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U.S. responsibility towards Ashraf is far greater than the Netherlands' towards Srebrenica

Military occupation of Ashraf – No. 124

• Mrs. Rajavi: The Dutch court's ruling on July 5 regarding the Srebrenica massacre demonstrated once again how in the case of Camp Ashraf, the United States is responsible for protection of the residents until their final disposition and nothing justifies America’s inaction to stop crimes committed by Iraqi forces

• The representative of Ashraf residents outside Iraq: This decision confirms that the U.S. government should answer for 47 dead and 1071 injured in Ashraf and should conduct official investigations into these deaths and injuries

NCRI - Subsequent to a ruling by the Dutch court of appeals that blame the country's government for the 1995 massacre of Bosnian Muslims in Srebrenica, the Iranian Resistance warns the U.S. government about the protection of Ashraf residents and the need to prevent the perpetration of more massacres by the Iraqi forces at the camp. In light of the indisputable and well-documented events between the years 2003 and 2011 in Ashraf, the United States' responsibility towards Ashraf residents is far greater than that of Dutch forces in Srebrenica.

The President-elect of the Iranian Resistance, Mrs. Rajavi, noted: The decision of the Dutch court demonstrates once again that the U.S. government and forces have full responsibility in providing protection for Ashraf residents until their final disposition; nothing relieves the United States of this responsibility. Following the committing of crimes against humanity in Ashraf in July 2009 and April 2011, there is nothing that justifies US refusal to interfere in the situation. The US decision to avoid intervening in Ashraf's case is far more serious and unacceptable than the inaction of Dutch forces during the Srebrenica tragedy. There is no doubt that the United States, by virtue of its irrefutable responsibility to protect the lives of Ashraf residents, should be the first to conduct investigations and inspections, while answering for the crimes committed by the Iraqi forces.

Mrs. Rajavi added: The issue of Ashraf and preventing the massacre of its residents is a litmus test for the universal values that President Obama has committed himself to. Ashraf is a criterion by which the Iranian people judge which side the U.S. stands on; on the side of the mullahs’ dictatorship and its proxies in Iraq, or on the side of freedom-lovers and those who struggle for freedom in Iran.

According to the court's decision on July 5, the Dutch forces dispatched in 1995 to Bosnia as UN peacekeeping forces and tasked with monitoring the situation during the siege of Srebrenica, failed to protect the lives of civilian Muslims against the danger of attack of Serbians in Bosnia. The appeals judges ordered the Dutch government to pay retributions to families of the victims.

According to the decision, the Dutch government is to blame for the deaths of those men because the Dutch peacekeeping forces should not have handed them over to the Serb military in Bosnia.

The court rejected the argument offered by the Dutch government that its soldiers were acting under the command of the United Nations, removing their responsibility for the situation.

The court stipulated: Following the fall of Srebrenica, “an extraordinary situation” had emerged, which led the Dutch government and its forces to play a more active role in monitoring the evacuation operation, and therefore, the Dutch government is responsible in this case.

In accordance with these fundamental legal principles and in view of the indisputable events that have occurred in Ashraf over the past nine years, the responsibility of the U.S. government and its forces is far greater because:

1. In contrast to the situation in Srebrenica, the current situation in Ashraf results from the occupation of Iraq by the US-led Coalition Forces, and therefore, the US is wholly responsible; In Srebrenica, the Netherlands had no role in causing the situation in which the Muslim civilians found themselves in Srebrenica.

2. The U.S. forces disarmed Ashraf residents and took away all their weapons, including those needed for self-defense. Therefore, this increases the responsibility of the U.S. forces towards Ashraf residents.

3. The U.S. forces signed an agreement with each and every resident of Ashraf promising to protect them until their final disposition.

