by Elisabetta Zamparutti
The European Iraqi Freedom Association (EIFA), has called on the Iraqi Prime Minister & Minister of Health to end the medical blockade of Camp Liberty. In a press release from Brussels on Thursday, they demanded that the government of Nouri al-Maliki end the siege that had been on-going since 2009.
The blockage has resulted in 22 deaths in Ashraf and Camp Liberty, all preventable if access to medical services was available. The residents are denied the right to choose their physician, hospital, time to refer to hospital, or to choose their nurse or interpreter, which are all fundamental human rights. Struan Stevenson, the president of EIFA stated that that “even four months after Maliki’s removal, the file of Camp Liberty and its management is still in the hands of the same individuals appointed by Maliki, who continue to harass the residents and continue to impose the medical blockade.”
Doctors are shocked at the treatment of the refuges, and the press release quotes an Iraqi doctor serving at Ashraf for ten years. He says that after the residents were relocated to Camp Liberty from Ashraf, their communications with the outside world was banned by Iraqi security agencies, as were his visits. He goes on to say that “security forces nevertheless continue their deliberate pressure such as limiting the patients to visiting only one hospital, imposing long delays in taking the residents to the hospital and preventing the patients from having their interpreter or caregiver for those who need help; this way they continue the illegal persecution of the residents.”
These restrictions are in blatant contradiction to international medical covenants.
Additionally the press release mentions that meetings and dialogues with the Minister and officials of the Health Ministry were of no avail and some officials even alleged that the residents were terrorists and should be denied medical care. For the Iraqi regime, legality and rights is not even part of the equation when it comes to the repression of these Iranian dissidents at Camp Liberty.
The EIFA has found that the list of patients waiting to go to the hospital is now over 800. At most, only 4-5 people are permitted to go to the hospital per day. Doctors can’t visit and equipment cannot be brought in.
The EIFA along with dozens of prominent European figures wrote to Prime Minister al-Abadi on 12 September 2014, calling on Camp Liberty to be recognized as a refugee camp and calling for the rights and protection of its residents to be respected.
Their demands included the following:
1. Residents be allowed access to hospitals in adequate numbers with an interpreter-nurse.
2. Residents be allowed to transfer their medical equipment from Ashraf to Camp Liberty.
3. Residents be allowed to invite Iraqi specialist physicians to Camp Liberty at their own expense for specialist visits.
Such reports and press releases put the reputation of Prime Minister al-Abadi at stake in the international community. It is now up to the Prime Minister to stop the interference of security forces into the rights of these individuals. The demands made are reasonable and achievable; the delay is only because political will is weak.
Elisabetta Zamparutti is an official of Hands Off Cane, and a former member of the Italian Parliament