Posts Tagged ‘international law’

Human Rights Day & U.S. Hypocrisy

December 14, 2010

Defensive America’s Contempt for Full Court, Press

by Nima Shirazi, Foreign Policy Journal, December 14, 2010

“The true hypocrite is the one who ceases to perceive his deception, the one who lies with sincerity.” – André Gide

“WikiLeaks has shown there is an America in civics textbooks and an America that functions differently in the real world.” – James Moore

Sixty-two years ago, on December 10, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Article 19 of the Declaration, to which the United States is undoubtedly beholden, affirms:

Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.

Well, except for WikiLeaks, of course.

Internet giant Amazon.com, which hosted the whistle-blowing website, dropped WikiLeaks last week, “only 24 hours after being contacted by the staff of Joe Lieberman, chairman of the Senate’s committee on homeland security.” Lieberman’s call for censorship was also heeded by the Seattle-based software company, Tableau, which was hosting some informational, interactive charts linked to by WikiLeaks. These graphics contained absolutely no confidential material whatsoever and merely provided data regarding where the leaked cables originated and in what years they had been written. Nevertheless, for fear of government retribution, Tableau removed the charts, explaining,

Our decision to remove the data from our servers came in response to a public request by Senator Joe Lieberman, who chairs the Senate Homeland Security Committee, when he called for organizations hosting WikiLeaks to terminate their relationship with the website.

Visa, Mastercard, and Paypal have all since followed suit.

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Obama’s Israel Policy: Speak softly and carry a very big carrot

December 6, 2010

by Maidhc Ó Cathail, Foreign Policy Journal, December 4, 2010

Even those familiar with the long and shameful history of America’s appeasement of Israel were taken aback by the Obama administration’s extraordinary offer to Netanyahu.

In exchange for a paltry one-off 90 day freeze on illegal settlement expansion in the occupied West Bank (excluding East Jerusalem), Israel will get 20 F-35 stealth fighter jets worth $3 billion and a slew of other goodies. Yet Secretary of State Hillary Clinton reportedly gave up to eight hours with Netanyahu trying to persuade him to accept “one of the most generous bribes ever bestowed by the United States on any foreign power.” Praising the Israeli Prime Minister for eventually agreeing to put the offer to his security cabinet, President Obama took it as “a signal that he is serious.”

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Paul C. Roberts: The Stench of American Hypocrisy, Part 2

November 27, 2010

By Paul Craig Roberts, Foreign Policy Journal, Nov 23, 2010

In a recent column, “The Stench of American Hypocrisy,” I noted that US public officials and media are on their high horse about the rule of law in Burma while the rule of law collapses unremarked in the US. Americans enjoy beating up other peoples for American sins. Indeed, hypocrisy has become the defining characteristic of the United States.

Hypocrisy in America is now so commonplace it is no longer noticed. Consider the pro-football star Michael Vick. In a recent game Vick scored 6 touchdowns, totally dominating the playing field. His performance brought new heights of adulation, causing National Public Radio to wonder if the sports public shouldn’t retain a tougher attitude toward a dog torturer who spent 1.5 years in prison for holding dog fights.

I certainly do not approve of mistreating animals. But where is the outrage over the US government’s torture of people? How can the government put a person in jail for torturing dogs but turn a blind eye to members of the government who tortured people?

Under both US and international law, torture of humans is a crime, but the federal judiciary turns a blind eye and even allows false confessions extracted by torture to be used in courts or military tribunals to send tortured people to more years in prison based on nothing but their coerced self-incrimination.

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P.C. Roberts: The Stench of American Hypocrisy

November 19, 2010

By Paul Criag Roberts, Foreign Policy Journal, Nov 18, 2010

Ten years of rule by the Bush and Obama regimes have seen the collapse of the rule of law in the United States. Is the American media covering this ominous and extraordinary story?  No, the American media is preoccupied with the rule of law in Burma (Myanmar).

The military regime that rules Burma just released from house arrest the pro-democracy leader, Aung San Suu Kyi. The American media used the occasion of her release to get on Burma’s case for the absence of the rule of law. I’m all for the brave lady, but if truth be known, “freedom and democracy” America needs her far worse than does Burma.

I’m not an expert on Burma, but the way I see it, the objection to a military government is that the government is not accountable to law.  Instead, such a regime behaves as it sees fit and issues edicts that advance its agenda.  Burma’s government can be criticized for not having a rule of law, but it cannot be criticized for ignoring its own laws. We might not like what the Burmese government does, but, precisely speaking, it is not behaving illegally.

In contrast, the United States government claims to be a government of laws, not of men, but when the executive branch violates the laws that constrain it, those responsible are not held accountable for their criminal actions.  As accountability is the essence of the rule of law, the absence of accountability means the absence of the rule of law.

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New York Times Spins UN Report on Gaza Suffering

August 20, 2010
By Jeremy R. Hammond, Foreign  Policy Journal, August 2o, 2010

Ethan Bronner reports in the New York Times that a report on the situation in the Gaza Strip from the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA)

says that anti-Israeli militants operate from the border areas in question, planting explosive devices, firing at Israeli military vehicles and shooting rockets and mortar rounds at civilians. But it argues that Israel has an obligation under international law to protect civilians and civilian structures.

