A group of Iranian nationals living in Camp Ashraf in Iraq – a hub for members of a leading Iranian opposition group – filed suit Tuesday in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia against the government of Iran, claiming officials there conspired to launch attacks on the camp starting in 2009.
Camp Ashraf has served as the political center of of the People's Mojahedin of Iran since the 1980s. The 14-square-mile site is located about 60 miles northeast of Baghdad.
In 2004, as the complaint (PDF) notes, the Multi-National Force in Iraq and the U.S. government recognized the 3,400 people living in Camp Ashraf as “protected persons” under the Geneva Convention.
In 2009, the Iraqi government took on responsibility for Camp Ashraf. Iraqi officials have announced plans to close Camp Ashraf at the end of this year; U.S. troops are also set to withdraw by Dec. 31.
According to the complaint, in Feb. 2009, Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei revealed an agreement with the Iraqi government to “take action” against individuals living in Camp Ashraf. In July 2009, the plaintiffs allege, Iraqi military forces – backed by Iranian forces – attempted to enter the camp and killed 11 people and injured 400.
The attacks continued, according to the complaint, most recently in April of this year, when 36 people were killed and more wounded during clashes. The four plaintiffs claim to have suffered “heavy injuries” during attacks on Camp Ashraf since 2009.
Claiming violations of the federal Alien Tort Claims Act and the Torture Victims Protection Act, along with claims of injury, torture and assault under U.S. and District of Columbia laws, the plaintiffs are seeking at least $5 million in damages.
The plaintiffs are being represented by Ali Beydoun, a professor at American University Washington College of Law and a senior partner at SPEAK Human Rights and Environmental Initiative, a local nonprofit. Beydoun could not immediately be reached on Wednesday.
The case is assigned to U.S. District Judge John Bates.
As previously reported in The Blog of Legal Times, the People’s Mojahedin of Iran has been designated as a foreign terrorist organization by the United States since 1997. The group argued against the designation before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit in Jan. 2010; the court remanded the case back to the State Department for further consideration.