Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.

The Camp Ashraf Massacres: A Failure to Protect

December 20, 2013 4:05 pm 6 comments

The entrance gate of Ashraf City. Photo: Wikipedia.

In a recent encounter I had in Paris with families of those murdered at Camp Ashraf on September 1 the cri de coeur related not only to the horror of the massacre, and the continuing plight of the survivors, but also to the silence of the international community in the wake of such atrocity.

In the early hours of September 1, 2013, approximately 120 heavily armed and uniformed attackers launched a brutal assault against the 101 residents of Camp Ashraf in Iraq, all of whom enjoy the status of “asylum-seekers” and “protected persons” under international law. In a coordinated military-style attack, 52 unarmed and defenseless Iranian refugees were killed execution-style with armor-piercing bullets, pistols, and explosives and 7 persons, including 6 women, have been disappeared – all 7 remain unaccounted for at this time.

Indeed, there is credible evidence indicating Iraqi culpability, carried out at the behest of high level Iranian officials. 1200 Iraqi soldiers and police officers had been permanently stationed both inside and around the fortified compound, while U.S. intelligence officials have recently concluded that a small number of IRGC commandos were involved in the planning and implementation of the massacre.

The international community has a clear legal obligation to ensure that the safety and security of the more than 3000 Iranian dissident refugees currently residing in Iraq is guaranteed going forward, that the 7 missing hostages are accounted for and their freedom secured, and that the perpetrators of this attack are identified and brought to justice.

Prior to the September 1 massacre, Camp Ashraf was home to 101 asylum-seekers belonging to the pro-democracy Iranian resistance organization Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK). For more than two decades, approximately 3400 of these pro-democracy political dissidents – almost all of whom are Iranian nationals – lawfully resided in Iraq but would likely be exposed to persecution, torture, and execution if returned to Iran, where membership in the group is a death-penalty offense.

It should also be recalled that less than two weeks after the September 1 massacre of 52 of these Ashraf residents, the Iraqi Government transferred the 42 remaining survivors to Camp Liberty in Iraq to join their 3100 compatriots now residing there. But this facility is characterized by a paucity of potable water and electricity; unreliable access to medical treatment; inadequate protection from the extreme Iraqi heat; a dysfunctional sewage system; and a dearth of accommodations for the disabled. Moreover, the Residents remain vulnerable to repeated attacks while being undermined at every turn by the Iraqi Government in their efforts to obtain and maintain sufficient security infrastructure.

Let there be no mistake about it: the September 1 massacre was not only predictable – five separate attacks against these protected refugees have occurred since 2009 both at Camps Ashraf and Liberty – but it was also preventable.

For the mass murder of the Ashraf residents was only the most recent – and most lethal – of the five attacks that have together claimed 112 lives and injured more than four-hundred. Indeed, two of these prior attacks were acknowledged to have been directly carried out by Iraqi security forces.

Two years ago, I sought to sound the alarm on the ongoing harassment and intimidation being perpetrated by the Government of Iraq against the defenseless Ashraf refugees and warned about a prospective massacre or forced transfer back to Iran. It is regrettable that my warnings – and these warnings of others across the political spectrum – were not acted upon.

Indeed, this latest massacre was occasioned by the international community’s inaction and indifference in the face of prior attacks, which signalled to both the Iranian regime – and to Iraqi Prime Minister Maliki – that the international community will stand aside while crimes against humanity are committed against these defenseless dissidents.

Accordingly, the following initiatives are necessary to avert any further atrocities, while holding the perpetrators accountable:

First, Canada and the United States should demand the immediate and safe return of the 7 missing hostages to Camp Liberty. Indeed, the evidence indicates that the hostages are in the custody of Iraqi authorities who bear responsibility for ensuring that their rights as protected persons are respected and secured and that they are not returned to Iran.

Second, Canada and the United States should champion the case and cause of these Camp Liberty protected persons – and in particular that of the missing hostages – within the U.N. system. In this regard, the international community should work to achieve a permanent UN presence inside Camp Liberty to monitor the situation and to ensure the physical security of the camp residents.

Third, the United Nations must immediately mount an independent and impartial investigation – including a commission of inquiry – to further investigate the facts surrounding the September 1 massacre. Canada, the United States, and the international community must fully support such an investigation so that its findings will be effectively and quickly acted upon. Indeed, such an investigation is urgent, as 18 Iranian Qods Force and Ministry of Intelligence agents were dispatched to Ashraf this week to cover up evidence of the September massacre and the related hostage-taking, in coordination with Prime Minister Maliki and his National Security Advisor.

