Cable 764: ICRC Presses US on Mass Graves, Camp Ashraf, and Detainee Abuse in Iraq

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This is a 2009 US embassy report on a meeting between US diplomats and an official from the International Committee of the Red Cross to discuss conditions in Iraqi detention facilities, the recovery of Gulf War-era mass graves in Kuwait, and the disposition of the Iranian Mujahedin-e-Khalq terrorist group at Camp Ashraf in eastern Iraq.
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  O 251214Z MAY 09FM AMEMBASSY BAGHDADTO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 3183C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 BAGHDAD001359SUBJECT: ICRC DISCUSSES DETAINEES, MASS GRAVES, ANDTHE MEK WITH AMBASSADOR  REF: A. BAGHDAD 377B. BAGHDAD 797Classified By: Ambassador Christopher R. Hill forreason 1.4 (d). -------Summary------- ¶1. (C) In a May 19 meeting with the Ambassadorand the Embassy's Senior Coordinator for Refugees,ICRC Head of Iraq Delegation Juan Pedro Schaererprovided an overview of the ICRC's activities inIraq and praised the close cooperation between theorganization and the Embassy. Schaerer highlightedthe slow progress being made on mass graveidentification and excavation within Iraq and theICRC's efforts to increase the GOI's capacity inthis area. Schaerer commended the close workingrelationship ICRC has developed with Multi-National  Force-Iraq (MNF-I) on the release and transfer ofdetainees, noting that MNF-I detention operationswere definitely coming to an end. He noted thatthe Iraqi Red Crescent Society (IRCS) has the potential to accomplish much good in Iraq, andemphasized the need for the IRCS not to split intotwo organizations, one Iraqi and one Kurd.Finally, Schaerer commented that there is no goodsolution to the Mujahedin e-Khalq (MEK) situation,but that Camp Ashraf residents are slowly realizingthat their time in Iraq is coming to an end. EndSummary.¶2. (C) ICRC Head of Iraq Delegation Juan PedroSchaerer and Protection Coordinator Laurent Saugymet on May 19 with the Ambassador to discuss thescope of ICRC's activities in Iraq. Schaererreviewed the challenges faced by the organization'sIraq operation, including attacks on its Baghdadoffice and the 2005 murder of a staff member, whichprompted the group's relocation to Amman. Schaererwas hopeful that ICRC's Iraq delegation would soonagain be based permanently in Baghdad, and pointedout that there are currently more than 90international delegates and over 500 ICRC staffmembers working in every province and major city inIraq. ----------------------------Slow Progress on Mass Graves---------------------------- ¶3. (C) Schaerer was concerned at the slowprogress on Iraq's identification, excavation and  repatriation of remains in mass graves. He notedthat there have been very few results over thepast two years; specifically, out of 1,431 totalcases presented from the 1990-1991 Gulf War, 550Kuwaiti remains have been positively identified.The Ambassador expressed concern at this lack ofprogress, especially given the internationalcommunity's resources and experience in this area.Schaerer noted the assistance and training beingprovided by the International Committee for MissingPersons (ICMP), but was troubled by the lack ofcommunication among various GOI ministries involvedin the project. (Note: ICMP is a DRL and UnitedNations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI)grantee. End note.). Resolving the remainingcases, located in four or five sites, is do-able,but will require additional GOI efforts. Schaerernoted that over 50,000 people remain missing fromthe 1980-88 Iran-Iraq War and an additional 30,000are unaccounted for since the U.S. 2003 invasion.He was worried that this is not a priority forthe GOI, and despite the best efforts of theMinistry of Human Rights, it lacks the capacity totackle a project of this scale. ----------------------------------------Shifting the Focus to GOI-Held Detainees---------------------------------------- ¶4. (C) On detainees, Schaerer praised the much-improved relationship between ICRC and MNF-I.While the two organizations may not always agreewith one another, he applauded the open andconstructive way in which they discussed therelease and transfer of USG-held detainees. He  also stated that ICRC would be shifting its focusto visiting GOI facilities and GOI-held detainees,now that MNF-I detention operations were windingdown. The Ambassador applauded the ICRC for itswork on detainee issues, especially thehumanitarian assistance it provides. Schaerernoted how the IRCS worked with MNF-I on releasingdetainees in Ninewa and appears set to resume thiscooperation. While this is unlikely to bereplicated in other provinces, he viewed it as apositive development for the organization. In hisview, IRCS has the potential to increase itscapacity in Iraq, but he was concerned that therecent indications that the three IRCS branches inKurdistan seek to separate from the IRCS wouldsplinter Iraq's only nationwide humanitarianorganization. Schaerer said that ICRC had informedthe Kurdish branches that under the rules of theRed Cross/Red Crescent Movement, there could beonly one national society. -------------------------------------------------ICRC Commends Embassy Efforts in Dealing with the MEK ------------------------------------------------- ¶5. (C) Regarding the MEK defectors/Camp Ashrafissue, Schaerer was satisfied with the Embassy'sprocuring of humanitarian assurances from the GOIprior to the official handover of authority lastJanuary. Schaerer complimented the way in whichthe GOI has thus far handled the situation, notingthat there was no good solution to the problem.MEK members, he believes, are slowly coming to therealization that they may have to leave the camp.
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