AFP
Last updated: August 11, 2012

UN rights experts warn of "massacre" in Iraq's Ashraf camp

Ten UN human rights experts on Friday denounced the "appalling situation" of 3,400 Iranian refugees in Iraq amid fears of a fresh "massacre" by security forces.

"We call for (the) immediate intervention of the UN Secretary General, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the international community to prevent another humanitarian disaster," the advisors to the UN Human Rights Council said in a statement.

The declaration concerns Iraq's threatened forced closure of Camp Ashraf near Baghdad, where 1,200 members of the People's Mujahedeen of Iran (MEK) remain despite a UN-brokered accord to leave as a first step toward resettlement.

The Iraqi government has been locked in a dispute with the MEK over plans to relocate them to Camp Liberty, a former US military base, where 2,000 of the refugees have been transferred already.

The rest have refused to move, saying Baghdad is not abiding by agreements, and none have transferred since May.

According to the UN signatories, Iraqi National Security Adviser Faleh Fayaz said Iraq would take "measures towards its lawful and legitimate responsibilities to enforce Iraq's sovereignty" over Ashraf camp, adding that Iraq would "force out (the) Iran dissident group".

"This is but a prelude for the third massacre in Ashraf," said the experts, referring to attacks on Ashraf in July 2009 and April 2011 in which 47 residents died and hundreds more were wounded.

At the beginning of the month US lawmakers spoke of appalling conditions at both camps, with Republican House of Representatives congressman Dana Rohrabacher comparing Camp Liberty to Auschwitz concentration camp.

On July 26 the UN refugee agency called for "cooperation, patience and understanding" in the dispute.

The MEK was founded in the 1960s to oppose the US-backed Shah of Iran but took up arms against the country's new clerical rulers after the Islamic revolution of 1979.

The group, which has been on the US terror blacklist since 1997, says it has renounced violence and has asked Washington to remove it from the list.

The United States has asked the MEK to leave Ashraf for Liberty and then Iraq altogether before it can be removed from the terror blacklist.

Signatories to the Human Rights Council consultative committee declaration include Jean Ziegler of Switzerland, Laurence Boisson de Chazournes from France, Chile's Jose Antonio Bengoa and Obiora Chinedu Okafor of Nigeria.

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