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Current Situation In Camp Liberty Cause For Alarm

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  • Current Situation In Camp Liberty Cause For Alarm

    Roughly 3,200 residents of Camp Ashraf have relocated to Camp Liberty, a former U.S. military base near Baghdad International Airport. The relocation, which began in Februar,y 2012, was part of a plan initiated by the United Nations and supported by the U.S. Government.

    Initially, under a Memorandum of Understanding signed between the United Nations Secretary General’s Special Representative on Iraq, Martin Kobler, and the Iraqi government’s National Security Advisor, Camp Liberty was described as a Temporary Transit Location (TTL), where the residents would quickly undergo identity verification and refugee status determination (RSD) and resettled in third countries in a matter of a few months.

    Since then, the United Nations Refugee Agency, UNHCR, has continued its RSD process, but at a very slow pace.  To date, some 2,000 residents have been registered and about 1,100 have been interviewed, but no one has yet been resettled through the UNHCR. Only a handful of people have been notified that they have been accepted but even in their case it would be a few months before they are resettled. 

    Indeed, contrary to earlier assurances by the SRSG Ambassador Kobler, it will take anywhere from three to 10 years before any sizable number of the residents would be relocated in third countries.

    Against this backdrop, there is increasing concern over the safety and security of the residents in Camp Liberty. While the residents are doing their best to improve the living conditions in the Camp and turn it into a habitable place, they are confronting two major problems: first, the Iraqi Government has been stepping up restrictions on entry of goods into the Camp and second, it is engaging in greater provocation to justice: the use of violence against the residents in the weeks and months ahead.    

    It is incumbent upon all parties concerned, particularly the UN and the U.S. to impress upon the Iraqi Government to refrain from imposing further restrictions on entry of goods and needed essentials into Camp Liberty and to end its provocative actions.

    In addition, the UNHCR must be urged and given the resources to expedite the RSD process and to take a more engaged and active posture vis-à-vis this humanitarian issue. Since it has already declared the residents of Liberty as “asylum-seekers” and “people of concern,” the UNHCR must work in tandem with the international community and designate Camp Liberty as a refugee camp in order to secure the rights and liberties bestowed upon all refugees, including the right to freedom of movement and visitation by  lawyers and family members.

  • Turn About, Fair Play

    The International Telecommunications Satellite Organization, or Itelsat, has blocked Iran’s official broadcast channels in Europe, according to a report on October 26 by the French news agency.

    “Intelsat confirms that we took IRIB (Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting) channels off the satellite,” Alexander Horwitz, a spokesman for the Washington-based company, told AFP.

    The channels that were shut down included Sahar, Jam-e-Jam, Islamic Republic of Iran News Network and al-Kowsar, said Press TV, a unit of IRIB.

    The action by Itelsat follows similar measures on October 15, by one of Europe’s leading satellite providers, Eutelsat Communications, which said it stopped broadcasting the Iranian channels.

    Viewers in the Middle East and Europe as well as those inside Iran who accessed the channels through the popular Hotbird satellite no longer have access to the channels, according to a report by the Wall Street Journal.

    The ban by the two telecommunications giants was viewed by Iran observers as being inevitable given the crippling sanctions the international community has imposed on Iran, making any financial dealings with the regime illegal. The move also appears to have been prompted after Iran escalated the jamming of satellite broadcasts to censor broadcasts during recent protests over a plunge in the local currency in early October.

    Over the years, Iranian authorities have tried desperately to block any satellite transmission into Iran, especially broadcasts that are critical of Tehran’s handling of the Iranian economy, its human rights record, its nuclear program and its meddling in Syria and other regional countries.

    In addition to the Voice of America and BBC Persian Services, Iran has specifically targeted Iranian opposition channel, Simay-e Azadi, which is sympathetic to the main Iranian opposition movement, the Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK). The channel’s broadcasts, which can also be accessed through the internet (www.iranntv.com), have proven to be extremely popular with Iranians. Its satire pieces, which mock senior Iranian officials including Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, have wide following inside the country.