Sunday, 6 September 2009

Law Society intervenes after Iraqi forces attack refugee camp

An attack by Iraqi forces on a refugee camp holding thousands of Iranians has prompted the Law Society’s International Human Rights Committee to intervene.

The attack at Camp Ashraf, which is home to 3,500 Iranian refugees, 1,000 of which are women, has reportedly left 13 residents dead and more than 400 injured.

Until January 2009, the security of Camp Ashraf and the safety of its residents were guaranteed by Coalition forces in Iraq. However, those duties were transferred to Iraqi forces, following assurances given by the Iraqi authorities that they would be treated humanely and their rights under international law would be respected.

Following reports of the attack last week, the International Human Rights Committee of the Law Society of England & Wales is calling on all parties, including the United States and Iraq, to ensure that Camp Ashraf residents are properly protected.

Malcolm Fowler, Law Society International Human Rights Committee member, says:

“We are calling for Iraqi forces to immediately cease the use of all violence against the residents of Camp Ashraf and to leave the grounds of the camp. These forces must also allow the International Committee of the Red Cross, relevant United Nations bodies, lawyers, and the press into Camp Ashraf. 

“The Iraqi authorities are also reminded of their obligations towards the 36 detained who should be returned to the camp.  In particular, the rule of law and due process requires that the detained be treated humanely and be given immediate access to their lawyers, as well as relevant international agencies.”

Amnesty International has issued an ‘Urgent Action’ appeal in which it states that video footage seen by Amnesty International shows Iraqi forces beating people repeatedly on different parts of the body, including the head. The footage also appears to show Iraqi forces firing at the residents, resulting in a number of deaths.

The Law Society International Human Rights Committee points out that the residents of Camp Ashraf are ‘protected persons' under the Fourth Geneva Convention.  As a result, they have extensive rights under international law. This includes the right not to be forcibly displaced, deported, expelled or repatriated in violation of the principle of non-refoulement.



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