Posts Tagged ‘violations of international law’

European Union Boosts Israel Ties, Ignores Illegal Settlements

March 23, 2010

By David Cronin, Inter Press Service News

BRUSSELS, Mar 22, 2010 (IPS) – Diplomats representing the European Union (EU) have drawn up a new plan for strengthening their relations with Israel despite the expansion of illegal settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories.

Spain, the current holder of the EU’s rotating presidency, is eager that work proceeds on formally upgrading the Union’s political and commercial ties with Israel over the next few months.

Although both the EU and Israel had agreed in 2008 to undertake steps designed to integrate Israel into the Union’s economy, work on this dossier has partly stalled because of the subsequent war in Gaza. But a confidential paper written by Spanish officials suggests that fresh discussions should soon be opened with Israel so that the upgrading process can regain its momentum.

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EU Found Guilty at First Session of Russell Tribunal

March 16, 2010
RTP is a peoples’ legal initiative (David Vilaplana/
By Ewa Jasiewicz and Frank Barat, The  Palestine Chronicle,  March 16, 2010

The first session of the Russell Tribunal on Palestine (RTP) was heard in Barcelona, Spain earlier this month. The RTP is a peoples’ legal initiative designed to systematically try key actors responsible for the perpetuation of human rights violations in Palestine.

In the frame this time was the European Union (EU). Two days and 21 expert witness testimonies later, the RTP found individual states and the EU as a whole guilty of persistent violations and misconduct with regards to international and internal EU law. These included: assistance in perpetrating the crime of apartheid — deepened in definition as applicable to the violation of the inalienable right of return for refugees and the collective punishment and ghettoization of Gaza; aiding the procurement of war crimes and crimes against humanity particularly with regards to Gaza; and violating the Palestinian right to self-determination, aiding illegal colonization, the annexation of East Jerusalem and theft of natural resources.

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US drone strikes may break international law: UN

October 28, 2009

The Raw Story, Oct 27, 2009

US drone strikes against suspected terrorists in Afghanistan and Pakistan could be breaking international laws against summary executions, the UN’s top investigator of such crimes said.

“The problem with the United States is that it is making an increased use of drones/Predators (which are) particularly prominently used now in relation to Pakistan and Afghanistan,” UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial Executions Philip Alston told a press conference.

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Lies and Israel’s war crimes

July 29, 2009

Ben White, The Electronic Intifada, 28 July 2009

A Palestinian UN worker inspects debris after an Israeli air strike on a UN school in Gaza where civilians were seeking refuge, 17 January 2009. (Wissam Nassar/MaanImages)

This month marked six months since the “official” conclusion to Israel’s assault on the Gaza Strip, “Operation Cast Lead.” From 27 December to 18 January, the might of the one of the world’s strongest militaries laid waste to a densely-packed territory of 1.4 million Palestinians without an escape route.

The parallel propaganda battle fought by Israel’s official and unofficial apologists continued after the ceasefire, in a desperate struggle to combat the repeated reports by human rights groups of breaches of international law. This article will look at some of the strategies of this campaign of disinformation, confusion, and lies — and the reality of Israel’s war crimes in the Gaza Strip. Very early on in Operation Cast Lead, the scale of Israel’s attack became apparent. In just the first six days the Israeli Air Force carried out more than 500 sorties against targets in the Gaza Strip. That amounted to an attack from the air roughly every 18 minutes — not counting hundreds of helicopter attacks, tank and navy shelling, and infantry raids. All of this on a territory similar in size to the US city of Seattle.

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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.

Massacre in slow motion

March 10, 2009

Socialist Worker, March 9, 2009

More than a month after Israel’s assault on Gaza ended, life for Gaza’s 1.5 million Palestinians continues to be a daily struggle. Israel maintains a suffocating siege that blocks the flow of basic staples, plunging the vast majority of residents into abject poverty.

But a ray of hope has emerged in the form of a growing international struggle–from Canada and the U.S., to Europe and South Africa–to hold Israel accountable for its violations of international law and Palestinian human rights. On March 21, justice for Palestine will be a main slogan at an antiwar demonstration in Washington, D.C. organized to mark the sixth anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq.

Haidar Eid, a professor of English, political commentator and longtime activist, is a resident of Gaza City and has provided an ongoing eyewitness account and analysis of Israel’s war for He spoke with Eric Ruder about Israel’s occupation and the Palestinian struggle for justice.

