GENEVA (9 December 2013) – A group of United Nations independent experts today called on the Government of Iraq to establish the fate and whereabouts of seven residents of Camp Ashraf, who were allegedly abducted last September after an attack in which 52 persons were killed. More than 3,000 Iranian exiles have been based at the Ashraf refugee camp near Baghdad since the 1980s.
The human rights experts expressed serious concern about the lack of information from the Iraqi authorities regarding the results of ongoing investigations into the attack.
“We call upon the Government of Iraq to speed up the investigations in order to disclose the fate and whereabouts of the individuals,” the UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances said, while recalling that, at some point, Iraqi forces allegedly admitted having these individuals in custody.
The facts are still being established three months after the violent event. However, there are allegations that the attack and the abduction of the seven residents of Camp Ashraf, including six women, were conducted by Iraqi security forces. It has also been alleged that it is impossible for anyone to enter Camp Ashraf without the cooperation of Iraq forces.
All of those killed reportedly died as a consequence of gunshot wounds, mainly in the head or neck. A number of those killed were found with their hands tied, an act apparently committed prior to their deaths. Some victims were allegedly shot while fleeing or seeking medical assistance after having been wounded.
“International law clearly requires Governments to ensure that all allegations of killings are investigated in a prompt, effective and impartial manner, irrespective of who the perpetrator is,” the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Christof Heyns, noted. “Failure to do so is a violation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.”
The group of experts stressed that “The impunity with which these crimes have been committed is particularly flagrant given the severity of the offences and the alleged evidence of engagement by Iraqi forces in the commission of these crimes.” In their view, “the State has an obligation to exercise due diligence to prevent, protect, investigate, prosecute and punish all acts of violence, including those perpetrated against women, and to ensure their rights to be treated with dignity.”
“The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention has consistently held that the detention in Camp Ashraf is arbitrary,” said Mads Andenas, who currently heads the expert body. “The Iraqi Government has a particular responsibility to protect the detainees against human rights violations such as the recent deaths and abductions, and must now instigate independent investigations, end the detention regime, and in the meantime provide effective protection to those who remain in detention.”
The UN Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, Juan E. Méndez, echoed the urgent call to establish the fate and whereabouts of the seven Iranian exiles. “Detention in secret places can facilitate the perpetration of torture and other ill-treatment and can in itself constitute a form of such treatment,” he warned.
Concerns have been raised that the seven missing residents of Camp Ashraf may be forcibly returned to the Islamic Republic of Iran, where they might be at risk of being persecuted, tortured or subjected to other forms of ill-treatment. According to the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), the seven missing residents are asylum-seekers enjoying the status of protected persons.
“Iraq’s obligations under international law are clear, the Government shall not expel, return, extradite or in any other way transfer a person to another State where there are substantial grounds for believing that the person would be in danger of being subjected to torture,” Mr. Mendez underscored.
The UN Independent Expert on the promotion of a democratic and equitable international order, Alfred de Zayas, noted that this is the third time that the residents of Camp Ashraf have been subjected to physical assault. “I condemn the lack of proper investigation of the massacres and the impunity of those responsible for them,” he said.
Mr. de Zayas pointed out that “Grave crimes of this nature, and the impunity that has accompanied them, entail violations of numerous international treaty provisions and constitute an assault on the rule of law, an affront to the international community and a threat to the international order.”
“The families of the killed and disappeared are entitled to the right to know what happened to their loved ones, and to adequate reparation for the suffering endured,” he stated.
The group of experts urged the Iraqi authorities “to take all necessary measures to clarify the whereabouts of the missing individuals, guarantee their safety and rights, and prevent their extradition to Iran.”
The United Nations Special Rapporteurs are part of what it is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the United Nations Human Rights, is the general name of the independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms of the Human Rights Council that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. They are charged by the Human Rights Council to monitor, report and advise on human rights issues. Currently, there are 37 thematic mandates and 14 mandates related to countries and territories, with 72 mandate holders. Special Procedures experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity. Learn more: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/SP/Pages/Welcomepage.aspx
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Enforced disappearances: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Disappearances/Pages/DisappearancesIndex.aspx
Arbitrary detention: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Detention/Pages/WGADIndex.aspx
Summary executions: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Executions/Pages/SRExecutionsIndex.aspx
Violence against women: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Women/SRWomen/Pages/SRWomenIndex.aspx
UN Human Rights, Country page – Iraq: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Countries/MENARegion/Pages/IQIndex.aspx
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