Fourth, it is crucial therefore that the United Nations take immediate investigative action so as to preserve the evidence of this mass atrocity crime, so that the Iraqi and Iranian governments can be held to account, thereby combatting the culture of impunity that continues to prevail.

Fifth, Canada and the United States should take a leadership role in response to the refugee crisis and should consider admitting some number of the Camp Liberty residents on an expedited basis. While the UNHCR has been working to process the residents’ asylum claims, it has been impeded in its efforts by the Iraqi Government.

Finally, Canada and the United States should urge the UNHCR, which has been processing the residents’ asylum claims, to expedite their resettlement by processing their asylum applications as a group.

The Ashraf massacre is but the latest manifestation of an ongoing legal, political, and humanitarian crisis that must be addressed and resolved. The continuing denial of humane living conditions and basic necessities to the Camp Liberty residents, their exposure to repeated mass attacks, their inability to leave, and the absence of a safe haven violate their rights as asylum-seekers and protected persons under international law. The international community must send a clear message that it will protect these long-suffering pro-democracy dissidents – hostages to human rights violating regimes – and ensure that no massacres will ensue and that there safety and well-being is secured.

Irwin Cotler is a Member of the Canadian Parliament, Emeritus Professor of Law (McGill University), and the former Minister of Justice & Attorney General of Canada. He is co-Chair with Senator Mark Kirk of the Inter-Parliamentary Group for Human Rights in Iran and a Member of the Advisory Board of United Against a Nuclear Iran.

6 Comments

  • Excellently written and tragic. Ironic that the U.N.’s mania of focusing on Israel’s inhuman treatment of Arabs is really their own!! And is costing human (in this case Arab) lives. And it takes a Jew to arouse their conscience. That is why people hate us! The ONLY solution is Moshiach NOW

  • Iraq is the country where American soldiers died in order to eliminate the atrocities of Saddam Hussein.

    Iran is the country developing nuclear bombs and that the major countries in the world are now engaging with to Iran’s satisfaction to halt such potentially devastating development.

    Israel is the country that has been threatened with annihilation by Iran and most of the Moslem world, and whose past history has convinced it that Moslem assurances are worthless. It insists on a total halt to Iran’s nuclear development.

  • It is a disgrace, Where is the UN. Hiding their faces. United for the Nations, What a joke. We should be ashamed for putting up with their gutless ways. Come quickly LORD JESUS.

  • United Nations impartial investigation. Isn’t that a blatant oxymoron?

  • Muslims have been killing other Muslims for 1,400 years.That’s a fact.
    How will you stop the Muslim sectarian violence against Sunni vs Shia and Shia vs Sunni, if Muhammad supposedly and Allah approve of Muslims killing hypocrites and disbelievers within Islam ?
    Sunnis believe that Shia aren’t true Muslims and Shia believe that Sunni aren’t true Muslims?
    Notice the inherent islamic pathology?

  • Hamid Taherzadeh

    Dear Prof. Cotler,
    Words fail me to express my utmost heartfelt gratitude to you for this great article. As you have rightly mentioned the disgraceful silence on the part of International Community has emboldened the Iraqi and the Mullahs’ regime to resort to such incredible atrocities. President Obama and his State Dept are full responsible in the wake of such killings. Where are UN Council of Human Rights and other humanitarian organisations to deal with this catastrophic inhumane situation of prison like Liberty Camp!?
    Thanks for your efforts to throw some light on the conscious of the people

Leave a Reply

Please note: comments may be published in the Algemeiner print edition.


Current day month ye@r *

More...

  • Arts and Culture Jewish History Art Can Inspire Faith; It Can Also Empower Destructive Ideologies

    Art Can Inspire Faith; It Can Also Empower Destructive Ideologies

    A June 2015 art exhibit, “The Transformative Power of Art,” at the United Nations headquarters in New York City, harnessed the universal language of art to convey an important message: “Our fragile Mother Earth faces the devastating consequences of climate change, a defining challenge of our time.” The exhibit also included sixteen portraits of people from all over the world who have “contributed to the common good of humanity in one way or another and have transformed the way we […]

    Read more →
  • Israel Sports Israeli Muslim Cage Fighter Says He’s Proud to Fight Under Jewish State’s Flag

