By Carol J. Williams
The Los Angeles Times, September 19, 2013
"A massacre this month at an Iranian exile camp in Iraq that killed 52 people under international protection was an act of premeditated slaughter and should be thoroughly investigated by the United Nations, two former foreign ministers told the world body Thursday. Former foreign ministers Bernard Kouchner of France and Sid Ahmed Ghozali of Algeria told a UN panel in Geneva that the Sept. 1 raid on the exile refuge known as Camp Ashraf represents 'a crime against humanity.' The former top diplomats also said they had grave fear for the safety of seven survivors of the attack who were taken hostage. A Paris-based Iranian dissident group, the National Council of Resistance of Iran, has accused Iraqi security forces under Prime Minister Nouri Maliki of carrying out the raid on the last remaining exiles at the camp, which Baghdad has been attempting to close since US forces withdrew two years ago. Iraqi officials deny being behind the killings and lay the blame on infighting among the exiles. Camp Ashraf was set up east of Baghdad in Iraq's Diyala Province during the 1980s, when Saddam Hussein's troops were at war with Iran and the Islamic Republic government's enemies were given safe refuge. Some members of the exile group, known as the Mujahedin Khalq, or MEK, fought on the side of Iraq in their effort to see the clerical regime in their homeland defeated. The Mujahedin Khalq has been accused of carrying out bombings and assassinations in Iran in the 1980s. The exile group had been on the US list of foreign terrorist organizations but was removed a year ago, after intense lobbying effort to convince Congress that the exiles had renounced violence.
Camp Ashraf housed more than 3,000 Iranian exiles at the time of the US occupation, and an agreement between the departing Americans and Maliki's government called for a phased transfer of the Iranians to the protection of other countries. Since Hussein's ouster and execution, the resurgent Shiite influence in the Iraqi government has grown closer to Tehran and hostile toward the exiles seeking the Iranian government's overthrow. Iraqi officials in recent months began transferring large numbers from Camp Ashraf to a former US base near Baghdad as a prelude for closing the exiles' long-time refuge. Only about 100 were left at Camp Ashraf when the Sept. 1 raid occurred. Fifty-two Iranians were found slain execution-style, with their hands bound behind their backs and bullet wounds in the head. Iran Freedom Committee, another Iranian dissident exile group, accused the Maliki government of 'acting as a puppet' of the Tehran government in failing to protect the exiles, the Iran Focus news site reported. 'It was fine while the Americans were protecting the refugees, but they were transferred to the Iraqi government forces in 2009,' when the U.S. drawdown began, said Alireza Jafarzadeh, an author and analyst from the National Council of Resistance of Iran. The council acquired a gruesome dossier of photographs from the massacre site, which Jafarzadeh shared with the Los Angeles Times, and has been disseminating them in an effort to generate international outrage over the killings. Some members of Congress, including San Fernando Valley Democrat Judy Chu, have appealed for condemnation of the attack and investigation to show who was behind it. [...]"