UN must sanction Al-Maliki over human rights abuses

While Syria, Libya and many more nations across North Africa and the Middle East teeter on the edge of revolution, the West must not forget the duty it owes to the people of Iraq. The members of the coalition which entered Iraq in 2003 vowed to bring freedom and democracy to the Iraqi population, not to leave them in the hands of a leader who seems intent on showing his loyalty to the Iranian regime rather than to listen to calls for democratic improvements from its people.

One case was specifically highlighted by Amnesty International. It was the case of an 8 April attack by Iraqi forces on Camp Ashraf, home to 3,400 Iranian dissidents and members of the largest Iranian opposition group the People's Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI). Video footage of the attack filmed by residents shows Iraqi forces using armor piercing bullets from Kalashnikov machine guns to gun down unarmed residents and running them over in heavy military vehicles and Humvees. These were residents who had been guaranteed protection by the coalition.

The attack, which the U.N. has confirmed left 36 residents killed and 350 wounded, was the state sanctioned military massacre of unarmed civilians. It was a massacre carried out by an Iraqi military force trained and armed by the use of British, EU and U.S. taxpayers' money. This is not the Iraq for which coalition troops gave their lives.

A simple and clear message must be sent to Nuri Al-Maliki by the British and U.S. governments, the key players in the coalition which began the 2003 invasion, and by the EU which now has immense trade ties with Iraq. It is that such acts will not be tolerated. Unfortunately at the moment it seems that appeasing Al-Maliki is the order of the day, British Foreign Secretary William Hague and U.S. Secretary of State Clinton cannot even bring themselves to describe the attack on Camp Ashraf as a massacre, but a massacre it undoubtedly was.

Last week, Al-Maliki ordered the expulsion of a bi-partisan U.S. congressional delegation from Iraq, after the group of six members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee asked to visit Camp Ashraf to look into the massacre.

The British and U.S. government and the EU must not remain silent in the face of such brutality and they must prevent a cover-up by Iraq. Allow Al-Maliki to slaughter unarmed opponents of his allies in Tehran and soon enough his guns will be turned on his political opponents inside Iraq while Tehran gains control over every inch of Iraqi soil.

If the U.S., British and EU each in turn now fail to deal with Al-Maliki's aggression, his human rights abuses and his systematic crackdown on protests then Iraq will step by step return to the days of persecution and murder of minorities.

To send a clear message to Al-Maliki that these actions will not be accepted the British government, the U.S. administration and the EU must table a resolution at U.N. Security Council level demanding sanctions against the Iraqi government if the rights of the Camp Ashraf residents are not safeguarded and human rights abuses continue. Each must also make it clear that aid to Iraq and trade will be stopped if these actions continue.

If there is action to provide U.N. protection for the Camp Ashraf residents, the Iraq that we were promised when we sent our troops into that country in 2003 could be a reality. Failure to act now means adding strength to a man ready to give his allegiance to the greatest threat to peace in the world today, the regime in power in Iran.

Retired Hon. Lord David Waddington QC is a former UK Home Secretary and Leader of the British House of Lords.