Camp Ashraf Crisis at EU Council of Ministers Meeting

European Union High Representative Catherin AshtonNima Sharif
Europe’s Council of Foreign Ministers met in Brussels today to discuss, among other things, the deploring incidents at Camp Ashraf on 8 April this year that led to the tragic death of 34 unarmed residents of the camp and hundreds of injuries.

While the European Parliaments initiative provides for a long-term solution to the Crisis at Camp Ashraf, the European Union Council of Foreign Ministers should not overlook the immediate danger and the need for protection of the camp residents from further aggressions.  A permanent European observing team at the location will undoubtedly prevent more losses of life.

In fact as a major player in today’s world affairs, the EU should take the center stage in insuring that the international humanitarian laws are respected in Iraq.  This is especially important at the time when American forces are lowering their presence in that country thus the danger of such incidents would drastically multiply.  Europe no longer can afford to stand aside in face of international events and crisis.  Ashraf and its protection will be the chance for Europe to realize its role in the new global equation.

Condemning the massacre, High Representative Catherine Ashton made a pledge two weeks ago in Strasbourg Plenary session of the European Parliament to bring up the matter at the Council’s meeting this week in Brussels. 

After today’s meeting, the High Representative told reporters that Europe will work with United Nations and the US to come up with a resolution to the matter. 

Europe can play a determining factor to which direction the events will proceed.  The EU should take measures to involve the United Nations in the protection of the camp.  Better yet, the EU could step in itself to guarantee the protection of the residents by installing a permanent European observing team at the location.  Europeans spend over a Billiton Euros per year in Iraqi economy and taxpayers would not favor it if their money were spent to commit genocides in other parts of the world.

The European Delegation to Iraq, following a four member visit to Baghdad on 26-29 April, introduced an initiative on its return to provide a long-term solution for the crisis at Camp Ashraf.  The initiative calls for the EU-27 and countries of North America and Australia to each take in some of the Iranian refugees at Camp Ashraf in order to prevent another human tragedy there.  The refugees are members of the Iranian opposition movement People’s Mujahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI) which would face torture and execution if repatriated back to Iran.   The Iraqi forces have staged numerous attacks on the camp at the behest of the Iranian regime since the U.S. forces relinquished camp’s protection to them in 2009. About fifty camp residents have lost their lives due to Iraqi attacks since then.

Intervention by the Council of Ministers can also normalize the tense state of affairs that still exists at Ashraf.  For any discussion and planning to be set in motion and go on it is necessary to help calm the situation at the camp.  The Iraqi army is still inside the camp and threats to residents and siege of the camp continue.  No one can expect a dialogue to begin while the residents still have guns pointing at them. 

While immediate protection is required to make any type of solution possible, talks of displacement of the camp to another location in Iraq is not a good idea and will further complicate the state of things.   Displacement of the camp residents will create distractions and leave the residents vulnerable to the Iranian regime’s plots and conspiracies.  Europe and the United States should not fall for this.

While the solution has been presented by the European Parliament, protection of the residents at the camp is an urgent issue which needs immediate attention by the EU Council of Ministers.