convey responsibility on the Iraqi government and the United Nations. We will be making representations to the UN to take action”.

Prominent London lawyer Mark Stephens introduced a legal opinion written by the Finers Stephens Innocent law firm on the attack at Ashraf and the legal obligations of the US and United Nations. “I have seen video footage of the attack on Camp Ashraf and have prepared a report of the attack. We have been provided representations from people at the Camp and have verified the information from 3rd party sources on the ground and Amnesty International”, Stephens said.

“The reports we have received confirm extra-judicial killings, arbitrary detention, torture and cruel and inhumane treatment against the Camp Ashraf residents”.

“This legal report emphasises the role that the UN must play under international law to protect the Camp Ashraf residents. Both the UN and the International Committee of the Red Cross have duties to also protect those 36 taken from the Camp. This report has been provided to both the OHCHR and United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq to guarantee the protection of these people”.

“The British authorities have duties to protect the Camp Ashraf residents as three of those detained were either UK residents at one point or held refugee status in the UK”.

Lord Clarke of Hampstead, speaking on behalf of the British Parliamentary Committee for Iran Freedom, said: “As a lifetime member and supporter of the Labour party, I find the shameful silence of the British government to be appalling. The government’s indifference to the situation in Camp Ashraf is shocking”.

Khalil Abadi, who has relatives in Ashraf and has been on hunger strike for over 40 days outside the US embassy, said: “I am demanding that the US take back protection of Camp Ashraf and provide my family and the Camp Ashraf residents with access to lawyers, doctors and journalists. I will continue my hunger strike until the siege on Camp Ashraf ends”.

Masoud Zabeti of Mishcon de Reya law firm said the “principle of non-refoulement” forbids forced displacement of Ashraf residents within Iraq.

UN Security Council resolution 1883, adopted in August 2009, gives UNAMI a mandate and responsibility for the case of Ashraf.

Article 45 of the 4th Geneva Convention says: “if a government fails to carry out the provisions of the Convention in any important respect, the government by which the protected persons were transferred (in this case the US) shall, upon being so notified by the protecting government, take effective measures to correct the situation or shall request the return of the protected persons. Such request must be complied with.” After the massacre in Ashraf, the US has a duty to request that Iraq hand back protection of the camp.

Ashraf residents demand:

1. Iraqi police withdraw from Ashraf and release the 36 people taken hostage.

2. US forces temporarily assume protection of Ashraf under Article 45 of the 4th GC until an international force can take over.

3. An international force takes over protection of Ashraf and the UNAMI immediately stations an international monitoring team inside the camp to prevent further attacks.

Note to editors: Iraqi forces in late July savagely attacked the civilian population in Ashraf, killing 11 people and injuring nearly 500 others. Their relatives in London, 12 of who are on day 44 of a hunger strike, fear an imminent repeat attack. They want Iraqi forces to leave the camp, US forces to provide protection for the time being and the UN to monitor the situation until it can provide a protection force.

Azad FreeIran


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