Crime Against Humanity at Iranian Refugee Camp Ashraf

Lord David Waddington
Original Publication:
The Independent
Last week Iraqi forces entered a camp in Iraq housing members of the Iranian opposition group, the People’s Mojahedin Organisation of Iran (PMOI). Thirty three residents were killed and over 300 wounded. Were the US authorities, as it has been suggested, told of the intended attack by the Iraqi Government? If they were, then surely members of the US government were complicit in a crime against humanity. And of course it shows that the US administration is continuing to appease the regime in Tehran whose influence over the Iraq government grows and grows.

Lord David WaddingtonThe raid which took place at 5am on Friday 8 April, involved 2,500 severely armed Iraqi forces entering the Camp in armoured vehicles and Humvees, with video footage filmed by the residents clearly showing Iraqi forces running over unarmed residents and firing indiscriminately at them. Under any parameter of international law such a massacre of unarmed civilians is a war crime and a crime against humanity.

Unfortunately, this is the latest indication that Iraq’s Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki has no qualms about breaching international law and massacring innocent civilians in order to please his paymasters in Tehran. Al-Maliki continues to lead Iraq into becoming a puppet state which ultimately falls under the leadership of Tehran’s Mullahs.

In this climate it becomes even more disturbing to know that unarmed civilians to whom the US authorities gave personal guarantees as to their protection and to whom ‘protected persons’ status under the Fourth Geneva Convention were granted, were left to be butchered in such a way.

Based on the current information available it appears that US forces stationed inside the Camp were ordered by their command in Baghdad to withdraw from Camp Ashraf and not to act in any way in preventing the attack. Furthermore given the presence of US Defence Secretary Robert Gates in Iraq at the time of the attack, there exists the possibility that the US authorities provided the Iraqi authorities with an informal go-ahead to carry out the attack.

The actions of the US authorities in failing to prevent the attack is a clear breach of their duty under international law to guarantee the safety of ‘protected persons’ under the Fourth Geneva Convention. This duty falls upon each and every UN member state, but specifically upon the US and its Coalition members who provided the residents with a guarantee to ensure that their rights under international law would be safeguarded.

Having either failed to prevent the attack or turned a blind eye to it, the US authorities must now act to prevent further bloodshed. What is needed immediately is help in transferring the wounded to US military hospitals in the area to prevent further loss of life. In time of war this kind of help has to be given to enemy combatants, and it really would be criminal to deny it to people who are civilians and refugees.

Surely the duty to protect Camp Ashraf and its inhabitants can no longer be left in the hands of Nouri Al-Maliki. It must be returned to the US military and there must be a permanent UN presence at the camp. As to Britain which was a member of the coalition which entered the war in Iraq, it has a clear duty to ensure compliance by the Iraqi leadership.

In July 2009, 11 residents were killed. Up to now in April 2011, 34 residents have been killed. If the US authorities fail to act now to prevent further bloodshed their complicity in the crimes committed will be inferred by all.

Surely the US Government should not be telling the people of Iran that as they struggle for freedom and democracy, the West is prepared to allow the massacre of members of the Iranian opposition who stand for that freedom and for that democracy. Surely that was not the message which in 2008 President Obama promised to deliver to the World.

Rt. Hon. Lord David Waddington QC is a former UK Home Secretary and Leader of the House of Lords