A young boy sits amid the rubble where buildings once stood in Jabalia, a town in the northern Gaza Strip (AFP)A young boy sits amid the rubble where buildings once stood in Jabalia, a town in the northern Gaza Strip (AFP)

THE SHOOTING part of Israel’s war is now over, according to the media. Yet Israel continues air strikes on targets in Gaza every few days. And in addition to the bombings, Israel’s siege remains firmly in place, stopping all manner of critical goods from getting into Gaza. Can you describe conditions now?

THE COURAGEOUS Israeli historian Ilan Pappe has talked about the hermetic siege of Gaza that has been in place for some three years now. Prior to the war, Pappe called this siege “slow-motion genocide,” and he was absolutely right.

Even before the war, more than 350 terminally ill people died because Israel refused to allow them to leave Gaza for essential medical treatment. Israel refused to issue them travel permits to be treated in Egyptian or Jordanian hospitals. I’m talking about people with kidney failure, heart problems, cancer.

The war transformed the slow-motion genocide into real genocide–I don’t know what else to call it. During the war, more 1,440 people were killed.

What else to read

Haidar Eid has written an article titled “Sharpeville 1960, Gaza 2009” that recounts his experiences during Israel’s war and adds his voice to call for an international movement to boycott, divest and sanction Israel, modeled on the anti-apartheid movement.

The One Democratic State Group has issued “A Call from Gaza” that asks activists and organizations to demand that their governments sever ties with Israel, and calls for Israel’s war criminals to be brought to justice.

Between the Lines: Readings on Israel, the Palestinians and the U.S. “War on Terror,” by Tikva Honig-Parnass and Toufic Haddad, documents the apartheid-like conditions that Palestinians live under today.

For background on Israel’s war and the Palestinian struggle for freedom, read The Struggle for Palestine, a collection of essays edited by Lance Selfa on the history of the occupation and Palestinian resistance.

We thought that the end of the war would also mean the end of the medieval siege imposed on Gaza. But unfortunately, that hasn’t happened since the end of the Gaza massacre–and I really don’t want to call it the end of the “war,” because the war has continued but in different forms.

Israel failed to achieve any of its three objectives that it declared at the beginning of the war–topping the government of Hamas, putting an end to the launching of rockets, and establishing a new security arrangement in Gaza.

Since they failed at this, they have been trying to achieve politically what they could not militarily–with the help of the U.S., even under the Obama administration, with the complicity of the European Union and with the help of some Arab regimes.

This is why all the proposals to reconstruct the Gaza Strip being discussed at the recent international donors conference at Sharm el Sheik all come with so many strings attached. In fact, these strings make reconstruction impossible.

So when Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visited Tel Aviv and Ramallah, she talked about conditions for reconstruction. Condition number one is for the Hamas government and the resistance groups in general to recognize the state of Israel. Number two is to recognize previously signed agreements between the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and Israel, which ultimately means recognizing the state of Israel also.

But there are some big questions that come along with this, which the U.S. and the mainstream media prefer to avoid. In particular, what Israel are the Palestinians supposed to recognize?

Israel is the only member of the UN that does not have recognized borders. Does the apartheid wall represent the border of the state of Israel? Or is it the 1967 border? Recognition of Israel under this situation allows for the ongoing expansion of Israel’s borders.

Number two, Israel is also the only country on the face of the earth that has no constitution. Israel instead has Basic Laws. The first basic law defines Israel as the state of Jews all over the world. You have a theocratic state instead of a state of all of its citizens. This raises the question of what happens to 1.2 million Palestinians who are considered citizens of the state of Israel, but they are not Jews.

Also, what happens to more than 6 million Palestinian refugees living in the diaspora? Not a single agreement by the PLO and Israel, with America as a moderator, mentions the right of return, although UN Resolution 194 calls for the return of the Palestinian refugees to their homeland, to their villages, to the cities and towns from which they were expelled. And Resolution 194 calls for compensation for the injustices they have suffered.

But these are things that Israel wants the Palestinians to concede before talks even begin. As Marx said, history repeats itself, first as tragedy, second as farce. Now, we have seen the donors’ conference, and a visit from Hillary Clinton, during which she uttered not one word of sympathy for the plight of Palestinians. This is tragedy and farce.

Palestinians are paying a heavy price. This is the continuation of the genocidal war launched by Israel against Gaza and supported by the international community. And the talks that are supposed to reconstruct are merely further means to carry out Israel’s agenda.

THE U.S. and Israel also call on Hamas to “renounce violence,” but they never recognize the incredible hypocrisy of this demand. Israel consistently uses overwhelming violence against the Palestinians, and the U.S. supplies the weapons that allow Israel to do so.

