Brussels, European Iraqi Freedom Association (EIFA) press release - From 2009, the government of Nouri al-Maliki imposed a merciless medical blockade against the defenceless residents in Ashraf and then in Camp Liberty. So far, this deadly medical siege has cost the lives of twenty-two residents; had they received free access to medical services, as was their basic right, all of them would have been saved. The residents are denied the right to choose their physician, hospital, time to refer to hospital, or to choose their nurse or interpreter, which are all fundamental human rights of any human being. These restrictions were implemented by the security services affiliated to Maliki. Regrettably, four months after Maliki’s removal, the file of Camp Liberty and its management is still in the hands of the same individuals appointed by Maliki, who continue to harass the residents and continue to impose the medical blockade.
One of the Iraqi specialist physicians who had been treating the residents for several years and whom I met during a recent trip to Kurdistan, has written a shocking report in which he states:
“For approximately ten years I have been involved in the medical cases of Ashraf residents; I have treated patients in Ashraf for many years. Regrettably, in Iraq medical services have been politicized. Now a certain faction in Iraq has seized control of the medical system and has turned it into a political apparatus for implementing its objectives. After the residents were relocated to Camp Liberty, all their communications with the outside world were banned and stopped by the Iraqi security agencies; my visits to the camp were also banned. After the government changed, the security forces nevertheless continue their deliberate pressure such as limiting the patients to visiting only one hospital, imposing long delays in taking the residents to the hospital and preventing the patients from having their interpreter or caregiver for those who need help; this way they continue the illegal persecution of the residents. Such restrictions are in blatant contradiction with all international medical covenants.”
In detailing his endeavors to prevent the security organs from interfering in Camp Liberty’s medical system and his meetings and dialogues with the Minister and officials of the Health Ministry to affect the situation, he writes that he received no encouraging replies and that some officials “deeply believed that the residents are terrorists and should be denied any type of medical care. My attempts in convincing them that enjoying medical services is based on all legal, human rights and religious criteria regardless of political viewpoints and ideas, were to no avail. This matter raised my concern more than before regarding the future of the medical siege against the residents of this camp which is surrounded by Iraqi security forces.”
Moreover, based on accurate reports received from Camp Liberty, EIFA has found out that the process of transferring patients to the one hospital they are permitted to attend is quite slow and faces constant hurdles on the part of Iraqi forces. The list of patients waiting to go to the hospital has, as a result, grown longer and longer and it is now over 800. In the best cases, every day 4-5 people are permitted to go to the hospital and on many days even this number is not allowed to leave the camp. The residents have not been allowed to transfer their medical equipment from Ashraf to Camp Liberty, nor have they been allowed to invite Iraqi specialist physicians to Camp Liberty to visit the patients. These are steps that would drastically cut the need of residents to attend hospital.
EIFA calls on the government of Prime Minister al-Abadi and the Minister of Health to bar any interference by the security agencies in the medical situation at Camp Liberty. Together with dozens of prominent European figures, we wrote to Prime Minister al-Abadi on 12 September 2014, calling on Camp Liberty to be recognized as a refugee camp and calling for the rights and protection of its residents to be respected, until their transfer to safe third countries can be secured and guaranteed. We reiterate this call and demand that the siege of the camp, especially the medical blockade, must be annulled. In particular, we call for:
1- Residents be able to be taken to various hospitals in adequate numbers and be allowed to take their interpreter-nurse;
2- Residents be allowed to transfer their medical equipment from Ashraf to Camp Liberty;
3- Residents be allowed to invite Iraqi specialist physicians to Camp Liberty at their own expense for specialist visits.
The international community is now closely watching Prime Minister al-Abadi to see if he accords basic protection and the observance of fundamental human rights for the residents of Camp Liberty. His reputation in the eyes of the international community will stand or fall on his response to these questions.
President of the European Iraqi Freedom Association (EIFA)
Struan Stevenson was a Member of the European Parliament from 1999 to 2014 and was President of the European Parliament’s Delegation for Relations with Iraq from 2009 to 2014.