On January 5, 2014, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon appointed Jane Holl Lute of the United States as his Special Adviser for Relocation of Camp Hurriya Residents Outside of Iraq. Since then, she has worked dynamically to resolve the stalemate at Camp Liberty where 2700 residents remain trapped, unable to leave the camp. As a result of her diligence, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees in Albania was able to announce it has provided the necessary measures for the transfer of a further 210 Camp Liberty residents to Albania. Local reports indicate that several apartments are ready to accommodate the newly arrived individuals.
Previously, in March 2013, Albanian Prime Minister Sali Berisha had announced that Tirana was ready to host 210 members of the MEK “for humanitarian reasons.” Since then, over 200 residents have already been transferred to Albania.
As a UNAMI representative, Jane Holl Lute works in close co-operation with several Iraqi governmental bodies including the security forces and Iraq’s Ministry of Human Rights, as well as the UNHCR and independent bodies such as the International Committee for the Red Cross (ICRC).
UNAMI has had to deal with constant complaints from the Mojahedin commanders about siege conditions at the camp. On 31 August, UNAMI reported that “the provision of life support systems such as water, electricity and food continue to be well in excess of basic humanitarian standards”. In addition, MEK advocates in Europe, such as MEPs Julie Ward and Judith Kirton-Darling, also insist that the MEK be protected from further attacks like the events at Camp Ashraf on September 1, 2013 and for them to be moved as soon as possible to third countries to prevent further violence.
Yet, now it has been made possible to transfer another 210 to a place of safety, the MEK has refused to allow anyone to leave Camp Liberty. Of course this may be linked to news that over half of the MEK members who now reside in Tirana have renounced the group and have begun to speak out about human rights abuses inside Camp Liberty. The MEK leader Massoud Rajavi cannot afford to allow more of the camp’s residents the freedom to decide their own futures, and would prefer to keep them locked up in Iraq under his direct control.
The problems at the camp can quickly be resolved if the MEK commanders would agree to open the gates of the camp and allow the individual residents to access external help from the UN, ICRC and Iraqi NGOs, as well as allowing them to access much needed medical care. Above all, it has been found that the most help to residents has been given by their own families once they have left the camp. Since it has proven itself inadequate in the care of the Camp Liberty residents, the MEK should therefore allow them to have family visits and to access all the help they need from agencies outside the camp.