Posts Tagged ‘American violations of international law and the Genev’

Israel may face UN court ruling on legality of Gaza conflict

January 14, 2009

Children at a UN-supported school for pupils displaced from their homes Link to this video

Israel faces the prospect of intervention by international courts amid growing calls that its actions in Gaza are a violation of world humanitarian and criminal law.

The UN general assembly, which is meeting this week to discuss the issue, will consider requesting an advisory opinion from the international court of justice, the Guardian has learned.

“There is a well-grounded view that both the initial attacks on Gaza and the tactics being used by Israel are serious violations of the UN charter, the Geneva conventions, international law and international humanitarian law,” said Richard Falk, the UN’s special rapporteur on the Palestinian territories and professor emeritus of international law at Princeton University.

“There is a consensus among independent legal experts that Israel is an occupying power and is therefore bound by the duties set out in the fourth Geneva convention,” Falk added. “The arguments that Israel’s blockade is a form of prohibited collective punishment, and that it is in breach of its duty to ensure the population has sufficient food and healthcare as the occupying power, are very strong.”

A Foreign Office source confirmed the UK would consider backing calls for a reference to the ICJ. “It’s definitely on the table,” the source said. “We have already called for an investigation and are looking at all evidence and allegations.”

An open letter to the prime minister signed by prominent international lawyers and published in today’s Guardian states: “The United Kingdom government … has a duty under international law to exert its influence to stop violations of international humanitarian law in the current conflict between Israel and Hamas.”

The letter argues that Israel has violated principles of humanitarian law, including launching attacks directly aimed at civilians and failing to discriminate between civilians and combatants.

The letter follows condemnation earlier this week from leading QCs of Israel’s action as a violation of international law, and a vote by the UN’s human rights council on Monday on a resolution condemning the ongoing Israeli military operation in the Gaza Strip.

“The blockade of humanitarian relief, the destruction of civilian infrastructure, and preventing access to basic necessities such as food and fuel are prima facie war crimes,” a group of leading QCs and academics, including Michael Mansfield QC and Sir Geoffrey Bindman, wrote in a letter to the Sunday Times.

Israel has already been found to have violated its obligations in international law by a previous advisory opinion of the ICJ, and is likely to vigorously contest arguments that it is an occupying power. It previously stated that occupation ceased after disengagement from Gaza in 2005.

Its stance raises questions as to the utility of an advisory opinion by the ICJ after Israel rejected its finding in a previous case, which found the wall being constructed in the Palestinian territories to be a violation of Israel’s obligations under international humanitarian law.

Questions are also being raised as to whether the international criminal court, which deals with war crimes and crimes against humanity, would have any jurisdiction to hear cases against perpetrators of the alleged crimes on both sides of the conflict. Neither Israel nor the Palestinian territories are signatories to the Rome statute, which brings states within the jurisdiction of the ICC.

More likely, experts say, is the establishment of ad-hoc tribunals of the kind created to deal with the war in the former Yugoslavia and the genocide in Rwanda.

“If there were the political will there could be an ad-hoc tribunal established to hear allegations of war crimes,” Falk said. “This could be done by the general assembly acting under article 22 of the UN charter which gives them the authority to establish subsidiary bodies.”

Moderation in the Pursuit of Justice Is No Virtue

November 20, 2008

With two months still to go before his inauguration as the 44th President of the United States, Barack Obama and his transition team are already getting off on the wrong foot, signaling that they have no intention of investigating anyone in the Bush administration for possible war crimes.

What we’re talking about here is the torture of detained terrorist suspects in American custody in a grotesque violation of both our treaty obligations under the Geneva Conventions and our historic principles as a democratic nation.

By their own machinations and attempts to redefine and pervert both treaties and our own laws, President Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, former Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, Attorneys General John Ashcroft and Alberto Gonzales, Cheney’s chief of staff David Addington and any number of lesser suspects sought to shield themselves from, or put themselves above, justice.

They did so knowing full well that what they were doing — clearing the way for interrogators at Guantanamo and in the Central Intelligence Agency’s secret dungeons around the world to do anything it took, short of murder, to extract information from terror suspects.

The “harsh interrogation methods” included water-boarding, stripping and humiliating prisoners, subjecting them to extremes of temperature, putting them into stressful physical positions for hours, the use of psychotropic drugs and doubtless other equally uncivilized practices.

Water boarding has always been treated as a criminal act in this country. Military officers were court-martialed at the turn of the last century for water boarding Filipino guerrillas. More recently, an East Texas sheriff was sentenced to 10 years in federal prison for water boarding a suspect and extracting a confession from him.

Moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue, and its no way to begin an administration that was elected on promises of change. What it says is that if you’re one of the elite and powerful, your violations of the law will be overlooked, no matter how much damage you did to our country’s standing in the world.

