Written Question No. 10,055 of Mr. Jean-Pierre Chevènement (Territoire de Belfort – RDSE)
published in the OJ Senate 10/09/2009 – page 2110
Mr. Jean-Pierre Chevènement brings to the attention of the Minister of Foreign and European Affairs the very serious situation for Iranian refugees in Camp Ashraf in Iraq.
This camp was created in 1986 in Diyala province, north of Baghdad, to house thousands of members of the People’s Mojahedin of Iran, an opposition group to the Iranian regime.
After the 2003 fall of Saddam Hussein, who protected them and used them as his instruments, they were disarmed by U.S. forces and received the status of "protected persons" under the Fourth Geneva Convention.
On June 17, 2008, the Iraqi Council of Ministers adopted a directive stipulating that members of this organization would be expelled from Iraq. On 1 January 2009, the United States has ceded control of the camp to Iraqi authorities. Last July, the Iraqi army entered the camp by force causing many casualties (11 dead and 450 injured according to some NGOs).
He asked what action the French Government intends to take with the Iraqi Government that shed will light on these events and that steps be taken so that the Fourth Geneva Convention is respected and what steps he has taken, including the United Nations (UN) so that these refugees are not deported to the Islamic Republic of Iran given the power relationship that exists between this country and Iraq.
Response from the Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs
published in the OJ Senate 12/11/2009 – page 2632
As you know, France has consistently expressed its support for the recovery by the Iraqi authorities of their full sovereignty as soon as possible. One of the milestones of this process, we have welcomed, was the agreement to withdraw American forces, adopted by the Iraqi parliament in November 2008, which stipulates that Iraqi forces gradually take over from U.S. forces and Iraqi authorities will be able to extend their authority throughout their territory. The restoration of the sovereignty of Iraq of course includes Camp Ashraf, the vast area located 80 km from Baghdad and occupied by the People’s Mojahedin Organisation (PMOI), with special status. It had been granted to them by Saddam Hussein in 1986.
The Iraqi authorities did not wish indeed to continue sheltering on its territory and close to Iran, a base belonging to an organization that has participated in military action against Iraq and the crimes committed by the former regime Saddam Hussein against his people. It is in this context that in January 2009, the Iraqi authorities informed the heads of diplomatic missions in Baghdad and Camp Ashraf that it could not benefit from any privilege of extraterritoriality and that it was intended to be closed through a process overseen by international law. In this context also, and as a result of failed negotiations with the camp residents, the Iraqi authorities intervened in July 2009 within the enclave to establish a police station. This unfortunately took a violent turn: eleven victims and many wounded on both sides are to be deplored.
France is naturally agreed that the implementation of the closure of Camp Ashraf is done with full respect for principles of international law. This is the message that we passed several times in the national and European framework to the Iraqi authorities, including the Iraqi Minister of Human Rights who is responsible for this issue. This requirement of respect for human rights must also apply to officers of the PMOI which, by all accounts, continues to use practices to intimidate the camp residents. Thus, they would not be free to decide their fate. As you know, France had objected that the PMOI, on the list of European terrorist organizations since 2002, was withdrawn in 2008. The PMOI is still considered a terrorist organization in several countries, including Canada, the United States and Iraq. France welcomes the efforts of the mission of United Nations Assistance in Iraq (UNAMI) through its Office of Human Rights, the High Commission of United Nations Refugees and the International Committee of the Red Cross so that a solution can be found on this difficult issue, which is respectful of Iraqi sovereignty and law.
Senate, France, translated by Iran Interlink