Inadequate response to massacre in Iraq
Such international condemnation as there has been of the deadly attack this month carried out by Iraqi forces against a camp housing members of the Iranian opposition leaves two pertinent questions unanswered. First, is the attack a crime against humanity under the principles of international law; and, secondly, have the US authorities turned a deliberate blind eye to a massacre on their watch in Iraq as part of a deal with the Iraqi authorities, or as part of a policy of appeasement?
Undoubtedly, the answer to the first question is yes. Video footage of the incident shows Iraqi forces running over unarmed residents with armoured vehicles and Humvees. Further as stated by the Bar Human Rights Committee: “the Camp residents, all of whom are recognised as Protected Persons under the Fourth Geneva Convention, were shot at indiscriminately”. The United Nations confirmed that at least 26 men and 8 women were killed, while 178 suffered gunshots out of some 300 injured.
The actions of the Iraqi authorities and specifically Nouri Al-Maliki is an international criminal justice offence which demands that the UN, US and EU condemn the attack and define it appropriately as a crime against humanity. Firing at the unarmed residents with live machine gun rounds in these circumstances was clearly a government sanctioned act of war perpetrated against a civilian population and specifically a civilian population which has repeatedly been recognised as protected under the Convention.
The international community must not water down its condemnation of this attack. In July 2009 a similar attack which left 11 residents dead was met with feeble criticism, a response which for all essential purposes has permitted this latest attack to take place.
The actions of Nouri Al-Maliki, who has long made clear his allegiances to Iran’s theocratic leadership, should have surprised few. What is so shocking is the relative silence of the US government. It is hard to believe that they did not know what was about to happen at Ashraf. They did nothing to try to stop it happening. Worst of all, their silence and inaction has made it almost certain that it will happen again. It can be no coincidence that US forces stationed within the Camp withdrew just hours before the Iraqi onslaught began.
Furthermore, top US government official Robert Gates was in Baghdad and met Al-Maliki hours before the attack began, just as he was in Iraq in July 2009 when the other major offensive was conducted against Ashraf by the Iraqi forces. Mr Gates should be brought to account, and tell us what his knowledge was of the recent outrage, and how he proposes to deal with what occurred.
In addition, he should give a truthful account of why US medical aid, which was readily available, was not in Ashraf within minutes of the Iraqi attack, despite requests.
Simply put, the US forces if they so wished and were so ordered to do from their command in Washington and Baghdad could at the flick of a switch airlift all the wounded to the US military hospital situated in the vicinity of the Camp. This now is the minimum that the US authorities must do.
However, such assistance will not suffice in circumstances where the Iraqi authorities have made clear their intention to destroy the Camp and if necessary kill all the residents.
A duty now falls upon the US authorities, the UN and the EU to demand the immediate removal of Iraqi forces from the Camp and the setting up of a UN and US led team to replace the Iraqi authorities in protecting the Camp. As we have done in Libya, international law permits the involvement of all member states in ensuring the safety of civilian populations. It is these same principles which not only permit US forces and the international community as a whole to directly intervene, but further the Fourth Geneva Convention in fact demands intervention in such circumstances.Tagged in: iran, iraq, Nouri Al-Maliki
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