4. In contrast to the situation in Srebrenica, Ashraf residents are not only considered Protected Persons under the Fourth Geneva Convention by the ICRC and the United States as a group, but every single one of them was interviewed by various U.S. agencies, and after a sixteen-month investigation, the U.S. government recognized each one of them as a Protected Person under the Fourth Geneva Convention, and issued an ID card and a “Protected Person under Fourth Geneva Convention” card for the residents. The 47 residents of Ashraf who were killed during the assaults of Iraqi forces carried out in July 2009 and April 2011 and the 1071 who have been injured in the series of invasions of Iraqi forces since 20 February 2009 immediately after the transfer of their protection to Iraqi forces, all have legal statuses, Protected Persons' ID cards, and have signed agreements with U.S. forces.

5. Prior to the transfer of Ashraf residents to the Iraqi forces, the U.S. government was aware that Maliki's government harbored enmity towards the residents of Ashraf. Hundreds of documents are available in which Ashraf residents, their lawyers and representatives, the PMOI, the NCRI, and scores of international human rights organizations, both prior and subsequent to the official transfer of protection to the Iraqi forces on 20 February 2009, warned against the serious dangers that could result from this transfer. They wrote to U.S. Presidents, Secretaries of State, Defense Secretary, Commanders of MNF-I, and other relevant authorities that such transfer would prove fatal, and is illegal and unacceptable. Petitions carrying the signatures and ID card numbers of all Ashraf residents as Protected Persons under the Fourth Geneva Convention to President Bush (10 November 2008), to President Obama (3 October 2009), to the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Iraq (20 May 2010), to the United Nations Secretary-General (June 2010), to the Commander of USF-I (11 July 2010), and again to the United Nations Secretary-General (24 April 2011) are among these documents. Copies of these letters and petitions have also been regularly sent to the then Secretaries of State and Defense of the United States, and Commanders of U.S. forces in Iraq.

In addition, the close to one thousand female residents of Ashraf, sent separate letters and petitions, including the petition of 10 March 2011, sharing their concerns about the lack of safety and security and the crimes committed by the Iraqi forces with the U.S. Secretary of State and other U.S. officials.

6. Specifically prior to the transfer of protection to the Iraqi government, Ashraf residents wrote to President Bush on 10 November 2008, and said:
 "We, the undersigned, are the Iranian dissidents residing in Camp Ashraf in Iraq who have been protected by the U.S. forces as “protected persons” under the Fourth Geneva Convention after we delivered to the U.S. forces in May 2003 all our weapons including the ones used for our protection and self defense. With grave concern, we were informed of the decision of the U.S. government regarding transfer of our protection to the Iraqi forces. Under current circumstances, should the U.S. forces stop protecting Ashraf, there are serious threats that will endanger the lives of Ashraf residents.  Because of such threats, all of us, who were interviewed individually by the U.S. forces on 9 and 10 August 2008, expressed our disagreement and deep concern about the transfer of protection. We also underlined our concern and disagreement during interviews by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) visiting Ashraf on 24 and 25 August and also on 28 and 29 October 2008, as well as during the visit of European Parliament delegation on 17, 18 and 19 October…
The anxiety of Ashraf residents that in case of handover of protection they would face harassment and their very primary rights would be violated is based on undeniable facts. Remarks made by Iraqi senior officials clearly show that transfer of protection would have unacceptable consequences and threats against us. They explicitly vow to prosecute and expel us from Iraq. Among other things, the statement ratified by the Council of Ministers of Iraq on 17 June 2008 orders suppression, trial, imprisonment of Ashraf residents and their expulsion from Iraq; it also regards the Iraqis and foreigners who come to Ashraf as criminals. This statement is still posted on the Iraqi government’s official websites. Moreover, the Iraqi government has refrained from selling food, fuel and medicine to the Ashraf residents since September 2005.
Once the protection by American forces is removed, the military and terrorist operations by the Iranian regime against us will escalate.
One can refer to the August 2005 kidnapping of two Ashraf residents, the May 2006 bombing of a bus carrying Iraqi workers to Ashraf (which resulted in the deaths of 11 passengers), the July 2006 bombing of Ashraf water pipelines, the October 2007 attempt to poison the water going to Ashraf, the November 2007 bombing of a vehicle carrying Ashraf workers, the February 2008 bombing of the water pumping station, the May 2008 missile attack on Ashraf City , the July 2008 second missile attack on Ashraf and the murder of more than 50 Iraqis who supported the residents of Ashraf...
Transferring protection of Ashraf under the present circumstances violates the principle of non-refoulement, the Fourth Geneva Convention, the Refugee Convention, the Convention Against Torture, IHL and International Law and would result in a humanitarian catastrophe. Thus we urge U.S. forces for as long as they remain in Iraq to continue to protect Ashraf residents and to protect their judicial immunity under international law."