Bronner devotes the first part of his article to noting the impact on a Palestinian family, whose “trees and wells were bulldozed”, noting “destroyed houses” surrounding the family’s “desolate fields”. He notes that, according to the report, 12 percent of the population “have lost livelihoods or have otherwise been severely affected by Israeli security policies along the border, both land and sea, in recent years”, and that “the restricted land comprises 17 percent of Gaza’s total land mass and 35 percent of its agricultural land”, but this is about the extent of his discussion with regard to the content of the report. Most of the rest of the article is dedicated to offering the Israeli point of view and response to the release of the report:

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Top Ten Myths about the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

June 19, 2010

Jeremy R. Hammond, Foreign Policy Journal, June 17, 2010

A Palestinian boy throws a stone at an Israeli  tank in the occupied West Bank.

Myth #1 – Jews and Arabs have always been in conflict in the region.

Although Arabs were a majority in Palestine prior to the creation of the state of Israel, there had always been a Jewish population, as well. For the most part, Jewish Palestinians got along with their Arab neighbors. This began to change with the onset of the Zionist movement, because the Zionists rejected the right of the Palestinians to self-determination and wanted Palestine for their own, to create a “Jewish State” in a region where Arabs were the majority and owned most of the land.

For instance, after a series of riots in Jaffa in 1921 resulting in the deaths of 47 Jews and 48 Arabs, the occupying British held a commission of inquiry, which reported their finding that “there is no inherent anti-Semitism in the country, racial or religious.” Rather, Arab attacks on Jewish communities were the result of Arab fears about the stated goal of the Zionists to take over the land.

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Gaza, Afghanistan and International Law

December 22, 2009
Interview with Richard Falk

Richard Falk, Professor Emeritus of International Law at Princeton University and author of “Crimes of War: Iraq” and “The Costs of War: International Law, the UN, and World Order after Iraq” recorded October 17, 2009 in Seattle

Information Clearing House, posted  Dec 21, 2009

International Law: The First Casualty of the U.S. Drone War in Pakistan

December 15, 2009

A comprehensive legal analysis of U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan

Uruknet.com, Dec 14, 2009

By Max Kantar

ABSTRACT. This report utilizes well-established principles of both treaty and customary international law as a measuring stick for attempting to determine the legal and moral legitimacy of the covert U.S. policy of using drones to attack targets in Pakistan. This analysis is unique in that it uses both broad assessments as well as pertinent individual case studies with the purpose of chronicling the details of several drone attacks over a period of 45 months in the interest of legal evaluation. Drawing from a vast collection of reliable press reports, independent human rights testimonies, and the most prominent, mainstream studies, this report is quite possibly the most comprehensive analysis on the topic to date and likely the first of its kind to appear in the wake of the US-Pakistan drone controversy.

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Sri Lanka: Urgent Need for Human Rights Protection in Sri Lanka, Says Amnesty International

May 19, 2009

Dire Humanitarian Crisis Unfolding in Sri Lanka as Government-Rebel Conflict Ends, Says Human Rights Group

Contact: AIUSA media office, 202-544-0200 x302, lspann@aiusa.org

Amnesty International, May 18, 2009

(Washington) — As the war between the Sri Lankan government and the Tamil Tigers (LTTE) reaches its final hours and the humanitarian crisis unfolds, Amnesty International is calling for key steps to be adopted to ensure civilians and captured fighters are protected.

“The Sri Lankan government must ensure that its forces fully respect international law, including all provisions relating to protecting civilians from the effect of hostilities,” said Sam Zarifi, Amnesty International’s Asia Pacific Director. “The government should accept the surrender of any LTTE fighter who wants to surrender and treat humanely LTTE fighters who have laid down their arms. In turn, the LTTE must also protect civilians and any Sri Lankan soldier they take prisoner.”

There are more than 200,000 displaced people, including approximately 80,000 children, who need relief but also protection from abuses in Sri Lanka.

Amnesty International calls on the Sri Lankan government:

*To allow full access to national and international humanitarian agencies, including the United Nations and the International Committee of the Red Cross, to all those in need and facilitate their operations.

*To allow immediate and unfettered access to national and international independent observers to monitor the situation and provide a safeguard against human rights violations, including torture or other ill-treatment, arbitrary detention and enforced disappearances.

*To take measures to protect displaced people, including putting in place immediately a proper registration process, as a key safeguard against abuses such as enforced disappearances.

“In addition, the international community must require the prompt deployment of international monitors to be stationed in critical locations, including registration and screening points, displacement camps and places of detention,” said Zarifi.

Amnesty International is supporting the convening of a special session of the U.N. Human Rights Council to sustain attention to the evolving situation in Sri Lanka and is calling for the United Nations to immediately establish an international commission of inquiry.

