Archive for Human Rights

Nobel Peace Laureate Mairead Maguire Speaks from Israeli Jail Cell After Arrest on Boat Delivering Humanitarian Aid to Gaza

Posted in Gaza, Gaza reconstruction, International community, Non-violent resistance, Operation Cast Lead, Palestine, Siege, USA foreign policy with tags , , , , , , , on 02/07/2009 by 3071km

Date published: 2nd july 2009

Source: Democracy Now!

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Freegazaboat-web

Irish Nobel Peace Laureate Mairead Maguire speaks to us from her jail cell in Israel. She was taken into custody along with twenty others, including former US Congress member Cynthia McKinney, when the Israeli military boarded their ship in international waters as it tried to deliver humanitarian aid to Gaza. [includes rush transcript]

JUAN GONZALEZ: We begin today with the latest news of the ship that was seized by the Israeli military Tuesday as it tried to deliver humanitarian aid to Gaza. Israeli forces boarded the ship and towed it to the Israeli port of Ashdod. The twenty-one activists on board include former Congress member and presidential candidate Cynthia McKinney and the Irish peace activist and Nobel laureate Mairead Maguire. Huwaida Arraf and Lubna Masarwa were released, while the other nineteen remain in detention.

AMY GOODMAN: Huwaida Arraf is the founder of the Free Gaza movement. She joins us now on the phone from Israel.

Huwaida, welcome to Democracy Now! Explain why you took this boat trying to get to Gaza and then what happened to you on board.

HUWAIDA ARRAF: [inaudible] Hello to you all.

The purpose of our mission was to highlight to the international community that what Israel is doing to Gaza is blatantly illegal, and our government isn’t doing anything about it. Israel constantly claims that their policies are based on security, but what they’re doing—imposing collective punishment on an entire civilian population.

We were carrying on our very, very small boat some medical aid, some rebuilding supplies, because after the January—December-January assault on Gaza, thousands of homes have been destroyed, tens of hospitals and schools all demolished. And, you know, the donor community supposedly pledged [inaudible] Gaza, but no one is saying anything. Not one country is saying anything about the fact [inaudible] the entire Gaza Strip, and not one bag of cement [inaudible]—

AMY GOODMAN: Huwaida, we’re going to interrupt for a minute, because, Juan, it sounds like we have someone else from a jail cell in Israel.

JUAN GONZALEZ: Yes, it sounds like we have Mairead Maguire, the Nobel Prize winner, on the phone from her jail cell.

Welcome to Democracy Now!

MAIREAD MAGUIRE: Thank you very much, indeed. Thank you.

JUAN GONZALEZ: Could you tell us what is going on right now with you and the others who are being detained?

MAIREAD MAGUIRE: Yes. We have just been locked into our cells now for a couple of hours. We are currently going through their process. We are being charged with entering illegally into Israeli—near Israeli shores. We are going, it looks like, to be deported from Israel. We did not choose to come to Israel. Our little boat was boarded by the navy combat soldiers, and they came in in full riot gear onto our boat when we were just twenty-five miles off the shore of Gaza. We were under gunpoint, forcibly taken to Ashdod, held in the detention center overnight. And then I was removed from Ashdod detention center, handcuffed in a military vehicle, and brought here to the prison, where we’re currently being held. All of us, all nineteen—there were twenty-one, but Huwaida and Lubna are out—but the rest of us are being held here in detention in this prison.

AMY GOODMAN: What is your response, Mairead Maguire, to Mark Regev, the Israeli spokesperson, who said aid is free to pass into Gaza?

MAIREAD MAGUIRE: No, that is wrong. I mean, we know it is not free. I mean, Gaza is like a huge prison, but—because its borders are closed. The sea pass into Gaza, which has been closed for over forty years by the Israeli government—we are only the seventh ship to get in to the port of Gaza that tried to break the siege.

And as we do that, it’s very interesting, we pass the gas fields of Gaza. You know, Gaza has huge gas deposits, which Israel is now beginning to use. So it’s very important that there is the issue of who owns the gas in the Gazan Strip. And also farmers—fishermen, who try to go out without—in about twelve miles to fish for their families, are shot up and have been killed by the Israeli navy in that area.

So, Gaza is a huge occupied territory of one-and-a-half million people who have been subjected to collective punishment by the Israeli government. That breaks the Geneva Convention, every international law in the book. And the tragedy is that the American government, the UN and Europe, they remain silent in the face of the abuse of Palestinian human rights, like the freedom, and it’s really tragic.

