Earlier this month a U.S. House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee held a hearing into this year’s Ashraf massacre and the U.N. Secretary General released another report on the matter; a few days later, a Spanish judge moved to pursue accountability. On July 11, Judge Fernando Andreu ordered three members of the Iraqi military to appear before the Spanish National Court (Audiencia Nacional); and he demanded that Prime Minister Nouri Kamal al-Maliki also make a court appearance after he leaves office. This is not the first time that Judge Andreu summons Iraqis in connection with Ashraf, a case he has been investigating for two years. But the timing of this latest bid for universal jurisdiction raises the stakes for all parties.
The Iraqi government seems hell-bent on disbanding the camp, where over 3,000 members of the controversial People’s Mujahedeen Organization have resided since the mid-1980s; and it’s unlikely that the latest incursion on April 8 when over 30 people died and more than 300 were injured will be the last. An Amnesty International statement released this month details serious ongoing abuses. Based on their actions so far, the United States and the United Nations seem prepared to look the other way—whether to appease Iran or avoid alienating the new Iraqi military or because the group in question is branded a terrorist organization.
Spain’s measures taken under the country’s universal jurisdiction law are unlikely to lead to individual convictions in Spain. Nor will the writ alone deter the Iraqi government from taking further action against the group. But the case, in conjunction with pressure from other governments and NGOs, may make it more difficult for the United States and United Nations to continue standing idly aside–while hundreds of civilians, including children (civilians they disarmed and now are legally obligated to protect) continue being attacked and even killed, all presumably in the name of Iraqi democracy and regional geo-strategy.