Iran dissidents in Iraq, accused of rights abuses, slam UN envoy

UNITED NATIONS Tue Jul 16, 2013 9:07pm EDT

Special Representative of the Secretary-General (SRSG) for Iraq, Martin Kobler speaks at a news conference in Baghdad August 7, 2012. REUTERS/Mohammed Ameen

Special Representative of the Secretary-General (SRSG) for Iraq, Martin Kobler speaks at a news conference in Baghdad August 7, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Mohammed Ameen

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - The outgoing U.N. special envoy to Iraq on Tuesday accused the leaders of an Iranian dissident group at a camp in Iraq of human rights abuses, an allegation the movement dismissed as baseless and potentially dangerous for the exiled dissidents.

Members of the Iranian dissident group Mujahadin-e-Khalq living in Camp Hurriya near Baghdad have been transferred there from Camp Ashraf north of the Iraqi capital, where they had lived for nearly a decade until last year.

The group and its political wing, the National Council of Resistance of Iran, have complained repeatedly about the conditions at Camp Hurriya, formerly known as Camp Liberty, and security problems.

U.N. envoy Martin Kobler, who will take up a similar position in the Democratic Republic of Congo next month, told the Security Council that the United Nations had received complaints about the Iranian group's leadership at the camp.

"Of increasing concern are the human rights abuses in Camp Hurriya itself by the camp leadership," Kobler said. "Hundreds of daily monitoring reports suggest that the lives of Camp Hurriya members are tightly controlled."

"A significant number of residents have reported to U.N. monitors that they are not free to leave the camp, to participate in the resettlement process offered by UNHCR, to contact family members outside Iraq, or to have contact with other relatives even within the camp itself," he said, referring to the U.N. refugee agency.

Some Hurriya residents reported being denied access to medical treatment by camp leaders, while others spoke of verbal and other forms of abuse for disagreeing with camp leaders or voicing the desire to leave, Kobler said.

The Mujahadin-e-Khalq, taken off the U.S. list of terrorist organizations last year, calls for the overthrow of Iran's Shi'ite Muslim clerical leadership. It fought alongside the forces of Iraq's late Sunni Muslim dictator Saddam Hussein in the 1980-1988 Iran-Iraq war.

The group is no longer welcome in Iraq under the Shi'ite Muslim-led government that came to power after U.S.-led forces invaded and toppled Saddam in 2003. Some exiles say they suspect that Baghdad might be ready to send them back to Iran.

There have been two rocket attacks on Camp Hurriya this year, one in February and another last month. Some 10 residents were killed and 71 wounded.

'PERSONALIZED ATTACKS'

Shahin Gobadi, a spokesman for the National Council of Resistance of Iran, denied the allegations of Kobler, whom the Iranian dissidents have long accused of lying and covering up facts about what they say are substandard conditions at Hurriya.

"These allegations are so baseless that the Iranian resistance has on 50 occasions called for an independent fact-finding mission to investigate all these claims and all other lies that Kobler has disseminated," he said.

"But neither Kobler nor the government of Iraq has agreed to any independent investigation."

Gobadi added: "Kobler's remarks and claims simply set the stage for further attacks on defenseless Camp Liberty (Hurriya) residents. By such remarks, Kobler was hoping to make the submission by families of the Camp Liberty residents to the U.N. and their call for investigation on his conduct ineffective."

The United Nations has defended Kobler and denied the allegations about a cover-up.

"We regret that MeK and its supporters continue to focus on public distortions of the U.N.'s efforts to promote a peaceful, humanitarian solution on Camp Ashraf and, in particular, its highly personalized attacks on the U.N. envoy for Iraq," U.N. spokesman Martin Nesirky said.

There are around 100 Iranians remaining at Camp Ashraf who refuse to leave, Kobler said. He described the situation at Ashraf as tense.

Last week, lawyers for the families at Camp Hurriya held a news conference in New York to present a petition to the United Nations calling for an immediate return to Camp Ashraf.

The Mujahadin-e-Khalq insists that the United States, whose forces initially helped them settle in Ashraf after the 2003 invasion, still bears responsibility for their safety.

(Editing by Mohammad Zargham and Peter Cooney)

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