Posts Tagged ‘HR organisations’

Egypt emergency law linked to poll abuse

May 13, 2010

Middle East Online, May 13, 2010

Some 10,000 people are being held under the emergency law

Rights groups warn Egyptian emergency law may be used to influence outcome of elections.

CAIRO – Egyptian human rights groups on Thursday protested over the renewal of a decades-old emergency law, fearing it could be used to influence the outcome of elections in Egypt over the next two years.

The Egyptian Organisation for Human Rights and the Arab Centre for the Independence of the Judiciary, in a joint news conference, condemned parliament’s renewal of the law in a government-backed vote on Wednesday.

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Israeli War Criminal Olmert Welcomed in Australia

November 30, 2009
There is a danger that Australia could become a safe haven for Israeli war criminals.

By Sonja Karkar, The Palestine Chronicle, Nov 29, 2009

The news that former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert was in Australia and was welcomed by the honourable members of our parliament came as somewhat of a shock. It is one thing to have allowed a man on corruption charges as well as facing war crimes indictments into Australia at all; it is another thing that he was listed as a distinguished guest in Hansard – the official record of parliamentary proceedings – and received a resounding “hear, hear” from our elected representatives.

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European Human Rights Lawyers To Sue Israeli Officers For War Crimes

October 28, 2009

Saed Bannoura,IMEMC, Oct 28, 2009


A number of European lawyers and human rights activities stated that they obtained names of Israeli army officers suspected of committing war crimes during the war against the Gaza Strip earlier this year.


The lawyers said they would be filing lawsuits against the officers for committing war crimes against the Palestinian people.

Israeli paper Haaretz said that the lawyers collected testimonies from residents of the Gaza Strip in preparation to file the lawsuits.

The lists are being filed in Britain, Spain, Norway, Belgium and Holland as the legislation in these countries allow arrest warrants against war crimes suspects.

Haaretz added that attorney Daniel Makeover, from London, told its reporter that the report of Judge Richard Goldstone will be helpful in the lawsuits.

Israel said it would be countering the lawsuits, and that it is preparing legal teams but did not offer further details.

The Israeli Foreign Ministry said that it is working against the issue which it described as ‘efforts carried out by pro Palestinian groups and their supporters to harm Israel’.

Last month, former Israeli Army Chief of Staff, Moshe Yaalon, had to cancel a trip to London due to fears of being apprehended there.

Yaalon is the current vice Prime Minister and Minister of the so-called Strategic Affairs.

UN chief knew Tamil civilian toll had reached 20,000

May 30, 2009

The Times/UK, May 30, 2009

Catherine Philp, Diplomatic Correspondent

The top aide to the United Nations Secretary-General was told more than a week ago that at least 20,000 Tamil civilians were killed in the Sri Lankan Government’s final offensive against the Tamil Tiger rebels this month, The Times can reveal.

UN officials told Vijar Nambiar, Ban Ki Moon’s chief of staff, that their figures indicated a likely final death toll of more than 20,000, during a briefing in preparation for Mr Ban’s visit to the region on May 23.

Two staff present at the meeting confirmed the exchange to The Times but Mr Ban never mentioned the death toll during his tour of the battleground, which he described as the “most appalling scene” he had witnessed in his long international career.

The casualty figure, revealed by The Times yesterday, triggered an international furore, with the Sri Lankan authorities denying the report and human rights groups demanding an investigation into possible war crimes.

Lakshman Hulugalle, a Defence Ministry spokesman, said: “These figures are way out . . . What we think is that these images are also fake. We totally deny the allegation that 20,000 people were killed.”

But, internationally, calls have been growing for an independent war crimes investigations on both sides and for access by humanitarian groups to the war zone and the 270,000 Tamil civilians who are still being detained.

Amnesty International called on the UN to release the estimated figures to help to push for a war crimes inquiry. “The Timess investigation underscores the need for investigation and the UN should do everything it can to determine the truth about the ‘bloodbath’ that occurred in northeast Sri Lanka,” Sam Zarifi, the Asia-Pacific director of Amnesty International, said.

“The Human Rights Council’s decision not to call for specific measures to protect Sri Lankans made a mockery of the council, but it does not mean the end of the international community’s responsibility to respond to this continuing crisis,” Mr Zarifi said.

The International Committee of the Red Cross made a rare public plea yesterday for access to the no-fire zone and internment camps in the region. “We haven’t been able to access the areas where most of these people would have fled from since the ending of the most recent fighting,” Florian Westphal, the Red Cross spokesman, told a briefing in Geneva.

