Camp Liberty

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Coordinates: 33°18′0.94″N 44°14′47.68″E / 33.3002611°N 44.2465778°E / 33.3002611; 44.2465778

Camp Liberty
(Camp Victory)
(Camp Hurriya)
(Camp Al-Tahreer)
Baghdad, Iraq
Camp Liberty after 26 December 2013 rocket attack.jpg
Camp Liberty after 26 December 2013 missile attack.
Coordinates 33°18′0.94″N 44°14′47.68″E / 33.3002611°N 44.2465778°E / 33.3002611; 44.2465778
Site information
Owner  Iraq
Site history
Built 2003 (2003)
Battles/wars Iraq War
Events Camp Liberty killings, Camp Ashraf, 2013 Camp Ashraf massacre
Garrison information
Occupants People's Mujahedin of Iran (current)
 United States of America (former)

Camp Liberty is a former United States military installation in Baghdad, Iraq, now being used to house the members of the People's Mujahedin of Iran (PMOI, also called MEK) who previously resided in Camp Ashraf.

Camp Liberty currently is used as a refugee camp for members of the People's Mujahedin of Iran. PMOI is a group which has been exiled from its native Iran since the Iranian Revolution, which the government of its host country of Iraq still considers to be a terrorist organization despite the fact that the USA removed it from the list of terrorist organizations,[1] and which an Iranian organization opposed to it accuses to have killed over 25,000 Iraqis on behalf of Saddam Hussein.[2]

History[edit]

US Army Base[edit]

Camp Liberty first came into existence during the 2003 invasion of Iraq as Camp Victory North, and was renamed (its Arabic translation is "Camp Al-Tahreer") in mid-September 2004 to its later name of Camp Liberty (in Arabic "Camp Hurriya").[3] Other camps that made up the Victory Base Complex include Camp Victory (formerly known as Camp Victory South), Camp Striker, Seitz, and Camp Slayer. The renaming was part of an effort to give U.S. facilities around Baghdad friendlier connotations, and an attempt to resolve the issue of constantly changing facility names.

Camp Liberty in September 2009

During the Iraq War, following the 2003 Invasion of Iraq, the base was a large coalition military installation located northeast of the Baghdad International Airport (BIAP), becoming part of the U.S. military's Victory Base Complex (VBC). Camp Liberty was twice the size of Camp Bondsteel in Kosovo, and one of the largest U.S. overseas posts built since the Vietnam War.[3]

Camp Liberty killings[edit]

Main article: Camp Liberty killings

On 11 May 2009, an American soldier, U.S. Army Sergeant John M. Russell, opened fire on his fellow service members within the camp at a counseling clinic center, killing five before being subdued and taken into custody.

People's Mujahedin of Iran[edit]

Under strong pressure by the Iraqi government, whose declared will is to expel the People's Mujahedin of Iran (PMOI/MEK) from Iraq, but who was aided as well by the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) under the pretext to preserve their security, near all of the 3400 MEK residents of Camp Ashraf were more or less forcedly moved to Camp Liberty in 2012.[4] This helped partly to convince the United States removing the MEK from its list of designated terrorist groups.[1] 166 of the MEK members are wanted for committing acts of terrorism inside Iran and the Iranian government is seeking their extradition.[5]

The Working Group on Arbitrary Detention of the UN Human Rights Council has categorized, in his Opinion of May 2012, the status of the MEK residents in Camp Liberty/Camp Hurriya as Arbitrary detention and called the Iraqi government for the "immediate release and lifting of all restraints upon the free movements of these persons".[6] It reiterated and extended this vote in his Opinion of August 2012, additionally considering it "appropriate to refer the allegations concerning conditions in Camp Ashraf and Camp Liberty to the relevant human rights mechanisms for appropriate action".[7]

2013 rocket attacks[edit]

A rocket and mortar attack left at least eight dead and nearly 100 wounded occurred at Camp Hurriya on 9 February 2013. Iranian residents of Camp Liberty and their representatives and lawyers appealed to the UN Secretary-General and U.S. officials to let them return to Ashraf, which they say is 80 times larger than Liberty and has concrete buildings and shelters that offer more protection. They argue that this move is all the more imperative because according to the UN Refugee Agency and the US embassy in Baghdad, resettlement will take anywhere from three to 10 years. So, the residents would be at risk of further attacks and the move to Ashraf would not hinder their resettlement. The United States has been working with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) on the resettlement project.[8]

On 29 April 2013, 20 explosions hit Camp Liberty/Camp Hurriya. Its residents accuse the Iraqi government of failing to offer adequate protection or medical care.[9]