It is worth reminding that on 16 February 2006, General Gardner, a Deputy Commander of the MNF-I, wrote in a letter addressed to the Ashraf residents: “Multi-National Force-Iraq appreciates our responsibilities with regard to the Geneva Convention Relative to the Treatment of Civilian Persons (GCIV)…the coalition remains deeply committed to the security and rights of the protected people of Ashraf.” Earlier, General Brandenburg, Deputy Commanding General of the MNF-I, had also underscored in a letter to the Ashraf residents on 7 October 2005: “The residents of Camp Ashraf have the right to protection from danger, coercion, and intimidation, and to special protection for the dignity and rights of women.”

7. In the aforementioned letter to the U.S. President, copies of which were also sent to the UN Secretary-General, the President of the ICRC, UNHCHR, UNHCR and the Secretary General of Amnesty International, reiterated:
“Mr. President,
In order to prevent a humanitarian catastrophe, we request that you order an urgent halt on the process of transferring protection of Ashraf residents.
We would also ask for your intervention so that the Iraqi government acknowledges in writing: The Ashraf residents are covered by the Fourth Geneva Convention, principle of non-refoulement, International Law and International Humanitarian Law and enjoy the right to residence and judicial security in Iraq, and the current restrictions on them would be removed.”

8. Many documents and evidences testify to the fact that in the July 2009 attack, the U.S. forces witnessed the massacre of Ashraf residents directly; however, they refrained from interfering upon the orders of their superiors. Even when the wounded residents in critical condition approached them, they refused to acknowledge them. Some of these revolting scenes were broadcast on American TV stations.
9. The US forces that were present in Ashraf between 3 and 7 April 2011 left the camp in the evening of April 7th, a few hours before an attack that started at 4:45 a.m. on April 8. While they were clearly seeing Iraq’s invasion, they received orders to withdraw from Ashraf. The events that took place in Ashraf after 5pm on April 7 were reported minute-by-minute by the Ashraf residents themselves, their representatives abroad, their families and lawyers and many international supporters of Ashraf, to various levels of the US government ranging from US officers on the ground up to the US Command in Iraq, the US Embassy in Iraq, the President, Vice-President and the Secretaries of State and Defense. Nevertheless, the fatal shellfire and shootings at the residents continued for six hours. It happened while the US Secretary of Defense was in Iraq for a visit and had met with Maliki the day before the attack. Nobody can deny the fact that active political intervention, let alone a deterrent military intervention, could have easily averted the catastrophe or at least reduced the scope of this merciless massacre.

10. In December 2010 and March 2011, the Spanish National Court issued two verdicts ordering investigations on five criminals who participated in the July 2009 attack and other assaults and aggressions, summoning them to appear before the court. The Spanish National Court described the lethal attacks of July 28 and 29, 2009 on Ashraf, which left 11 dead and more than 500 wounded, as a war crime, crime against humanity and crime against international community based on the Rome Treaty and the Fourth Geneva Convention.
After the transfer of protection to Iraqis and the lethal attack on Ashraf, the United States was obliged to reassume the responsibility of protection of Ashraf residents from Iraqi forces in accordance with Article 45 of the Fourth Geneva Convention. Jurists, parliamentarians and international organizations have on numerous occasions reminded the US of its legal, humanitarian and moral obligations. However, the US chose to ignore the calls, and therefore, it shoulders an even greater responsibility for the crimes committed in the subsequent attack in April 2011.
11. The US has clearly failed to fulfill its responsibilities and legal obligations when it comes to the inhumane siege on Ashraf, particularly the medical siege by the Iraqi forces that is considered a war crime under any definition. By transferring some of the wounded to American medical facilities, the US was able to save  some lives and prevent more residents from being maimed or having permanent injuries.  Repeated requests by Ashraf representatives and international calls in this regard were left unheeded by the US. The US forces only transferred 7 out of 345 wounded residents to their medical centers and did nothing for the others.