    Israeli Muslim Cage Fighter Says He’s Proud to Fight Under Jewish State’s Flag

    A 32-year-old Circassian Israeli Muslim Mixed Martial Arts fighter from Abu Ghosh says he takes pride in fighting under the Israeli flag, Israel’s Walla reported on Sunday. Like most Circassian Israelis, Jackie “the Punishment” Gosh was born Sunni Muslim. He became observant about eight years ago, and is now scrupulous in following his religion’s tenets, praying five times a day and fasting during the holy month of Ramadan. Gosh is also very proud of his Israeli nationality, and sees no contradiction between […]

    Read more →
  • Israel Music New Mark Skinner Documentary Explores Jewish, Arab Rap Scene in Israel (VIDEO)

    New Mark Skinner Documentary Explores Jewish, Arab Rap Scene in Israel (VIDEO)

    A new documentary explores the lives and work of Jewish and Arab rappers in Israel and how the ongoing conflict in the region has impacted their lyrics, the U.K.’s Jewish Chronicle reported on Thursday. Hip Hop in the Holy Land is a six-part series co-directed by Mike Skinner, the British frontman of hip-hop group The Streets, and produced by Noisey, a music channel published by Vice news. The first episode, published last week, shows Skinner meeting with Tamer Nafar, the founder of one of […]

    Read more →
  • Sports US & Canada 49ers Running Back Jarryd Hayne Apologizes for ‘Hurtful’ Jesus Tweets

    49ers Running Back Jarryd Hayne Apologizes for ‘Hurtful’ Jesus Tweets

    New 49ers running back and Australian rugby star Jarryd Hayne apologized on Wednesday for a tweet in which he raised the age-old myth that Jews were historically responsible for Jesus Christ’s death. Reaching out to his Jewish fans, and the chairman of the B’nai B’rith Anti-Defamation Commission, Hayne tweeted: “To the Jewish community @DvirAbramovich #WeAreAllOne.” Underneath, he keenly included a screenshot of a text message to elaborate on his apology: “I sincerely apologize for my tweets on July 1. I […]

    Read more →
  • Theater Israeli Actress Gal Gadot Recalls Being ‘Extremely Surprised’ at Winning Miss Israel Contest

    Israeli Actress Gal Gadot Recalls Being ‘Extremely Surprised’ at Winning Miss Israel Contest

    Israeli actress Gal Gadot reminisced about her childhood in Israel during an interview published in this month’s edition of Vanity Fair. “I don’t remember this, but my mom told me that when I was three they threw a party on the rooftop of the house. They put me to bed, and I heard people coming into the house and no one came to me. I went to the rooftop and took a hose and I started to spray water on everyone, just […]

    Read more →
  • Blogs Features Wounded Israeli Soldiers Unite With American Veterans to Help Their ‘Brothers for Life’ Heal (INTERVIEW)

    Wounded Israeli Soldiers Unite With American Veterans to Help Their ‘Brothers for Life’ Heal (INTERVIEW)

    An Israeli organization is helping wounded U.S. veterans move past their physical and psychological challenges by connecting them with injured Israeli soldiers who understand what they’ve been through. “What we discovered very early is that there’s no ‘professional, psychiatrist, social worker’ or anything like that [or] pills that can come even close to helping a soldier who fought in combat, who was wounded, who lost his friends. No one can help him like another person who’s been through exactly what he has,” Rabbi Chaim Levine, […]

    Read more →
  • Relationships World Researchers Say Women Less Likely Than Men to Kill Hitler, if They Could Travel Back in Time

    Researchers Say Women Less Likely Than Men to Kill Hitler, if They Could Travel Back in Time

    Women are less likely than men to want to kill Nazi leader Adolph Hitler if given the ability to travel back in time, a recently published research paper revealed. The paper analyzed 40 studies involving 6,100 respondents in a time-travel thought experiment, the New York Post reported on Friday. While 60 percent of men said they would theoretically be willing to kill Hitler, only 55 percent of women said they would be comfortable doing the same. The paper was published in the Personality and […]

    Read more →
  • Sports US & Canada Jewish Groups Enraged After New 49ers Running Back Jarryd Hayne Claims That Jews Killed Jesus

    Jewish Groups Enraged After New 49ers Running Back Jarryd Hayne Claims That Jews Killed Jesus

    Former Australian rugby player and 2014 NFL grab Jarryd Hayne grabbed headlines and angered Jewish groups over a tweet last week accusing Jews of killing Jesus Christ. “Jesus wanted to help people but was killed by his own people,” Hayne wrote through his Twitter handle, followed by over 120,000 Twitter users, on July 1. Unperturbed by the potential for backlash among some of his fans, Hayne went on to tweet the next day: “The Jews were the people who took him to the Romans n forced them to give the order because they […]

    Read more →