News Special Wire UN urges Iraq to uphold rights of Iranian opposition

UN urges Iraq to uphold rights of Iranian opposition

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Iran Focus: London, Mar. 07 – A senior United Nations official chided the Iraqi government on Thursday for failing to protect the main Iranian opposition group based in Iraq’s Diyala Province, bordering Iran.
Iran Focus

London, Mar. 07 – A senior United Nations official chided the Iraqi government on Thursday for failing to protect the main Iranian opposition group based in Iraq’s Diyala Province, bordering Iran.

“I am deeply concerned about information I continue to receive concerning the deteriorating situation in Ashraf City/Camp Ashraf (Iraq) and its surrounding area, following an explosion on 8 February 2008 that destroyed the water pumps in Zorganieh, which supply the area”, the UN’s Special Rapporteur on the right to food to the Human Rights Council, Jean Ziegler, said in a press statement from Geneva.

Camp Ashraf is home to members of the People’s Mojahedin Organisation of Iran (PMOI, also known by the acronym MeK), Tehran’s chief nemesis.

At 03:30 am local time on 8 February, a powerful explosion ripped through the water pumping station 25km west of Ashraf, cutting off water to its residents and at least 20,000 local Iraqis.

The PMOI said the attack was carried out by agents of the Iranian regime’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps – Qods Force (IRGC-QF) and constituted a war crime.

A local tribal council sheikh Hamid Ziab who was in charge of the station’s security as part of the newly formed Sunni “Awakening Councils”, had been assassinated two days earlier. Local Iraqis blamed the Qods Force for his death.

In his statement, Ziegler said, “That pumping station provided drinking water and irrigation for Ashraf City and its surrounding area, covering more than 20,000 persons. The explosion has caused water and food shortages for the local population, which relies on local food supplies already severely affected by water scarcity. The situation is made more critical by increasingly hot weather”.

He said he had received reports alleging that the explosion may have been “intended to increase pressure on over 3,000 members of the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI)”.

“The camp remains under the control of the multi-national force under the demobilization agreement the Iraqi authorities signed with the PMOI in May 2003. In July 2004, the United States Government recognized PMOI members as Protected Persons under the Fourth Geneva Convention, meaning that they should not be deported, expelled or repatriated, or displaced inside Iraq”, the top UN official said. The statement is a blow to efforts by Tehran to have the PMOI personnel extradited back to Iran.

The rights to food and to drinking water are protected by international human rights law. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights recognises the right of everyone “to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food”, and other international human rights instruments, to which Iraq is a party, further spell out the protection of these rights.

“The Iraqi authorities have failed to protect the inhabitants of Ashraf City and its surrounding area from the actions of third parties which are impeding enjoyment of the rights to food and water and creating a critical humanitarian situation”, Ziegler said. “The competent authorities must restore urgently the water supply to all the inhabitants of the region affected by the explosion in the water pumping station; the affected population must be protected from violation of their rights by third parties”.

“I call on the Iraqi authorities to take immediate measures to guarantee the rights to food and water of the inhabitants of Ashraf City/Camp Ashraf and its surrounding area”, he added.

The Special Rapporteur on the right to food had previously sent a letter to the Iraqi government on 17 October 2006 where he inter alia raised concern about a separate incident involving damages caused by a series of explosions to the water pipeline that stretches 26 km from the pumping station near the Tigris River to Camp Ashraf. “This allegedly affected access of the Camp residents and nearby villages to drinking water for approximately two weeks. Irrigation was also reportedly disrupted by the explosions”, the statement said.

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