ABSOLUTELY. WHAT kind of weapons does the resistance movement in Gaza have? Crude homemade rockets, and some Grad rockets smuggled through the tunnels connecting Egypt and Gaza. But now the tunnels can’t be used. Israel has repeatedly bombed them.

Because Israel has enforced its siege of Gaza, these tunnels have also been used to bring essential goods into the Strip. For example, I haven’t been able to drive my car since the war ended, because we can’t receive any gas from Egypt, which had to be smuggled through the tunnels.

We are talking about the fourth-strongest military in the world, with 250 nuclear warheads, F-16s and helicopters, against a largely defenseless population. We are not talking about two equal parties.

According to international law, Israel is illegally occupying the West Bank and Gaza. Israel is illegally prohibiting more than 6 million Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and towns.

What we are calling for–myself as part of Palestinian civil society, as an academic, as an activist–is simply the implementation of UN and Security Council resolutions and international law. Under international law, we are guaranteed a state and the right of return for refugees.

By signing the Oslo Accords in 1993, the official Palestinian leadership made an agreement that violates our rights and international law [by bargaining away these essential national rights]. It has now become a habit for Israel and the U.S. to expect the weaker party, the Palestinians, to give more and more concessions.

One of the biggest mistakes that the Palestinian leadership made was to assume that the U.S. was acting as a fair broker. But in fact, the U.S. has been entirely biased–because of the pro-Israel lobby in the U.S., and because I don’t think you can separate the interests of U.S. imperialism and Zionism in the Middle East.

The U.S. attacked and occupied Iraq and committed genocide against Iraq’s civilians. It killed more than 1.5 million Iraqis–because of oil, in pursuit of its interests in the region, and to protect the state of Israel.

The Americans have failed miserably in Iraq. Israel failed miserably in Lebanon in 2006. And then, they tried to target what they consider to be the weakest pocket of resistance in the Middle East, namely Gaza. Fortunately, that failed. Israel tried for 22 days to bring the resistance to its knees, but could not.

That is why they are trying to achieve politically what they failed to militarily.

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UN to investigate Israel over Gaza bombs

February 12, 2009
(Wednesday 11 February 2009)

UNITED Nations secretary-general Ban Ki Moon ordered an investigation into Israeli attacks on UN facilities in Gaza on Tuesday.

Mr Ban declared that he had initiated steps to establish a UN board of inquiry “into incidents involving death and damage at UN premises in Gaza.”

The secretary-general said that the board should start work immediately and report to him within a month.

Over 50 UN installations were damaged during the Israeli air and ground assault between December 27 and January 18.

But Amnesty International insisted that the inquiry should be much broader and include all alleged violations of international law.

Amnesty secretary-general Irene Khan called Mr Ban’s announcement welcome but insufficient.

“It is not only the victims of attacks on the UN who have a right to know why their rights were violated and who was responsible and to obtain justice and reparation,” Ms Khan observed.

She called for a “comprehensive international investigation that looks at all alleged violations of international law – by Israel, by Hamas and by other Palestinian armed groups involved in the conflict.”

Ms Khan urged the security council to support a comprehensive inquiry “that covers all attacks that may have violated the laws of war during the recent fighting in Gaza and southern Israel.”

Israel and the white heat of justice

January 23, 2009

A political solution for Gaza must not preclude the investigation of war crimes, including Israel’s use of white phosphorus

<Link to this video

Amnesty International has now joined the United Nations and Human Rights Watch in accusing the Israeli government of breaking international law outlawing the use of white phosphorus shells in the middle of highly populated areas of Gaza. The UN secretary general, Ban Ki-Moon, has condemned Israeli attacks on UN humanitarian centres in Gaza as “outrageous” and has called for an independent, international inquiry.

Meanwhile a senior minister in the Israeli government has been quoted in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz as saying that when the full extent of the destruction brought on Gaza becomes known “I will not be taking my holidays in Amsterdam”. This possibly “humorous” observation referred to the possibility that leaders of the Israeli government may yet be arraigned before the International Criminal Court in The Hague – or a similar tribunal – to answer charges of war crimes.

Indeed some 300 human rights organisations have already prepared an initial 37-page dossier to be presented to the court. At the same time, in a move which could be equally damaging to the international standing of the Israeli government, a number of United Nations humanitarian agencies have insisted that there must be an independent, internationally approved, legal inquiry into the prima facie evidence of crimes committed. It is clear now that Israeli shelling and missile attacks – including those on UN facilities used as shelters for civilians during the war – have taken many hundreds of innocent civilian lives.