A deadly rocket attack occurred on 26 December 2013, killing four Iranian dissidents and wounding about seventy.[10] This was the last of a total of four rocket attacks to Camp Liberty in 2013.[11] The destructive power of 26 December attack was particularly high, as in addition to previously used rockets, missiles hit the camp with had about 10 times explosive power.[12] Iraqi authorities have repeatedly denied involvement in attacks on the group. However, in a rare claim of responsibility for attacks on the MEK, Wathiq al-Batat, commander of the al-Mukhtar Army militia, admitted his group had fired rockets at the camp. This army is a relatively new Shi'ite militia, which has said it is supported and funded by Iran. Batat is a former leader of the more well-known Kata'ib Hezbollah militia. [13] The UNHCR called on the government of Iraq to urgently scale up security measures in the camp to ensure the safety and security of its residents. UNHCR urgently reiterated the need to find solutions for the camp's residents, and appealed to countries to find places for 1,400 persons from Camp Liberty that had been submitted for relocation since 2011, stating that only 311 residents were secured to third countries so far.[14]

Persistent threat[edit]

The National Council of Resistance of Iran informed and warned on activities in Iraq by Iranian Quds Force, led by Qasem Soleimani, aimed to massacre Camp Liberty residents via a joint operation with Iraqi forces.[15] In August 2014, the Iraqi government started to block food, fuel and water supplies.[16] Former UNAMI chief Ad Melkert, who, in fall 2009, had strived to find a mediated solution for residents to remain protected in their original home city Camp Ashraf, appealed to UNAMI to hold the Iraqi government accountable for creating the descent conditions in Liberty and for blockading the delivery of daily life essentials.[17] In October 2014, the Committee on Political Affairs and Democracy of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe reiterated its concern over the situation, namely over a recent statement of the Iraqi Minister of Justice, in which he said that if Iran asked for the extradition of the residents of Camp Liberty, Iraq would deliver them.[18]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Shane, Scott (21 September 2012). "Iranian Dissidents Convince U.S. to Drop Terror Label". New York Times. 
  2. ^ [1]
  3. ^ a b Abu Ghurayb Presidential Site. GlobalSecurity.Org, Retrieved 12 February 2009.
  4. ^ Tahar Boumedra (2013), The United Nations and Human Rights in Iraq. The Untold Story of Camp Ashraf, ISBN 978-1-909740-64-8.
  5. ^ Iran seeking extradition of 166 MKO members: ambassador
  6. ^ A/HRC/WGAD/2012/16, Opinions adopted by the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention at its sixty-third session, 30 April–4 May 2012 - No. 16/2012 (Iraq) http://ap.ohchr.org/documents/alldocs.aspx?doc_id=20900
  7. ^ A/HRC/WGAD/2012/32, Opinions adopted by the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention at its sixty-fourth session, 27–31 August 2012 - No. 32/2012 (Iraq) http://ap.ohchr.org/documents/alldocs.aspx?doc_id=20900
  8. ^ [2]
  9. ^ [3]
  10. ^ National Council of Resistance of Iran, 26 December missile attack on Camp Liberty, 27 December 2013 http://www.ncr-iran.org/en/news/ashraf-liberty/15606-video-december-26-missile-attack-on-camp-liberty
  11. ^ Camp Liberty Iranians attacked with rockets, 26 December 2013 http://www.ncr-iran.org/en/ncri-statements/ashraf-liberty/15601-camp-liberty-attack-december-2013
  12. ^ Missiles used in Camp Liberty attack had ten times explosive power, 27 December 2013 http://www.ncr-iran.org/en/ncri-statements/ashraf-liberty/15607-missiles-used-in-camp-liberty-attack-had-10-times-explosive-power
  13. ^ Reuters, 26 December 2013 http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/12/26/us-iraq-violence-iranians-idUSBRE9BP0HC20131226
  14. ^ UNHCR shocked by another attack affecting Camp Hurriya in Iraq, renews calls for safety and immediate relocation of residents http://www.unhcr.org/52bd69f09.html
  15. ^ Qasem Soleimani asks Maliki to attack Camp Liberty, 7 January 2014 http://www.ncr-iran.org/en/news/ashraf-liberty/15694-iraq-qasem-soleimani-asks-maliki-to-attack-camp-liberty-disguised-as-daesh
  16. ^ New fears for Iran opposition residents, Fox News, 30 August 2014 http://video.foxnews.com/v/3758784555001/new-fears-for-iran-opposition-residents/#sp=show-clips
  17. ^ Speech by Ex - UNAMI chief Adrianus Melkert on Iranian opposition members in Iraq http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8YW6J-fYeHo#t=12
  18. ^ Statement on the situation of Iranian refugees in Camp Liberty, http://assembly.coe.int/nw/xml/News/News-View-EN.asp?newsid=4983&lang=2&cat=137

External links[edit]