The figure of 20,000 casualties was given to The Times by UN sources, who explained in detail how they arrived at that calculation.

Before this month’s bombardment made the recording of each individual death impossible, the figures had been collated from deaths reported by priests and doctors and added to a count of the bodies brought to medical points.

Of the total, the bodies collected accounted for only a fifth of all reported deaths. After the bombing intensified this month, the only numbers available were by a count of the bodies. The 20,000 figure is an extrapolation based on the actual body count.

The 20,000 figure has also been obtained by Le Monde, the French daily newspaper, which quoted UN sources as saying that the figure had not been made public to avoid a diplomatic storm. The figure of 7,000 deaths until the end of April, which was based on individually documented deaths and not estimates, was leaked by UN sources in Sri Lanka this month after internal anger over the secrecy surrounding them. UN satellite images documenting the bombing of medical facilities were also leaked from New York.

The UN Humanitarian Co-ordination Office said yesterday that the figures cited by The Times were based on “well-informed estimates” given in private briefings to member states to underscore its concern — including Britain and the United States.

“You have seen the figures that are mentioned. Obviously, what we have are well-informed estimates and not precise, verifiable numbers,” said Elisabeth Byrs, spokeswoman for the humanitarian co-ordination office. “The point is the UN has not been shy about the scale of human suffering and civilian casualties. It has been ringing the alarm bells for a long time.”

Dozens of CIA “Ghost Prisoners” Missing

April 26, 2009

By William Fisher | Inter Press Service News

NEW YORK, Apr 24 (IPS) – At least three dozen detainees who were held in the CIA’s secret prisons overseas appear to be missing – and efforts by human rights organisations to track their whereabouts have been unsuccessful.

The story of these “ghost prisoners” was comprehensively documented last week by Pro Publica, an online investigative journalism group.

In September 2007, Michael V. Hayden, then director of the CIA, said, “fewer than 100 people had been detained at CIA’s facilities.” One memo released last week confirmed that the CIA had custody of at least 94 people as of May 2005 and “employed enhanced techniques to varying degrees in the interrogations of 28 of these.”

Former President George W. Bush publicly acknowledged the CIA programme in September 2006, and transferred 14 prisoners from the secret jails to Guantanamo. Many other prisoners, who had “little or no additional intelligence value,” Bush said, “have been returned to their home countries for prosecution or detention by their governments.”

But Bush did not reveal their identities or whereabouts – information that would have allowed the International Committee for the Red Cross to find them – or the terms under which the prisoners were handed over to foreign jailers.

The U.S. government has never released information describing the threat any of them posed. Some of the prisoners have since been released by third countries holding them, but it is still unclear what has happened to dozens of others, and no foreign governments have acknowledged holding them.

Gitanjali Gutierrez, an attorney with the Centre for Constitutional Rights (CCR), which represents Majid Khan, a former ghost detainee at Guantánamo, told IPS, “The Obama administration must change course from its ‘forward-looking’ path because it leaves too many critical questions unanswered, including those about the fate of ghost prisoners held by the United States.”

“The United States is strong enough to examine the CIA and other agencies’ activities, to punish individuals who violated our laws, and to ensure that our nation does not slip to the dark side again,” she said.

Pro Publica reported that former officials in the Bush administration said that the CIA spent weeks during the summer of 2006 – shortly before Bush acknowledged the CIA prisons and suspended the programme – transferring prisoners to Pakistani, Egyptian and Jordanian custody.

The organisation said the population inside the programme had been shrinking since the existence of the prisons was detailed in a Washington Post article in November 2005. Renewed diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Libya in May 2006 made it possible for the CIA to turn over Libyan prisoners to Moammar Gadhafi’s control.

Joanne Mariner, director of the Terrorism and Counterterrorism Programme at Human Rights Watch, said, “If these men are now rotting in some Egyptian dungeon, the administration can’t pretend that it’s closed the door on the CIA programme.”

“Making the Justice Department memos on the CIA’s secret prison programme public was an important first step, but the Obama administration needs to reveal the fate and whereabouts of every person who was held in CIA custody,” she said.

The Red Cross has had access to and documented the experiences of only the 14 so-called “high value detainees” who were publicly moved out of the CIA programme and into the prison at Guantanamo Bay.

In June 2007, human rights groups released the names of three dozen people whose fates remained unknown.

