Archive for Human Rights violations

AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL: Impunity for war crimes in Gaza and southern Israel a recipe for further civilian suffering

Posted in Everyday life in Gaza, Gaza, Gaza reconstruction, Gaza war crimes investigation, Hamas, IDF, International community, Israel, Israeli occupation, Israeli politics, Non-violent resistance, Operation Cast Lead, Palestine, Siege, USA foreign policy, War crimes with tags , , , , , , , , on 02/07/2009 by 3071km

Date published: 2nd July 2009

Source: Amnesty International

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Israeli forces killed hundreds of unarmed Palestinian civilians and destroyed thousands of homes in Gaza in attacks which breached the laws of war, Amnesty International concluded in a new report published on Thursday. Operation ‘Cast Lead’: 22 days of death and destruction, is the first comprehensive report to be published on the conflict, which took place earlier this year.

“Israel’s failure to properly investigate its forces’ conduct in Gaza, including war crimes, and its continuing refusal to cooperate with the UN international independent fact-finding mission headed by Richard Goldstone, is evidence of its intention to avoid public scrutiny and accountability,” said Donatella Rovera, who headed a field research mission to Gaza and southern Israel during and after the conflict.

“The international community, led by the UN Security Council, must use all its leverage to ensure that Israel cooperates fully with the Goldstone inquiry, which now offers the best means to establish the truth.”

Hamas and other Palestinian armed groups fired hundreds of rockets into southern Israel, killing three Israeli civilians, injuring scores and driving thousands from their homes. “Such unlawful attacks constitute war crimes and are unacceptable,” added Donatella Rovera.

The report, based on evidence gathered by Amnesty International delegates, including a military expert, during field research in January and February, documents Israel’s use of battlefield weapons against a civilian population trapped in Gaza, with no means of escape.

The scale and intensity of the attacks on Gaza were unprecedented. Some 300 children and hundreds of other unarmed civilians who took no part in the conflict were among the 1,400 Palestinians killed by Israeli forces.

Most were killed with high-precision weapons, relying on surveillance drones which have exceptionally good optics, allowing those observing to see their targets in detail. Others were killed with imprecise weapons, including artillery shells carrying white phosphorus – not previously used in Gaza – which should never be used in densely populated areas.

Amnesty International found that the victims of the attacks it investigated were not caught in the crossfire during battles between Palestinian militants and Israeli forces, nor were they shielding militants or other military objects. Many were killed when their homes were bombed while they slept. Others were sitting in their yard or hanging the laundry on the roof. Children were struck while playing in their bedrooms or on the roof, or near their homes. Paramedics and ambulances were repeatedly attacked while attempting to rescue the wounded or recover the dead.

“The deaths of so many children and other civilians cannot be dismissed simply as ‘collateral damage’, as argued by Israel,” said Donatella Rovera. “Many questions remain to be answered about these attacks and about the fact that the strikes continued unabated despite the rising civilian death toll.”

More than 3,000 homes were destroyed and some 20,000 damaged in Israeli attacks which reduced entire neighbourhoods of Gaza to rubble and left an already dire economic situation in ruins. Much of the destruction was wanton and could not be justified on grounds of “military necessity”.

The Israeli army has not responded to Amnesty International’s repeated requests over the past five months for information on specific cases detailed in the report and for meetings to discuss the organization’s findings.

“For its part, Hamas has continued to justify the rocket attacks launched daily by its fighters and by other Palestinian armed groups into towns and villages in southern Israel during the 22-day conflict. Though less lethal, these attacks, using unguided rockets which cannot be directed at specific targets, violated  international humanitarian law and cannot be justified under any circumstance,” said Donatella Rovera.

In addition to locally made Qassam rockets, Palestinian militants often fired longer-range Grad-type rockets smuggled into Gaza via the tunnels on the Egyptian border, which reached deeper into Israel and placed many more Israeli civilians at risk.

“Five months on, neither side has shown any inclination to change its practices and abide by international humanitarian law, raising the prospect that civilians will again bear the brunt if fighting resumes,” said Donatella Rovera.

Under international law, states have a responsibility to exercise universal jurisdiction and start criminal investigations in national courts, wherever there is sufficient evidence of war crimes or other crimes under international law, to arrest and bring to justice alleged perpetrators.

“Those responsible for war crimes and other serious violations must not be allowed to escape accountability and justice,” said Donatella Rovera.

