Posts Tagged ‘UN report’

Hamas: don’t renounce capital

September 22, 2009
Morning Star Online, September 21,  2009
by Tom Mellen
WARNING: Hamas PM Ismail Haniyeh

WARNING: Hamas PM Ismail Haniyeh

Hamas PM Ismail Haniyeh has warned Palestinian National Authority (PNA) officials not to “renounce Jerusalem or the refugees” during Tuesday’s three-way meeting with the presidents of Israel and the US.

Speaking on Sunday at a ceremony in a Gaza City stadium marking the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, Mr Haniyeh said: “No-one has the right to give up on Jerusalem or the Palestinian refugees. From Gaza, from a place of strength, we say we will not relinquish our rights.”

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UN: Israel ‘deliberately’ attacked Gaza civilians

September 16, 2009

Middle East Online, Sep 16, 2009

‘Violations of humanitarian law and human rights law’

‘Strong evidence’ of Israeli ‘willful killing’, torture, extensive destruction of property in Gaza.

UNITED NATIONS – A UN report Tuesday accused both Israel and the Palestinians of committing “war crimes” in the Gaza Strip, but particularly slammed Israel’s use of disproportionate force in the conflict.

The damning report found Israel violated international humanitarian law during its assault on the Gaza Strip eight months ago.

The four-member probe panel “concluded that actions amounting to war crimes and possibly in some respect crimes against humanity were committed by the Israel Defense Forces,” the head of the UN probe, former international prosecutor Richard Goldstone, told reporters.

Rocket firing by Palestinian resistance groups also amounted to war crimes “and may amount to crimes against humanity,” a seven-page summary said.

But only four paragraphs of the summary were devoted to Palestinian violations, and Goldstone, appointed in April to lead a broadened human rights probe into the Gaza violence, was more sharply critical of Israel.

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Afghan War Spreads to Residential Areas: UN Report

August 1, 2009
by Laura MacInnis,  Reuters, July 31, 2009

GENEVA – The Afghan battlefield is spreading into residential areas where more people are being killed by air strikes, car bombs and suicide attacks, according to a U.N. report published on Friday.

[File photo shows a British soldier talking with Afghan children during a patrol on the outskirts of Kabul. (AFP/File/Shah Marai)]File photo shows a British soldier talking with Afghan children during a patrol on the outskirts of Kabul. (AFP/File/Shah Marai)

The U.N. Assistance Mission to Afghanistan said that 1,013 civilians were killed on the sidelines of their country’s armed conflict from January to the end of June, compared to 818 in the first half of 2008 and 684 in the same period in 2007.

Commenting on the report, U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said it was critical that steps be taken to shield Afghan communities from fighting.

“All parties involved in this conflict should take all measures to protect civilians, and to ensure the independent investigation of all civilian casualties, as well as justice and remedies for the victims,” the South African said.

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Ban Ki-moon’s moral failure

May 7, 2009

Hasan Abu Nimah, The Electronic Intifada, 6 May 2009

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon at a press conference in Gaza City outside the UN headquarters, still smoldering from the Israeli bombardment of the facility, 20 January 2009. (Wissam Nassar/MaanImages)

Late last week, according to the BBC Arabic news website, a report was submitted to the United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon about the scale of destruction Israel inflicted on UN installations in Gaza. This was also mentioned on a BBC news bulletin on 1 May, but I could find little trace of this story anywhere else.

The brief news item stated that the UN report contained secret information supplied by Israel about an incident in which more than 40 Palestinian civilians were massacred when Israeli shells fell “outside” a UN school where many Palestinians were taking shelter. The secretary-general is reportedly considering how much of the information he can release without revealing the information supplied by Israel, the news item said, adding that the UN report concluded that Hamas fighters were not inside UN buildings but close to them.

Commenting on the report, the BBC said that it was informed by a diplomatic source, that the United States has informed Ban’s office that the report should not be published in full due to the damage that that could cause to the Middle East peace talks; in other words (mine, in fact) to Israel.

The point here is neither to pass any premature judgment on an unpublished report — despite obvious inconsistencies regarding shelling “outside” a UN installation that was somehow severely damaged — nor to predict how much of the report the secretary-general will finally decide to publish.

