UN rights office calls on Iraq to determine whereabouts of missing Iranian exiles

More than 460,000 internally displaced people, returnees and squatters are living in harsh conditions. Photo: UNHCR/H. Caux

24 September 2013 – The United Nations human rights office today called on the Government of Iraq to do all it can to ascertain the whereabouts of seven former residents of Camp Ashraf, who have been missing since the facility, which housed Iranian exiles, was attacked on 1 September, leaving at least 52 residents dead.

“We are gravely concerned about allegations that seven former residents of Camp Ashraf, six of whom are reported to be women, were kidnapped during the events of 1 September,” Rupert Colville, spokesperson for the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), said at a briefing in Geneva.

“If they have indeed been kidnapped, all efforts should be made to secure their release unharmed,” Mr. Colville added, noting unconfirmed reports that suggest that they are being held at an unidentified location in Iraq and are at risk of being forcibly returned to Iran.

Camp Ashraf was comprised of Iranian exiles, many of them members of a group known as the People’s Mojahedeen of Iran.

More than 3,000 residents have been relocated to Camp Hurriya, previously known as Camp Liberty, while the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) carries out a process to determine their refugee status, and resettle them outside of the country, in line with an agreement signed in December 2011 between the UN and the Iraqi Government.

Camp Ashraf has been attacked several times, making relocation a priority for the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI). Following the latest attack, the remaining residents were transferred to Camp Hurriya, but the circumstances of the attack remain obscure.

“As three weeks have now passed, we reiterate our call on the Government to do its utmost to shed light on exactly what happened and to identify the perpetrators of these killings,” Mr. Colville said, while welcoming the transfer of the remaining residents to Hurriya.

He added that UNHCR and others shared the concern over the missing former residents and called on the Government to ensure their safety and prevent their involuntary return to Iran.

Also in Geneva today, UNHCR’s spokesperson expressed concern that recent waves of sectarian violence in Iraq threatened new internal displacement in the country.

“Since the beginning of the year, bombings and rising sectarian tensions have displaced some 5,000 Iraqis,” Melissa Fleming said, noting reports from the last two weeks that suggested that over 200 families had fled their homes in a wide range of locations.

“Those displaced so far include Sunni Arabs, Kurds, Shia Shabak, Turkmen as well as Shia Arabs who are in a minority situation,” Ms. Fleming added.

She said that UNHCR and its partners have conducted needs assessments of the newly displaced people and are advocating with the Government for their registration. In coordination with the Government, the agency was helping to ensure them food, core relief items, education and adequate accommodation, along with relevant documents.


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