What signal does it send to Mr. Bush’s gang of unindicted co-conspirators, who’ve unwrapped a Pandora’s boxful of other offenses — from perverting the administration of justice, to illegally eavesdropping on the phone conversations and e-mails of ordinary Americans, to salting the stream of intelligence with bogus material, to inviting their cronies to loot the Treasury with no-bid military contracts, to lying under oath to congressional oversight committees, to applying political litmus tests to the hiring of civil service employees to the wholesale destruction of White House e-mails and records? Etcetera. Etcetera.

This nation was founded on the principle of equal justice under the law. No one — no one — ought to be able to skate or hold a get-out-of-jail-free card by virtue of having been the most powerful felon in the land, or of working for him.

This signal on torture investigations says that Sen. Obama wants to start his administration as a uniter, not a divider, trying to untangle the unholy mess that the Decider and Co. are leaving behind them in the economy, in our military, in virtually every walk of our national life. It speaks to his desire to reach across the aisle to the defeated Republicans and try to bring them back into the fold as Americans.

That’s all well and good, but not if it comes at the cost of lifting the blindfold off Justice’s eyes and letting her pick and choose who’ll pay for criminal acts and who won’t. That’s no way to begin, and no way to continue.

Out in West Texas, crusty old ranchers plagued by coyotes killing their calves and baby sheep shoot the offending beasts and hang their carcasses on the nearest barbed wire fence as an object lesson to the rest of the pack.

Unless the newly empowered Democrats in the White House and on Capitol Hill hang a few coyotes on some fences in Washington, D.C., they’re making a huge mistake that will come back to haunt them, and all the rest of us, too.

Unless the truth, the whole truth, is unearthed, justice is done and the Republican closet is emptied of festering transgressions, the next pack will do it again, secure in the knowledge that their positions will protect them from the penalties that more ordinary citizens must pay for the same crimes.

The people of this nation have spoken loudly. They voted to throw the rascals out. They voted for a different way of governing, a different way of law making. They voted for equal rights under the law.

If their desires aren’t satisfied — if the new broom sweeps no cleaner than the old one — the next time around they may move things up a notch and throw all the bastards out — and they’d be fully justified in doing so.

Want to know if waterboarding is torture? Ask Christopher Hitchens

July 15, 2008
By Jon Henley and You Tube Video

Axis of Logic, July 7, 2008, 23:35

Editor’s Note: If this was the “water-boarding” experience of Christopher Hitchens after a minute or two, we can only imagine the torture to which prisoners are subjected to when “water-boarding” is conducted by US military thugs who are trained to hate Muslims and whose handiwork is not being video-taped. – Les Blough, Editor


Late last year, the writer, polemicist and fierce proponent of the US-led invasion of Iraq Christopher Hitchens attempted, in a piece for the online magazine Slate, to draw a distinction between what he called techniques of “extreme interrogation” and “outright torture”.

From this, his foes inferred that since it was Hitchens’ belief that America did not stoop to the latter, the practice of waterboarding – known to be perpetrated by US forces against certain “high-value clients” in Iraq and elsewhere – must fall under the former heading.

Enraged by what they saw as an exercise in elegant but offensive sophistry, some of the writer’s critics suggested that Hitchens give waterboarding (which may sound like some kind of fun aquatic pastime, but is probably best summarised as enforced partial drowning) a whirl, just to see what it was like. Did the experience feel like torture?

And amazingly, he has done just that. In August’s edition of Vanity Fair, you can read all about it, and see more photographs of the “wheezing, paunchy, 59-year-old scribbler”, his head hooded, being subjected to this most terrifying of ordeals by veterans of the US Special Forces.

So what did it feel like? Hitchens recounts how he was lashed tightly to a sloping board, then, “on top of the hood, three layers of enveloping towel were added. In this pregnant darkness, head downward, I waited until I abruptly felt a slow cascade of water going up my nose … I held my breath for a while and then had to exhale and – as you might expect – inhale in turn.”

That, he says, “brought the damp cloths tight against my nostrils, as if a huge, wet paw had been suddenly and annihilatingly clamped over my face. Unable to determine whether I was breathing in or out, flooded more with sheer panic than with water, I triggered the pre-arranged signal” and felt the “unbelievable relief” of being pulled upright.

The “official lie” about waterboarding, Hitchens says, is that it “simulates the feeling of drowning”. In fact, “you are drowning – or rather, being drowned”.

He rehearses the intellectual arguments, both for (“It’s nothing compared to what they do to us”) and against (“It opens a door that can’t be closed”). But the Hitch’s thoroughly empirical conclusion is simple. As Vanity Fair’s title puts it: “Believe me, it’s torture.”

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2008/jul/02/humanrights.usa


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