12. Over the past two and a half years, while the Iraqi government violated the undeniable rights of Ashraf residents, which are even recognized for prisoners of war under international standards, the U.S. exercised silence and did not take any effective measure in this regard. For nine years, 3,400 residents of Ashraf have been collectively detained in their houses thanks to the US  and the policy of appeasement towards the clerical dictatorship in Iran and its proxies in Iraq.
For the past two and a half years, the Iraqi forces have deprived Ashraf residents from visiting their lawyers, their families, human rights activists and parliamentarians. Since the beginning of 2009, the residents have been prevented from their economic activities which provided enough income for part of their expenses. Ashraf neighbors and local laborers who regularly visited the camp over the past 20 years have been prevented from going into Ashraf and are not even allowed to go for prayers at the Ashraf mosque. Drivers who deliver food and other basic commodities to Ashraf are being arrested and subjected to torture. In the meantime, the regime in Tehran has arrested hundreds of family members of Ashraf residents inside Iran and has executed some who visited their relatives in Ashraf.

For the past year and a half, up to 300 powerful loudspeakers installed around Ashraf have been blaring abusive remarks and threats into the camp, day and night, which amounts to constant psychological torture of the residents. So far there has not been a single ordinary public objection by the United States and its embassy in Iraq against such measures. This has emboldened the criminals and their agents even further. Forcing patients who are in pain to their deaths and depriving others from free access to medical services and medicine still continues. A number of residents have so far died as a result of this situation.
13. The U.S. never published reports on crimes committed on July 2009 and April 2011 and did not respond to the insistence of the U.S. Congress to publish the outcomes of a visit to Ashraf by the U.S. Embassy representatives, the U.S. forces and doctors two days after the April 8 attack. Some members of the US Congress described it as an intentional cover up of crimes committed. This is something that Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, Chairman of the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, has also underscored.

14. While delegations from the European Parliament and the US Congress or any other international delegation are barred from entering Ashraf, the Iraqi Ministry of Defense has been turned into a center for displaying abhorrent shows and propaganda by agents of the Iranian regime’s intelligence against the PMOI and Ashraf residents. This is while the US Ambassador admits that the agents of the Iranian regime do not even attempt to wipe out the identity codes on the weapons dispatched from Iran and described them as no more than thuggish criminals of the Qods Force of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (Washington Post, July 6, 2011).
Earlier, while addressing U.S. officials, the official representative of Ashraf residents announced that, based on international laws and covenants, the U.S. Government, which has taken the weapons of Ashraf residents and signed an agreement with every single one of them, is responsible for their protection until their final disposition. As was the case in the Balkans, in the aftermath of conflicts, individuals subject to the Geneva Conventions will continue to enjoy the protections provided by the Conventions until final disposition.
Ashraf residents’ representative has reiterated that by transferring the protection of Ashraf to Iraq while being aware of the Iraqi government’s ominous intentions and its animosity towards Ashraf residents, the U.S. has violated the Fourth Geneva Convention and many other international laws including the Convention Against Torture. In addition, according to Article 45 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, after the Iraqi government demonstrated that it is not qualified to protect Ashraf residents, it was the responsibility of the U.S. Government to reassume their protection. He also announced that, especially after the April 8 attack, the U.S. will be held responsible for any attack or harm caused by Iraqi forces against Ashraf residents.

Following the recent decision of the Dutch Court, the representative of Ashraf residents once again reiterated that the U.S. Government and forces should be held to account for the war crime, crime against humanity and crime against international community committed by Iraqi forces in Ashraf including the killing of 47 and the wounding of 1,071 protected persons. It must also initiate a formal, comprehensive, transparent and independent investigation into the matter under the supervision of the UN Security Council.

Secretariat of the National Council of Resistance of Iran
July 8, 2011

Secretariat of the National Council of Resistance of Iran
July 8, 2011

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