October 17, 2017

Iraq signs ‘death warrant’ on Iran exiles

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

BRUSSELS – Iraq has served a virtual “death warrant” on some 3,400 Iranian dissidents exiled in a camp north of Baghdad, the head of the European parliament’s delegation for relations with Iraq said Friday.

MEP Struan Stevenson said the Iraqi embassy in Brussels had sent a letter to the European parliament tantamount “to a virtual declaration of war on the UN and international community and a death warrant” for residents of the Ashraf camp.

Iraq wants a year-end closure of the camp but more than 100 parliamentarians along with rights groups have urged a postponement to give time to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees and others to screen and resettle residents.

The embassy note, obtained by AFP, reiterates that “the Iraqi government is committed to its decision to close Camp Ashraf by the end of 2011”. It says the dissidents are “terrorists” and denies they have refugee status or can claim protection under the Geneva Convention.

Stevenson said the note “clearly opposes attempts by the UNHCR to interview the residents and provide them with refugee status.”

The camp, an accident of history that has become a thorny international problem, has been in the spotlight since an April raid by Iraqi security forces left 34 people dead and scores injured, triggering sharp condemnation.

It was set up when Iraq and Iran were at war in the 1980s by the People’s Mujahedeen Organisation of Iran (PMOI) and was later placed under US control until January 2009, when US forces transferred security for the camp to Iraq.

The PMOI has been on the US government terrorist list since 1997 – though removed from the EU list – but has received support from leading US figures in its battle to obtain international supervision of Camp Ashraf’s closure, timed to take place as US forces pull out of Iraq.

Stevenson said the Iraqi embassy letter was “a blatant effort to set the stage for the massacre of Ashraf residents, clearly at the behest of the Iranian regime.”

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