Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Human Rights: Outrage at Iraq's plan to forcibly deport 36 Iranian Dissidents

The US Committee for Camp Ashraf Residents deplores the decision by Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to forcibly deport the 36 residents of Camp Ashraf abducted during the deadly attack on the Camp by Iraqi forces in July.

USCCAR also calls on the Obama administration to live up to its legal and moral obligations to the People of Ashraf, and to intervene to secure the immediate release of the 36 hostages.

The administration's continued silence toward the inhuman and unlawful treatment of these individuals has emboldened Mr. al-Maliki to pursue their expulsion in blatant violation of international law, Iraq's own laws and constitution, and written assurances given to the United States.

On Sunday, the Associated Press reported that an official in al-Maliki's office said "Iraq is looking for a country to accept 36 detained members of an Iranian opposition group [PMOI/MEK]." Those men remain in detention despite three judicial decrees that they be released.

Mr. al-Maliki is preparing the ground for transferring the 36 to Iran or to a Tehran-friendly country which ultimately would send them to Iran. Either would be in flagrant breach of customary and conventional international law, and the standards of international humanitarian law. If any transfer outside Iraq is indeed contemplated, it must be to an EU country or to the United States, where these hostages have family members.

In an ominous development today, the 36 were transferred to a special prison near Al-Muthana Airport which is mainly operated by al-Maliki's office and notorious for arbitrary and harsh treatment of people held there.

In March 2007, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees also warned competent Iraqi authorities and the Multi-National Force-Iraq "to refrain from any action that could endanger the life or the security of these individuals, such as their forcible deportation from Iraq or their forced displacement inside Iraq."

In a letter dated October 15, 2008, to Iraq's Minister for Foreign Affairs, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights urged that Government to protect Ashraf residents from forcible deportation, expulsion, or repatriation in violation of the non-refoulement principle, and to refrain from any action that would endanger their life or security.

Mr. al-Maliki is responsible for any harm done to the 36 hostages, many of whom are on the brink of death after 69 days of hunger strike and severe beatings in the hands of security forces.

The United States is also responsible for safety and human rights of these individuals. According to Article 45 of Fourth Geneva Convention this responsibly remains in effect even while Ashraf residents are in the custody of the Government of Iraq, to whom they were transferred in exchange for specific assurances given to the United States. The appalling silence and inaction of the Obama administration, which has superficially lamented about the "avoidable tragedy" in Ashraf, could prove deadly for the 36 abductees.

SOURCE U.S. Committee for Camp Ashraf Residents

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