And it is also tragic that out of ten million Palestinians of a population, almost seven million are currently refugees out in other countries or displaced within their own country, particularly after the horrific massacre by Israeli jet fighters after just earlier this year. Twenty-two days Israel bombarded Gaza, Gazan people, civilians. And we’re not sure what kind of weapons were dropped. We need the scientists. We need people to go in to see: is it depleted uranium in the very soil of the Gazan fields now? Unfortunately, Israel does not want human rights activists in there to see what they’ve done and what they’re doing. Even the representative of [inaudible]—

JUAN GONZALEZ: Mairead Maguire—

MAIREAD MAGUIRE: —is not allowed in.

JUAN GONZALEZ: And, Mairead Maguire, I’d like to ask you, to your knowledge, has your government or the government of the United States, in the case of Cynthia McKinney or some of the others, attempted to visit with the detainees or to lodge protest with the Israeli government?

MAIREAD MAGUIRE: Yes, we have had [inaudible] our consulates in the different governments come here to see us. And we are concerned about the five people who came from Bahrain, and—because they don’t have—their government doesn’t have the same links with Israel, and we are concerned for their safety. We have asked that all those who were—who were hijacked—we were hijacked on the seas of Gaza—that they be all given freedom and their goods returned, because we have got to look out for each other.

AMY GOODMAN: Mairead Maguire, what will happen now? And we understand that some people were injured.

MAIREAD MAGUIRE: Yes, indeed. I mean, when as were the combat troops in masks and fully armed came on board our small boat, some people were injured. And even during—that happened during the day. But our life was put at risk even more, because the previous night, during the night, when we were in international waters, we were—a couple of Israeli naval ships came up around us. Over the radio, they told us if we did not turn back into Cyprus, they would shoot at our boat. They cut off our communications, including our satellite communications. So we were in grave danger of actually being killed at that point.

The second thing was, when actually the navy combat forces came on board our boat, they wouldn’t allow the captain to take the boat to Ashdod; instead, they took over. And, you know, I really thought that we were all going to drown, because when we got near, when we were sailing to Ashdod, there was heavy winds, there was water coming in, and it was—really we were in a very, very dangerous position. So we were literally hijacked, taken at gunpoint by the Israeli military. And now we are here in prison, and they are threatening to deport us. We were brought here against our will. We didn’t come here by choice, and we are not here by choice.

AMY GOODMAN: Mairead Maguire, what jail cell are—what jail are you in now?

MAIREAD MAGUIRE: We’re in Giv’on Prison, and we’re—the women here are on one side, and the men are on the other side.

AMY GOODMAN: Mairead Maguire, I want to thank you for being with us, Irish peace activist and Nobel Peace Prize winner, speaking to us from her jail cell, redefining the cell phone. Huwaida Arraf before her, founder of the Free Gaza movement. Mairead is one of nineteen people who remain in jail. Huwaida just got out.

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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.

UN picks South African Jew to head Gaza war crimes inquiry

Posted in Gaza, Gaza war crimes investigation, Hamas, Israeli politics, Operation Cast Lead, War crimes with tags , , , , , , on 04/04/2009 by 3071km

Published on 3rd April 2009

Source: Haaretz (original source: REUTERS)

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Richard Goldstone, a South African Jewish judge, will head an international fact-finding mission into allegations of war crimes by Israeli soldiers and Palestinian militants in Gaza, the United Nations said on Friday.

The former war crimes prosecutor will head a four-member team whose mandate stems from a resolution adopted by the United Nations Human Rights Council at a special session on January 12.

“It is in the interest of all Palestinians and Israelis that the allegations of war crimes and serious human rights violations related to the recent conflict on all sides be investigated,” Goldstone said in a statement.

Goldstone served as chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda.

Goldstone will investigate conduct by both sides in Israel’s 22-day offensive in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip. According to a Palestinian rights group, 1,417 people including 926 civilians were killed in the fighting.

Israel has disputed Palestinian claims that most of the people killed in the recent offensive in Gaza were civilians, stating that the vast majority of the dead were in fact Hamas militants. Thirteen Israelis were also killed in the hostilities.

“I am confident that the mission will be in a position to assess in an independent and impartial manner all human rights and humanitarian law violations committed in the context of the [Gaza] conflict,” the president of the Human Rights Council, Nigerian ambassador Martin Uhomoibhi, said in a statement.