“Until the U.S. government clarifies the fate and whereabouts of these individuals, these people are still disappeared, and disappearance is one of the most grave international human rights violations,” said Margaret Satterthwaite, a law professor at New York University. “We clearly don’t know the story of everyone who has been through the programme. We need to find out where they are and what happened.”

In a related development, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has asked the Obama administration to make public records pertaining to the detention and treatment of prisoners held at the Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan.

The ACLU filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for records pertaining to the number of people currently detained at Bagram and their names, citizenship, place of capture and length of detention. The ACLU is also seeking records pertaining to the process afforded those prisoners to challenge their detention and designation as “enemy combatants.”

“The U.S. government’s detention of hundreds of prisoners at Bagram has been shrouded in complete secrecy. Bagram houses far more prisoners than Guantánamo, in reportedly worse conditions and with an even less meaningful process for challenging their detention, yet very little information about the Bagram facility or the prisoners held there has been made public,” said Melissa Goodman, staff attorney with the ACLU National Security Project.

She told IPS, “Without transparency, we can’t be sure that we’re doing the right thing – or even holding the right people – at Bagram.”

Recent news reports suggest that the U.S. government is detaining more than 600 individuals at Bagram, including not only Afghan citizens captured in Afghanistan but also an unknown number of foreign nationals captured thousands of miles from Afghanistan and brought to Bagram.

Some of these prisoners have been detained for as long as six years without access to counsel, and only recently have been permitted any contact with their families. At least two Bagram prisoners have died while in U.S. custody, and Army investigators concluded that the deaths were homicides.

“When prisoners are in American custody and under American control, no matter the location, our values and commitment to the rule of law are at stake,” said Jonathan Hafetz, staff attorney with the ACLU National Security Project. “Now that President Obama has taken the positive step of ordering Guantánamo shut down, it is critical that we don’t permit ‘other Gitmos’ to continue elsewhere.”

The ACLU’s request is addressed to the Departments of Defence, Justice and State, as well as the CIA.

A federal judge recently ruled that three prisoners being held by the U.S. at Bagram can challenge their detention in U.S. courts, in habeas corpus suits brought by a group of human rights legal advocates.

The prisoners, who were captured outside of Afghanistan and are not Afghan citizens, have been held there for more than six years without charge or access to counsel. The Obama administration is appealing the ruling.

ISRAEL: ‘If You Don’t Know, It Didn’t Happen’

April 21, 2009

Analysis by Daan Bauwens | Inter Press Service News

TEL AVIV, Apr 20 (IPS) – Even though atrocities committed by Israeli soldiers have surfaced and the appointment of a right-wing government diminishes the chances for peace in the Middle East, no left-wing Israeli is taking to the streets.

During the war in Gaza, modest peace manifestations brought together a few thousand protesters at a time. After the war and the elections, the voice of the left is completely muted.

“Where is the left in this country?” says Alina Charny, a yoga teacher from the Pardes Hanna district of Haifa. “There is a growing feeling that people from the left have lost all belief there can be a change. We have been in this war for too long now, but the voice of peace has never been in such a bad condition.”

All is still on the left side of the Israeli political spectrum. “We were left with all the guilt and no votes,” says Ido Gideon, an Israeli film producer and former spokesperson of Israel’s largest left-wing party Meretz.

In spite of confessions of atrocities by Israeli soldiers and growing evidence that the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) deliberately committed war crimes, no political force aside from Israeli human rights organisations is pushing for an independent investigation into what the army’s internal investigation later dismissed as “rumours”.

“We’re in no position to push for anything right now,” says Gideon. “I am indifferent, I don’t care any more, a lot of people I know have become indifferent. For the moment, we are trying not to get too much affected by things. Too many bad things happened at once.”

“When you don’t know, it never happened,” says teacher Alina Charny. “People don’t want to feel guilty, so they don’t want to hear about destruction or death. At the same time, everyone does want to know what happened, but in a perverted way: they read and talk in aggressive slogans, without taking into consideration what was happening on the ground. The Israeli public has detached itself from feeling, from any emotions.”

Yossi Wolfson has worked over 20 years as a human rights lawyer in the occupied Palestinian territories, focusing on conscientious objectors in the Israeli army. “The public prefers not to acknowledge what its power-addicted discourses mean on the ground,” he says. “They said the time had come for revenge, but didn’t want to think about children losing their limbs and being attacked while being taken to an ambulance. Now they don’t want to think about their neighbour’s son having shot a family drinking tea while sitting down, or having given orders to a drone. You just don’t want to think about that, so nobody talks about it. Even newspapers, except for Haaretz, don’t want to publish what really happened.”