(As this article was being prepared for publication, details about the UN inquiry team report were published. The inquiry, led by Ian Martin, former director of Amnesty International, accused Israel of failing to protect UN facilities and civilians, dismissed as “untrue” Israeli claims that Hamas fighters had been firing from UN facilities, held Israel responsible for all deaths and injuries in six out of nine incidents, and called for further investigation into possible war crimes. Ban has rejected calls to pursue the probe, but called on Israel to pay $11 million in reparations for the damage it caused to the UN.)

But nor can we forget the dark days just past when Israel was slaughtering the innocent people of Gaza and the world stood by, even blaming Hamas — which had scrupulously observed a negotiated ceasefire until Israel broke it — for bringing on the apocalypse.

As the dust from the Israeli bombing began to settle, Ban decided to visit Gaza. That raised hopes that the UN was finally determined to act with courage and responsibility. Gaza had been off limits to international figures because supposedly a politically contagious terrorist organization had taken control of the place and no one was supposed to risk contact with it, even if compelling humanitarian considerations required that.

Well, the secretary-general decided on 20 January to defy the norm and go to Gaza. But his courage only went so far. His highly-protected convoy took him straight to the still smoldering compound of the UN agency for Palestine refugees (UNRWA) whose warehouses of food and fuel were destroyed by Israeli attacks along with their contents. He must have noted that the massive destruction could not have resulted from “shelling outside” the installation. “I am just appalled,” he said, “Everyone is smelling this bombing still. It is still burning. It is an outrageous and totally unacceptable attack against the United Nations.” This flash of anger was limited however only to UN facilities. He spoke as if the rest of Gaza — where more than 7,000 people lay dead or injured, and thousands of homes, schools, mosques, universities, police stations and government buildings were destroyed — did not exist, or were not of UN concern.

Whisked around in his convoy, he did not bother to stop and talk to any of Israel’s victims — the families who had just dug the remains of their loved ones from the rubble or those with horrific injuries in Gaza’s overstretched hospitals. These are the very people, the Palestinian refugees, that the UN is in Gaza to help, but there was it seems no time for them.

Ban did say, however, that he had “condemned from the outbreak of this conflict the excessive use of force by the Israeli forces in Gaza,” and added “I view the rocket attacks into Israel as completely unacceptable.” He also said that he would dispatch a humanitarian needs assessment team led by the UN special coordinator.

What he was saying in effect is that he found Israel’s attack on Gaza perfectly acceptable, but he disagreed only with the tonnage of high explosives that should be dropped by Israeli planes. Indeed, he should specify exactly how many dead children, how many demolished houses, how many burn victims, how many destroyed mosques he would tolerate as not being “excessive.” Would half the number killed and half the damage inflicted be reasonably non-excessive, or perhaps one-third? It would be helpful for both sides to know so that the Israelis would limit their killing to the UN-specified quota, and the Gazans would know how many of their community to sacrifice for the sacred UN-sanctioned killing.

For Ban, then, Israeli bombing is good — although he would like perhaps to see a little bit less. But, in tune with his political masters, he considers Palestinians to have no right to any form of self-defense against the Israeli occupation, constant aggression and the Israeli, internationally-supported, deadly siege, with whatever means they have at their disposal.

In order to maintain the false sense of balance between aggressor and victim, Ban had to visit the Israeli settlement of Sderot. When he patiently inspected the scars left by Hamas rockets that killed a total of three Israelis, he stated, “the projectiles are indiscriminate weapons, and Hamas attacks are violations of basic humanitarian law.” This is the same Ban who did not once invoke the law with respect to Israel’s ongoing massive violations.

It’s also notable that the rockets fired by Palestinian resistance factions are not so much “indiscriminate” as unguided. There’s no reason to believe that if Palestinians had access to the American-supplied guidance systems Israel has that they would not target Israeli military bases (indeed they tried to do that although Israeli military censorship did not allow reporting of hits on its military installations). Israel’s bombing on the other hand, and as Ban did not note, is very discriminate — deliberately targeting civilian homes and facilities.