Among other recommendations, the report calls on states to suspend all transfers of military equipment, assistance and munitions to Israel, Hamas and other Palestinian armed groups until there is no longer a substantial risk that such equipment will be used to commit serious violations of international law.

It calls on Israel to commit not to carry out direct, indiscriminate or disproportionate attacks on civilians; or use artillery, mortars and white phosphorus weapons in densely populated areas; and to end its blockade on the Gaza Strip, which is collectively punishing the entire population.

The report urges Hamas to renounce its policy of unlawful rocket attacks against civilian population centres in Israel and to prevent other armed groups from carrying out such attacks.

Gaza ‘war crimes’ hearing under way

Posted in Gaza, Gaza war crimes investigation, Hamas, Israel, Operation Cast Lead, Siege, War crimes, West Bank with tags , , , , , , on 28/06/2009 by 3071km
Date published: 28th June 2009

Source: Al-Jazeera English

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The UN fact-finding mission will hold public hearings in Gaza and Geneva on the 22-day Israeli offensive

A public hearing organised by a UN team investigating alleged war crimes by Israel and Hamas during the Gaza war is under way.

As part of its investigations into the December 2008 – January 2009 Gaza conflict, the UN fact-finding mission will listen to testimony from victims of the conflict for two days in Gaza City and hold a second round of public hearings on July 6 and July 7 in Geneva.

During the Gaza hearing, which began on Sunday and is being screened live for the public and the media, the mission will hear from victims of alleged violations and from experts on the context and impact of the Israeli siege and military operations.

The public hearings, which are a part of the information-gathering work of the fact-finding mission, will enable victims, witnesses and experts from all sides in the conflict to speak directly to the international community.

In Geneva, the mission will hear from victims of alleged violations in Israel and the West Bank, as well as from experts on a variety of military and legal issues.

Geneva has been chosen as the venue of the second round of hearings since the fact-finding mission has so far not received permission to enter Israel to hold the sessions in southern Israel and the West Bank.

‘Hearings limited’

The public hearings were called for by Richard Goldstone, head of the 15-member team and previously a member of the South African constitutional court.He has also investigated war crimes in Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia.

“The purpose of the public hearings in Gaza and Geneva is to show the faces and broadcast the voices of victims – all of the victims,” Goldstone said on Thursday, at the end of a four-day fact-finding trip to Gaza.
Goldstone also added that the public hearings in both Gaza and Geneva will augment the ongoing investigations of the fact-finding mission.

“The hearings are limited in time and scope”, he said.

“The fact that not all important incidents and events are the subject of the public hearings should in no way be interpreted as meaning that the other incidents are of lesser importance or of less concern to the mission”.

The hearings are only one aspect of the mission’s investigative work.

Al Jazeera’s Sherine Tadros, reporting from Gaza, said: “The aim of this mission, according to Goldstone, is to broadcast the voices and to show the faces of the victims.”This is not about compensation or legal recourse. What the victims want is an opportunity to tell the world what happened in the hope that people will remember their story and the killings of their loves ones will not go unnoticed,” she said.

The mission is due to complete a report with its findings in August.

Israeli offensive

Israel launched its 22-day offensive against Gaza’s Hamas rulers and the Gazan people on 27 December.

The operation killed more than 1,400 Palestinians, including more than 900 civilians, among them scores of children, according to Palestinian officials and human rights groups.

It also destroyed thousands of homes and heavily damaged Gaza’s infrastructure.

Gaza’s reconstruction is being hampered by Israel’s blockade of Gaza [EPA]

Israel claims the death toll was lower and most of the dead were Hamas fighters.Thirteen Israelis were also killed during the fighting.

Gaza’s reconstruction is being hampered by Israel’s blockade of Gaza which dates back to June 2007 when Hamas took control of the territory.

Since then, Israel and Egypt, which control Gaza’s only border crossing that bypasses Israel, have kept the territory of 1.5 million aid-dependent people sealed to all but essential humanitarian supplies.

Israel has insisted that the blockade is necessary to prevent Hamas from arming itself, but human rights groups say it is a collective punishment.

The fact-finding mission is mandated by the UN to investigate all violations of international human rights and humanitarian laws that might have been committed at any time in the context of the military operations conducted in Gaza.

During the public hearings, witnesses and experts will speak about incidents and experiences regarding loss of life, attacks on physical integrity, destruction of industry and livelihood, and the effects of prolonged conflict on mental health, among others.