Israel lives with too many contradictions, Wolfson tells IPS. “We have been living in a dream for too long. You cannot be with the occupation for the sake of the survival of Israel, but against it for the sake of the Palestinians. You cannot go to the army because you are obliged, but convince yourself you can change it from within. You cannot have a democratic but strictly Jewish state.”

Israelis now seem to be changing their very conception of peace. “The mainstream discourse has always been: we want peace,” says Wolfson. “But in fact, nobody wanted peace with all the implications of it. Now the popular discourse is: we don’t want the peace process to die.”

“When you go to war, you shoot to kill, not to play games,” Haim Gordon, senior lecturer at the department of education at the Ben Gurion University in the Negev desert tells IPS. “Have you ever heard of a war where civilians were not killed? It’s good that we did what we did. The people in Gaza are big boys now, they’re responsible for their own lives now we’re not there anymore. Today the oppressors are Hamas, and the people from Gaza accept the oppression, they even support it.”

Gordon, formerly a human rights activist in Gaza, adds: “Not only should the Israeli public not protest, they should go to war when others shoot on us. The Israelis are not indifferent; on the contrary, they are very determined not to let Hamas change the rules of the game.”

Israel has a case to answer

March 24, 2009


The Guardian, UK,  Tuesday 24 March 2009

Evidence that Israel committed war crimes in its 23-day operation in Gaza mounts by the week. Amnesty and Human Rights Watch have both appealed for a United Nations inquiry, after conducting their own investigations. Last week Ha’aretz published the testimonies of Israeli soldiers who alleged that a sniper shot a Palestinian mother and her two children, and that a company commander ordered an elderly woman to be killed. Yesterday Physicians for Human Rights accused soldiers of ignoring the special protection that Palestinian medical teams are entitled to receive. Today the Guardian releases three films in which our reporter Clancy Chassay reveals evidence that Israel used drones to fire at civilian targets, killing at least 48; he interviews three Palestinian youths used by Israeli soldiers as human shields and alleges that soldiers targeted paramedics and hospitals.

None of this is to deny that a case also exists against Hamas and other militant groups in Gaza. Firing unaimable rockets at civilians in southern Israel is also a war crime. But there is no symmetry of guilt. Israel has weapons it can place to within a metre of its intended targets. Its drones have high-quality optics that can see the colour of the target’s sweater. And they film everything both before and after each attack. The army has the means to refute these allegations, but feels no obligation to do so. An international inquiry should be launched for no other reason than to hold it accountable.

Israel has not got a history of co-operating with international inquiries into the actions of its army, but it has reacted twice to domestic allegations. It admitted that one of its tanks fired two shells at the apartment of a Hebrew-speaking Palestinian doctor whose three daughters were killed and whose grief touched the nation, but it concluded that the action was “reasonable”. The Ha’aretz material prompted a criminal inquiry by the military advocate, and two unusual statements by the outgoing defence minister, Ehud Barak, and the chief of staff, General Gabi Ashkenazi, each of whom praised the “moral” actions of the army. The prospects of a full international investigation of these allegations are mixed. The international criminal court has received more than 220 complaints from the Palestinian National Authority, the Arab League and the Palestinian justice minister. But whether the court has jurisdiction is another matter.

If the ICC route fails, there is always the UN, whose schools and stores found themselves in the line of fire. The secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, will this week receive the results of a private board of inquiry. This is narrow in scope, only examining incidents at UN facilities. But what happened there was bad enough, including the use of white phosphorus shells.

There are five reasons why we should have an international inquiry into the Israeli assault on Gaza. First, the conflict has not gone away. It could reignite at any moment under a prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, who is determined to finish the job. Second, the weight of evidence points not to isolated incidents, but to a new and deadly relaxation of the rules of engagement. This emerges from the soldiers’ own testimony in Ha’aretz. “That’s what is so nice, supposedly, about Gaza,” one soldier said. “You see a person on a road … He doesn’t have to be with a weapon. You don’t have to identify him with anything. You can just shoot him.” Gaza was fought to a certain mood music. It suggested that the lives of Palestinian civilians did not matter when weighed against those of Israeli soldiers. Third, Israel is not immune to international opinion. A narrow rightwing coalition under Mr Netanyahu will be sensitive to criticism from Barack Obama, who has yet to reveal his cards. Fourth, what Israel does or is allowed to get away with doing affects attempts to establish the rule of international law in other conflicts. Fifth, we know what doing nothing leads to: another war, and ultimately a third intifada.

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