In Sderot, Ban also urged Israel to end its crippling blockade on Gaza, but not because the blockade is a flagrant violation of international law, the Geneva conventions, inhuman and wrong. He worried only that the blockade would strengthen Hamas; otherwise, like a measured dose of bombing, it would be perfectly fine.

Ban ought to have inspected the destruction in Gaza, and visited and spent time with Israel’s Palestinian victims before setting foot in any UN installation. But it seems he actually avoided that on purpose to send a signal that he was not showing sympathy to “terrorists” or the people accused of harboring them, in order to inoculate himself from criticism by Israel and its chorus of apologists. He certainly saw the example of the UN special rapporteur for human rights, Princeton professor emeritus and international law expert Richard Falk, who was expelled and vilified by Israel and the US administration for faithfully and truthfully carrying out his mandate.

This is but one of the many sad stories of how the UN top leadership has betrayed and failed its mission. The UN does not exist only to protect its personnel and installations. The UN flag alone ought to provide that kind of real protection — immunity which no state dares to violate without fear of the consequences. But Israel has repeatedly attacked UN facilities, schools, peacekeeping forces and personnel in Palestine and Lebanon knowing full well that it, not the UN, enjoys immunity for its actions. The next time Israel attacks a UN facility, part of the responsibility will lie with those who failed to act correctly this time around.

Hasan Abu Nimah is the former permanent representative of Jordan at the United Nations. This essay first appeared in The Jordan Times and is republished with the author’s permission.

UN retreats after Israel hits out at Gaza report

May 6, 2009

Secretary General rejects further investigation into ‘reckless’ military offensive

By Donald Macintyre in Jerusalem

The Independent, UK,  May 6, 2009

Ban Ki-Moon: The UN secretary-general has attempted to draw a line after criticism of Israel


Ban Ki-Moon: The UN secretary-general has attempted to draw a line after criticism of Israel

The UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon bowed to pressure from Israel yesterday by trying to limit the impact of a comprehensive critique accusing its military of “recklessness or negligence” in this year’s Gaza offensive.

The official UN report – which Mr Ban himself commissioned – criticised the Israel Defence Forces for breaching the inviolability of UN premises, causing deaths, injuries and damage in seven incidents involving UN installations, and on occasions issuing untrue statements about what had happened.

But in a covering letter attached to his own 27-page summary of the report, leaked last night, the secretary-general bluntly rejected its recommendations for further investigations into whether Israel had breached international law during the offensive, including by its use of white phosphorus.

Mr Ban’s efforts to draw a line under the report – compiled by a UN board of inquiry headed by Ian Martin, the British former head of Amnesty and UN envoy to East Timor – followed an intensive diplomatic effort by Israel to minimise the damage of its findings.

The report says that the IDF was “involved in varying degrees of negligence or recklessness with regard to United Nations premises and to the safety of United Nations staff and other civilians within those premises, with consequent deaths, injuries, and extensive physical damage and loss of property”.

The incidents examined in depth by the inquiry include the mortar attack on 6 January which killed up to 40 civilians outside a UN school in Jabalya being used as a shelter, and the devastating white phosphorus assault on the UN’s field office compound on 15 January which caused extensive damage.

In both cases, says Mr Ban’s summary, the UN is seeking “formal acknowledgement” by the government of Israel that its public statements claiming that Palestinian militants fired from the installations, were “untrue and regretted”. The report also recommends pressing Israel for compensation for the families of dead and injured UN personnel in the attacks.

The report says that the co-ordinates of the Jabalya school had been given to the IDF and that it had been notified of its planned use as a shelter even before Operation Cast Lead began. It notes that at the time of the rport’s drafting a claim that Hamas militants had fired mortars from within the compound and that the school was booby trapped was still on the Israeli foreign ministry website. It adds: “The Board found that there was no fire from within the compound and no explosives within the school.”

The report effectively accuses Israeli forces of repeatedly breaching the principle that “UN personnel and all civilians within UN premises, as well as civilians in the immediate vicinity of those premises, are to be protected in accordance with the rules and principles of international humanitarian law”.

