Iraqi Lawmaker, Panelist Urge US to Ensure Protection of Camp Ashraf; Plan for fact-finding mission

17 09 2009

WASHINGTON, Sept. 16 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — At a briefing in the US House of Representatives, the Near East Human Rights Initiative (NEHRI) announced plans to send a humanitarian fact-finding mission to Camp Ashraf, Iraq, home to 3,500 Iranian dissidents.

Col. Dr. Gary Morsch, US Army Reservist and President of Heart to Heart International, who chaired the briefing, said, “Having had the privilege of serving in Ashraf, I feel embarrassed that my fellow soldiers simply stood by and did nothing to prevent the carnage at Ashraf. Our government has both the moral and legal obligation to protect the residents of Ashraf. The 36 who have been taken hostage by Iraqi police must be freed.”

Dr. Saleh Mutlak, Secretary General of Iraq’s National Dialogue Front and a senior member of Iraq’s Parliament, remarked, “On behalf of millions of Iraqis, I ask the United States and President Obama to uphold and follow through with US commitment for the safety and security of Ashraf residents in a proper manner.”

Dr. Mutlak stressed, “The people and political forces in Iraq and Arab countries are monitoring this situation vigilantly and for Iran to hold the upper hand in Iraq and to even be able to destroy Iranian refugees in Iraq would be a nightmare which we must prevent.”

Hon. Tom Tancredo, former member of the House of Representatives said, “As we watch the situation unfolding in Iran, there is no question that Ashraf, as the bastion of resistance, is key to bringing democracy to that country as it acts as a spark and an inspiration to all Iranians in and out of Iran… We must do what is in our power to protect the residents of Ashraf.”

Mrs. Barbara Foster, advocate for peace and human rights, said, “With the hunger by supporters of Ashraf reaching 50 days, it is difficult to understand why the US government has not paid attention to this case. We ask President Obama to rise to his challenge of accountability and transparency. The irony is that there is a concrete solution at hand regarding Ashraf. The only thing that is needed is to have moral courage and the political will.”

Mr. Bruce McColm, Director of Institute for Democratic Strategies and former Executive Director Freedom House, remarked: “Despite the handover of sovereignty, the United States still has obligations under the Convention. Article 45 provides that ‘protected persons,’ such as the People of Ashraf, may be transferred only to a state which provides assurances that it will respect the Convention.” He added that “international humanitarian law prohibits Ashraf residents’ forcible displacement inside Iraq.”

The Very Rev. Dr. David Lowry, Director of the Center for Peace and Reconciliation at the Desmond Tutu Center, stressed that notwithstanding the legal obligations of the United States, basic humanitarian considerations make it imperative that US acts to ensure and guarantee the safety and well-being of Ashraf residents.


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