National Press Club

Human rights advocate, ex-Army officer point to Iraqi government involvement in Ashraf massacre

October 31, 2013 | By Joe Sparks |

A human rights advocate and former Army officer said they have evidence that the Iraqi government backed a raid that killed 52 unarmed refugees at Iraq's Camp Ashraf.

The revelations came at a National Press Club Newsmaker on Wednesday, Oct. 30 in a report presented by Jared Genser, a human rights lawyer who heads Perseus Strategies, and former Col. Thomas Cantwell, as Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki visited Washington.

The report concludes that Maliki “is responsible for crimes against humanity," Genser said.

The massacre occurred on the morning of Sept. 1 when 120 men armed with AK-47s equipped with silencers and armor piercing bullets entered the camp, the men said. Camp Ashraf's occupants were members of PMOI, an Iranian pro-democracy group.

"For two hours the attackers scoured the camp killing 52 and destroying millions of dollars in property," Genser said.

The attackers allegedly shot their victims in the head or neck and seized seven hostages, Genser said.

Genser said evidence the Iraqi government was behind the attack includes news reports from four news agencies, CNN, Radio Free Europe, Radio Liberty and Reuters, which cited Iraqi government sources confirming government involvement.

To enter the camp, the attackers would have had to get past more than 1,000 police and solders who guard the perimeter, which the report concludes is evidence of government and police cooperation.

The camp is surrounded by desert and is located in a highly visible location, which makes a sneak attack nearly impossible, Cantwell said.

“It is simply unbelievable to think that they were not either materially culpable or actual perpetrators of the attack," Cantwell said.

Cantwell and Genser said the U.S. government should make U.S. military aid to Iraq contingent on releasing the hostages, moving them to another location and protecting the surviving refugees.

The United Nations should monitor Camp Liberty, another refugee facility near the airport in Baghdad, and investigate the Ashraf incident, Genser and Cantwell said.