The report also says that the deaths of two children and the injuries caused to 13 other civilians at another UN school used as an improvised shelter on 17 January were “undisputedly” caused by the artillery firing of 155mm shells which contained white phosphorus wedges.

The report also examines other hitherto little reported incidents, including an attack on the Asma UNRWA school in Gaza City, in which three young men, all members of a families taking shelter, were killed as a result of an “undisputed” single aerial missile. In another on a building opposite a UN health centre in the Bureij refugee after which one patient died, there was no warning, the report says. It says that one attack, on an installation in Karni, was probably the work of Hamas.

The report recommends further investigation of other both UN and non-UN related civilian deaths which have given rise to allegations of breaches of international humanitarian law by both the IDF and Hamas.

But in his covering letter Mr Ban says he is “carefully considering” what actions “if any” to take on the 11 recommendations by the inquiry team. Mr Ban goes out of his way to thank Israel for its co-operation in the inquiry. He makes a point – urged on him by Israeli ministers and officials – of speaking out against “continued and indiscriminate” attacks by Hamas. And he said: “I do not plan any further enquiries.”

Israel yesterday rejected the report’s findings and its Foreign Ministry says the inquiry board “has preferred the claims of Hamas, a murderous terror organisation, and by doing so has misled the world”. Defence Secretary Ehud Barak repeated that Israel has “the most moral army in the world” and laid full responsibility for casualties on Hamas.

U.N. reports say Israel targeted civilians in Gaza

March 24, 2009
  • Reports say child used as human shield
  • Right to food, health violated, report says
  • Report also cites Hamas violations

By Robert Evans | Reuters, March 23, 2009

GENEVA, March 23 (Reuters) – United Nations investigators said on Monday Israel violated a range of human rights during its invasion of Gaza, including targeting civilians and using a child as a human shield.

The accusations came in reports to the U.N. Human Rights Council which also called for an urgent end to Israeli restrictions on humanitarian supplies to Gaza and a full international investigation into the conflict.

“Civilian targets, particularly homes and their occupants, appear to have taken the brunt of the attacks, but schools and medical facilities have also been hit,” said one report by Radhika Coomaraswamy, the U.N. Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict.

The Sri Lankan human rights lawyer visited the region in early February. She cited a long series of incidents to back her charges.

In one, she said, Israeli soldiers shot a father after ordering him out of his house and then opened fire into the room where the rest of the family was sheltering, wounding the mother and three brothers and killing a fourth.

In another, on January 15, at Tal al Hawa south-west of Gaza City, Israeli soldiers forced an 11-year-old boy to walk in front of them for several hours as they moved through the town, even after they had been shot at.

An Israeli commander in the 22-day Gaza invasion said on Monday Israel’s efforts to protect troops from Palestinian fire may have contributed to unwarranted killing of civilians.

“If you want to know whether I think that in doing so we killed innocents, the answer is, unequivocally, yes,” Tzvika Fogel, a reserve brigadier-general, told Reuters. Fogel added that such incidents were exceptional.

Coomaraswamy’s comments formed part of a much longer report from nine U.N. investigators including specialists on the right to health, to food, to adequate housing and education and on summary executions and violence against women.

All cited violations by Israel — and in some cases by the Hamas Islamic movement that controls Gaza — during the invasion from December 27 until January 17 which Israeli leaders say was launched to stop rocket attacks by Hamas from the territory.

Palestinian officials say 1,434 people in Gaza — 960 of them civilians — were killed in the fighting, a figure Israel contests. The report from the nine gave the total as 1,440, saying of these 431 were children and 114 women.

The overall report was criticised in the 47-nation Council by Israel’s ambassador Aharon Leshno Yar, who said it “wilfully ignores and downplays the terrorist and other threats we face,” and the use by Hamas of human shields.

Leshno Yar said the 43-page document was part of a pattern of “demonising Israel” in the Council — where an informal bloc of Islamic and African nations usually backed by Russia, China and Cuba has a built-in majority.

Another report presented to the Council on Monday came from Robert Falk, a U.S. academic and the body’s special rapporteur on human rights in the occupied Palestinian territories.

