Claims Iraqi forces broke the Geneva Convention will be examined by Spanish court

2 12 2009

RELATIVES of Iranian refugees who they claim were tortured and killed by the Iraqi authorities have been celebrating today after hearing that a Spanish court has decided to take on the case.

The Central Investigative Court of Spain has agreed it will look at complaints filed by families of residents in Camp Ashraf in Iraq against the Iraqi authorities.

The relatives blame them for a series of attacks on July 28 and 29 at the camp which led to the deaths of 11 residents and the injury of around 500 more.

The relatives say Iraqis beat the refugees and used live bullets on them when they raided the camp and they claim the Iranian Government was involved.

They also claim three dozen residents were beaten and taken hostage, imprisoned for several days in “appalling” conditions outside Ashraf, before being moved to a jail near Baghdad.

However the Iraqi government says the aim of the raid was to establish a police station inside the camp and denied violence was used.

Spokesman for the relatives, Saeed Abed, 54, from Watford Way in Hendon said: “When the news broke a few of us were together and we were crying and cheering. It was a moment of jubilation.

“For the first time an independent body is looking into the matter. This is really a crime against humanity.”

Crucially the court has decreed that the refugees’ status was protected by the Fourth Geneva Convention, which deals with the protection of civilian persons in time of war, something previously in dispute.

It will examine whether the attack was a violation of the Convention, claiming the principle of universal jurisdiction established in that document.

The events in July prompted 12 Barnet relatives to go on hunger strike outside US Embassy, in Grosvenor Square, to persuade UN and US authorities to intervene in the hostages’ release.

On October 7, after 72 days, they were safely returned to Camp Ashraf from a military base in Baghdad, where they were being held by the Iraqi Government and the hunger strike ended.

There are 3,400 refugees in the camp, all members of the Iranian opposition group, the People’s Mujahideen of Iran (PMOI), who fled from the Islamic regime in Iran in the 1980s.

The relatives will be representedby Dr Juan Garces, former advisor to the late Chilean president Salvador Allende who was killed after the coup d’etat by Augusto Pinochet. He later led a judicial investigation into the coup.

He said: “This judicial decision is an important legal step in the international recognition of the status of residents of Ashraf in accordance with the Geneva Conventions.

“Now it is time for the Iraqi Government and all the institutions and parties concerned to respect, in good faith, the rights of Ashraf residents under the Fourth Geneva Convention.”



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