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Iraq must lift inhumane Camp Liberty medical blockade: Iraq EU Association

Iraq must lift its ‘merciless’ medical blockade of Camp Liberty which has cost the lives of 22 Iranian dissidents, the European Iraqi Freedom Association has demanded.

The siege was put into place under former Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki in 2009, but is still in force today, the EIFA President Struan Stevenson said.

A press release released by the association said: “So far, this deadly medical siege has cost the lives of 22 residents; had they received free access to medical services, as was their basic right, all of them would have been saved.

“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 of any human being.”

And four months after Maliki’s removal, the management of Camp Liberty is still in the hands of those appointed by Maliki, who continue to impose the blockade, Mr Stevenson said.

He quoted an Iraqi physicians who had worked in the camp for several years, who wrote: “For approximately ten years I have been involved in the medical cases of Ashraf residents. Regrettably, in Iraq medical services have been politicized.

“Now a certain faction in Iraq has seized control of the medical system and has turned it into a political apparatus for implementing its objectives. After the residents were relocated to Camp Liberty, all their communications with the outside world were banned and stopped by the Iraqi security agencies; my visits to the camp were also banned. 

“After the government changed, the 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. Such restrictions are in blatant contradiction with all international medical covenants.”

Mr Stevenson said that some Iraqi officials still believe Liberty residents are terrorists and should be denied medical care.

He added: “My attempts in convincing them that enjoying medical services is based on all legal, human rights and religious criteria regardless of political viewpoints and ideas, were to no avail. This matter raised my concern more than before regarding the future of the medical siege against the residents of this camp which is surrounded by Iraqi security forces.

“EIFA has found out that the process of transferring patients to the one hospital they are permitted to attend is quite slow and faces constant hurdles on the part of Iraqi forces.

“The list of patients waiting to go to the hospital has, as a result, grown longer and longer and it is now over 800. In the best cases, every day 4-5 people are permitted to go to the hospital and on many days even this number is not allowed to leave the camp.

“The residents have not been allowed to transfer their medical equipment from Ashraf to Camp Liberty, nor have they been allowed to invite Iraqi specialist physicians to Camp Liberty to visit the patients. These are steps that would drastically cut the need of residents to attend hospital.”

EIFA is calling on the government of Prime Minister al-Abadi and the Minister of Health to bar any interference by the security agencies in the medical situation at Camp Liberty, and to recognize it as a refugee camp, Mr Stevenson said.

EIFA also called for firstly, residents be able to be taken to various hospitals in adequate numbers and be allowed to take their interpreter-nurse.

Secondly, for residents be allowed to transfer their medical equipment from Ashraf to Camp Liberty.

And thirdly, for residents be allowed to invite Iraqi specialist physicians to Camp Liberty at their own expense for specialist visits.

He added: “The international community is now closely watching Prime Minister al-Abadi to see if he accords basic protection and the observance of fundamental human rights for the residents of Camp Liberty.

“His reputation in the eyes of the international community will stand or fall on his response to these questions.”

Camp Liberty in Iraq houses Iranian dissidents that include members of the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK) who have been living in Iraq since over two decades ago.