Falk, whom Israel barred from entry last year after accusing him of bias and prejudice, said Israel had subjected civilians in Gaza to “an inhuman form of warfare that kills, maims and inflicts mental harm.”

His report, in which he called for an independent experts group to probe possible war crimes by Israel and Hamas and also suggested that the U.N. Security Council set up an ad hoc criminal tribunal, was issued late last week. (Editing by Dominic Evans)

RIGHTS: U.N. Report Castigates Israel for Harassing Journalists

October 4, 2008

By Thalif Deen | Inter-Press Service

UNITED NATIONS, Oct 3 (IPS) – A new United Nations report on the human rights situation in Palestinian territories blasts the Israeli government for its heavy-handed treatment of journalists reporting on the military occupation.

The 20-page report, which will go before the 63rd sessions of the General Assembly currently underway, singles out the mistreatment of award-winning Palestinian journalist Mohammed Omer who was stripped, interrogated, kicked and beaten up when he returned from Europe to his home town in the occupied territory of Gaza last June.

A stringer for Inter Press Service (IPS) news agency, Omer, 24, was awarded the Martha Gellhorn Prize for Journalism for “displaying courage and ability in covering war zones”.

The U.N. report, by Richard Falk, the Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in the Palestinian Territories, says that Omer was convinced the brutal assault on his person was carried out by personnel from Shin Bet, the Israeli security agency.

The security agents “were fully aware that he had received the Gellhorn Prize while abroad, and were attempting to confiscate the award money, but were frustrated because it has been deposited in a bank account and was unavailable.”

When he left Gaza for Europe to pick up his prize, he was assured of the benefit of a Dutch diplomatic escort on his return.

But the escort arrived late at the Allenby Bridge border, where he was interrogated and beaten up and lost consciousness.

According to Omer’s testimony, he was forced to strip by an Israeli officer wearing a police uniform. He was pinned down on the floor with a boot on the neck. He says he collapsed during interrogation, and when he came round his eyelids were being forcibly opened. He was then dragged along the floor by his feet by officials of Shin Bet.

Omer was taken by ambulance from the Allenby crossing to the Jericho hospital in Palestinian territory in the West Bank. From there he was transferred to Gaza after a few hours.

A note from the Israeli Government Press Office (GPO) denies Omer’s account of physical abuse in Israeli custody. “In contradiction to his claims, at no time was the complainant subjected to either physical or mental violence.”

But an ambulance report of the Palestinian Red Crescent Society says: “We note finger signs on the neck and chest.” A report from the European Gaza Hospital of the Palestinian National Authority’s Ministry of Health includes the following notation following examination of Omer: “Ecchymosis (discolouration caused by bleeding underneath, typically caused by bruising) at upper part of chest wall was found.”

Following the assault, international press freedom groups like the Committee to Protect Journalists and Reporters Without Borders called for an immediate and public investigation of Omer’s treatment.

By private communication, Falk was assured by the Dutch Ambassador in Geneva that the incident is being taken “extremely seriously” and that an explanation is being sought from the government of Israel.

But at the time of the U.N. report, no response had been received to either request for an account and an explanation.

Falk says the unfortunate incident “cannot be discounted as an accident or an anomaly involving undisciplined Israeli security personnel.”

“The treatment of Mr. Omer seems to have been motivated by Israeli anger over international recognition of his journalism describing the occupation of Gaza, his willingness to repeat his descriptions abroad and his dedication and intention to continue in the professional role of bearing witness to the excesses of the occupation.”

Falk also points out that all Palestinians are subject to arbitrary harassment and abuse at borders and military checkpoints, “although the hostility towards journalists seems particularly severe.”

During his time in Europe, Omer had also spoken before European parliamentary audiences, describing the suffering in Gaza caused by the Israeli siege, closures and fuel and food shortages.

“It should be noted,” says Falk, “that Mr. Omer was not charged with any offence, nor was he carrying any prohibited materials.”

His treatment, as described, appears to constitute a flagrant violation of article 3(1)(a)(c) of the Fourth Geneva Convention which prohibits “outrages on personal dignity, in particular humiliating and degrading treatment” of persons under military occupation.