“The commission should investigate allegations of violations of international human rights and humanitarian law by all warring parties in the course of the conflict and make recommendations on the best way to ensure full accountability,” said Zarifi.

Amnesty International is a Nobel Peace Prize-winning grassroots activist organization with more than 2.2 million supporters, activists and volunteers in more than 150 countries campaigning for human rights worldwide. The organization investigates and exposes abuses, educates and mobilizes the public, and works to protect people wherever justice, freedom, truth and dignity are denied.

For more information, please visit: http://www.amnestyusa.org

Israel: Transforming International Law by Violating It

April 2, 2009

by George Bisharat | The San Francisco Chronicle, April 1, 2009

The extent of Israel’s  brutality against Palestinian civilians in its 22-day pounding of the Gaza Strip is gradually surfacing. Israeli soldiers are testifying to lax rules of engagement tantamount to a license to kill. One soldier commented: “That’s what is so nice, supposedly, about Gaza: You see a person on a road, walking along a path. He doesn’t have to be with a weapon, you don’t have to identify him with anything and you can just shoot him.”

What is less appreciated is how Israel is also brutalizing international law, in ways that may long outlast the demolition of Gaza.

Since 2001, Israeli military lawyers have pushed to re-classify military operations in the West Bank and Gaza Strip from the law enforcement model mandated by the law of occupation to one of armed conflict. Under the former, soldiers of an occupying army must arrest, rather than kill, opponents, and generally must use the minimum force necessary to quell disturbances.

While in armed conflict, a military is still constrained by the laws of war – including the duty to distinguish between combatants and civilians, and the duty to avoid attacks causing disproportionate harm to civilian persons or objects – the standard permits far greater uses of force.

Israel pressed the shift to justify its assassinations of Palestinians in the Occupied Territories, which clearly violated settled international law. Israel had practiced “targeted killings” since the 1970s – always denying that it did so – but had recently stepped up their frequency, by spectacular means (such as air strikes) that rendered denial futile.

President Bill Clinton charged the 2001 Mitchell Committee with investigating the causes of the second Palestinian uprising and recommending how to restore calm in the region. Israeli lawyers pleaded their case to the committee for armed conflict. The committee responded by criticizing the blanket application of the model to the uprising, but did not repudiate it altogether.

Today, most observers – including Amnesty International – tacitly accept Israel’s framing of the conflict in Gaza as an armed conflict, as their criticism of Israel’s actions in terms of the duties of distinction and the principle of proportionality betrays. This shift, if accepted, would encourage occupiers to follow Israel’s lead, externalizing military control while shedding all responsibilities to occupied populations.

Israel’s campaign to rewrite international law to its advantage is deliberate and knowing. As the former head of Israel’s 20-lawyer International Law Division in the Military Advocate General’s office, Daniel Reisner, recently stated: “If you do something for long enough, the world will accept it. The whole of international law is now based on the notion that an act that is forbidden today becomes permissible if executed by enough countries … International law progresses through violations. We invented the targeted assassination thesis and we had to push it. At first there were protrusions that made it hard to insert easily into the legal molds. Eight years later, it is in the center of the bounds of legitimacy.”

In the Gaza fighting, Israel has again tried to transform international law through violations. For example, its military lawyers authorized the bombing of a police cadet graduation ceremony, killing at least 63 young Palestinian men. Under international law, such deliberate killings of civilian police are war crimes. Yet Israel treats all employees of the Hamas-led government in the Gaza Strip as terrorists, and thus combatants. Secretaries, court clerks, housing officials, judges – all were, in Israeli eyes, legitimate targets for liquidation.

Israeli jurists also instructed military commanders that any Palestinian who failed to evacuate a building or area after warnings of an impending bombardment was a “voluntary human shield” and thus a participant in combat, subject to lawful attack. One method of warning employed by Israeli gunners, dubbed “knocking on the roof,” was to fire first at a building’s corner, then, a few minutes later, to strike more structurally vulnerable points. To imagine that Gazan civilians – penned into the tiny Gaza Strip by Israeli troops, and surrounded by the chaos of battle – understood this signal is fanciful at best.

Israel has a lengthy history of unpunished abuses of international law – among the most flagrant its decades-long colonization of the West Bank. To its credit, much of the world has refused to ratify Israel’s violations. Unfortunately, our government is an exception, having frequently provided diplomatic cover for Israel’s abuses. Our diplomats have vetoed 42 U.N. Security Council resolutions to shelter Israel from the consequences of its often illegal behavior.

We must break that habit now, or see international law perverted in ways that can harm us all. Our government has already been seduced to follow, in Afghanistan and elsewhere, Israel’s example of targeted killings. This policy alienates civilians, innocently killed and wounded in these crude strikes, and deepens the determination of enemies to harm us by any means possible.

We do not want civilian police in the United States to be bombed, nor to have anyone “knock on our roofs.” For our own sakes and for the world’s, Israel’s impunity must end.

George Bisharat is a professor of law at Hastings College of the Law in San Francisco, and writes frequently on law and politics in the Middle East.

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