Jan 17, 2011

Ahwazi: Iraq’s Expulsion of Refugees Unlawful

With increasing negotiations on prisoner exchange between Iraq and Iran, Baghdad has been complying with Teheran’s demands for enforced repatriation of Ahwazi refugees, which violates international law since returnees face torture in their home country.

Below is an article published by Canada News:

Amnesty International has urged the Iraqi authorities to prevent the forcible return to Iran of several members of the Ahwazi Arab minority amid fears that they would be at serious risk of torture and other human rights violations in Iran.

Two recognized refugees, Shahhed Abdulhussain Abbas Allami and Saleh Jasim Mohammed al-Hamid, are currently being detained in Basra prison, while a third man has already been transferred to the custody of Iranian officials in Iraq.

At least three other Ahwazi Arabs, all members of the same family, are also at serious risk. They are believed to have been detained by the Iraqi authorities at the request of the Iranian government because their father is an Iranian political activist, currently exiled. Two members of this family, both aged under 18, have already been handed to Iranian officials in Iraq and their subsequent fate is unknown.

“The Iraq authorities must not allow these members of Iran’s Ahwazi Arab minority to be sent back to Iran,” said Malcolm Smart, Amnesty International’s director for the Middle East and North Africa.

“In the past other cases of Ahwazi Arabs forcibly returned to Iran have faced torture. Amnesty International fears that these individuals would be at real risk of human rights violations if they are returned, and it would be a breach of Iraq’s obligations under international law.”

States are not permitted to return individuals to countries where they would be at risk of torture or other serious human rights violations.

These cases arise at a time when the Iraqi government is said to be negotiating a cooperation agreement with Iran which would allow the two states to hand over or exchange convicted prisoners.

The five members of the same family who are under threat include Zeydan Abbas, Haydar Abbas and Jabran Jemah Abbas, all of whom are currently detained at Al-Amara prison. Their younger brother and sister, Walid Jemah Abbas and Nasren Jemah Abbas, both aged under 18, were detained with them but have already been handed into the custody of Iranian officials in Iraq.

The Ahwazi Arab minority is one of many minority communities in Iran. Much of Iran’s Arab community lives in the south-western province of Khuzestan, which borders Iraq. Most are Shi’a Muslims but some are reported to have converted to Sunni Islam, heightening government suspicion about Ahwazis, who complain that they are marginalized and subject to discrimination.

Iraq is a state party to both the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and to the Convention against Torture (CAT), treaties which prohibit the forcible return of anyone to a country where they would be at risk of torture or other ill-treatment.

The international law principle of non-refoulement also prohibits the forcible return of anyone to a country where they would be at risk of serious human rights abuses, including torture.