Nadia Hijab, senior fellow at the Washington-based Institute for Palestine Studies, told IPS: “Richard Falk is absolutely right.”

She said other journalists have been killed or injured by Israeli security forces, even though they and their vehicles were clearly marked as “press”.

But there are several particularly chilling aspects to Israel’s assault against Mohammed Omer, she added.

“He had just been on a successful European speaking tour and received a prestigious award, and he was being met by European diplomats on his return home,” she noted.

Through its actions, said Hijab, Israel was sending a message that no Palestinian, journalist or otherwise, is safe and that even European diplomats are no match for Israel.

“That is a very chilling message to a defenceless people,” she added.

In his report, Falk also says that although the incident affected only one individual, it inevitably has “a chilling effect, and appears to be part of a broader pattern of Israeli punitive interference with independent journalistic reporting on the occupation.”

Falk says the United Nations has a “clear responsibility and definite obligation to protect independent journalism, especially in war zones and areas under occupation, as part of its commitment to human rights and international law.”

Asked if the United Nations is doing enough to protect reporters covering the occupied territories, Hijab told IPS: “The United Nations is not equipped to protect reporters covering the occupied territories, just as it is not equipped to protect civilians.”

“The only possible protection would be for the U.S. and/or Europe to make it very clear to Israel that they do not condone its violations of international law,” she added.

Britain’s terror laws have left me and my family shattered

August 23, 2008

RINF.COM, August 21, 2008

Stop the War Coalition

The UN’s committee on human rights has just published a report criticising Britain’s anti-terror laws and the resulting curbs on civil liberties. For many commentators the issues raised are mostly a matter of academic abstractions and speculative meanderings. For me, it is anything but. These laws have destroyed my life.

On May 14 I was arrested under section 41 of the Terrorism Act – on suspicion of the “instigation, preparation and commission of acts of terrorism”: an absurdly nebulous formulation that told me nothing about the sin I had apparently committed. Once in custody, almost 48 hours passed before it was confirmed that the entire operation (involving dozens of officers, police cars, vans, and scientific support agents) was triggered by the presence on my University of Nottingham office computer of an equally absurd document called the “al-Qaida Training Manual”, a declassified open-source document that I had never read and had completely forgotten about since it had been sent to me months before.

Rizwaan Sabir, a politics student friend of mine (who was also arrested), had downloaded the file from the US justice department website while conducting research on terrorism for his upcoming PhD. An extended version of the same document (which figures on the politics department’s official reading list) was also available on Amazon. I edit a political magazine; Rizwaan regularly sent me copies of research materials he was using, and this document was one.

Within hours of my incarceration I had lost track of time. I often awoke thinking I had been asleep for days only to discover it wasn’t midnight yet. My confidence in the competence (and motives) of the police ebbed away. I found myself shifting my energies from remaining cheerful to remaining sane. In the early hours, I was often startled by the metallic toilet seat, crouched in the corner like some sinister beast.

For days on end, I drew cartoons and wrote diary entries in the margins of Mills and Boon novellas. I spent hours reciting things to myself: names of Saul Bellow characters, physics Nobel prize winners, John Coltrane albums, anything to keep the numbness away.

I’m constantly coming across efforts being made to give detention without charge the Walt Disney treatment: the crushing weight of solitary confinement is painted as a non-issue; the soul-sapping nothingness of the claustrophobic, cold cell is portrayed as a mild inconvenience. Make no mistake: the feeling that one’s fate is in the hands of the very people who are apparently trying to convict you is, without doubt, one of the most devastating horrors a human being can ever be subjected to. It is (to misquote Carl von Clausewitz) the continuation of torture by other means.

“Those who have nothing to hide, have nothing to fear,” goes the tautological reasoning of the paranoia merchants calling for harsher, ever more draconian “security” measures – as we saw throughout the 42-days debate. They should read Kafka: nothing is more terrifying than being arrested for something you know you haven’t done. Indeed, it is the innocent who suffers the most because it is the innocent who is tormented the most. The guilty calculates, triangulates, anticipates. The innocent doesn’t know where to start. The answers and the questions are absolute, unbreachable, towering conundrums.

Continued . . .

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