There is one obvious problem with taking steps to ensure that those responsible for the horrific massacres of civilians in Gaza are held accountable for their actions: Israel is not a member state of the ICC. The initial reaction of the ICC has been that it is therefore not open to the court to examine these charges. According to some senior French jurists, however, it should still be possible for the ICC to pursue named individuals for alleged crimes committed in Gaza.

There is also a precedent for the ICC to be asked by the United Nations to conduct such a trial – namely the current hearings into crimes against humanity allegedly committed by forces under the control of the government of Sudan in Darfur. It may be possible for the UN to establish a specific war crimes tribunal to hear the charges arising out of the actions of the Israeli forces in Gaza. After all, something very similar happened after the atrocities committed during the wars in the former Yugoslavia and the Rwanda genocide.

The Israeli government has denied that it was responsible for any war crimes committed during the course of its three-week campaign in Gaza. Interestingly, however, the Israeli prime minister, Ehud Olmert has expressed “remorse” for what happened to the civilian population of Gaza. One obvious question is: what does he feel guilty about? Some Israelis may also argue that Hamas has also committed crimes worthy of international condemnation. But, of course, it open to them to present such a legal dossier to the ICC authorities in the Netherlands.

Obviously, a UN mandate for a legal inquiry into alleged Israeli war crimes would only come about if the Obama administration decides not to use its veto in the UN Security Council. But by allowing a legal investigation to proceed, the US would send the clearest possible signal that it intends to exercise far greater even-handedness between Israel and the Palestinians than it has ever done in the past. Moreover, the incoming administration is under growing pressure to sanction an inquiry into possible criminal action by the Bush administration in its use of torture.

No doubt, the British government, among others, will say that the priority of the international community must be to underpin the current ceasefire with a permanent peace agreement which provides for a two-state solution. But there is no reason why the push for a permanent agreement should exclude the rule of law from operating without inhibition. After all, this was the case in the former Yugoslavia.

According to Israeli opinion polls, the present coalition government is heading for defeat in the general election in three weeks’ time. The responsibility for negotiating a permanent peace settlement is likely to fall to an even more right-wing government, led by Binyamin Netanyahu.

That said, an inspiring feature of the feature of the worldwide demonstrations against Israel’s Gaza offensive has been the prominent role played by Jews and Jewish organisations in the protests. Organisations like Jews for Justice for Palestinians, along with a small but heroic opposition to the massacres in Israel itself. Israeli human rights activists have also now launched a website to identify alleged Israeli war criminals and assist their transfer to the jurisdiction of the ICC.

Torture As Official Israeli Policy

August 30, 2008

Stephen Lendman | ZNet, August 30, 2008

Stephen Lendman’s ZSpace Page

The UN Convention against Torture defines the practice as:

“any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain and suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity….”

The US and Israel are the only two modern states that legally sanction torture. An earlier article covered America. This one deals with the Jewish state, but let there be no doubt:

Although its language in part is vague, contradictory and protects abusive practices, Section 277 of Israel’s 1977 Penal Law prohibits torture by providing criminal sanctions against its use. It specifically states in language similar to the UN Convention against Torture:

“A public servant who does one of the following is liable to imprisonment for three years: (1) uses or directs the use of force or violence against a person for the purpose of extorting from him or from anyone in whom he is interested a confession of an offense or information relating to an offense; (2) threatens any person, or directs any person to be threatened, with injury to his person or property or to the person or property of anyone in whom he is interested for the purpose of extorting from him a confession of an offense or any information relating to an offense.” However, Israel clearly discriminates against Palestinians, (including Israeli Arab citizens), denies them rights afforded only to Jews, and gets legal cover for it by its courts. More on that below.

Nonetheless, the Jewish state is a signatory to the 1984 UN Convention against Torture and other international laws banning the practice. It’s thus accountable for any violations under them to all its citizens and persons it controls in the Occupied Territories.

US statutes leave no ambiguity on torture. Neither do international laws like The (1949) Third Geneva Convention’s Article 13 (on the Treatment of Prisoners of War). It states:

They “must at all times be humanely treated. Any unlawful act or omission by the Detaining Power causing death or seriously endangering the health of a prisoner of war in its custody is prohibited….(these persons) must at all times be protected, particularly against acts of violence or intimidation….”

Third Geneva’s Article 17 states:

“No physical or mental torture, nor any other form of coercion, may be inflicted on prisoners of war” for any reasons whatsoever.

Third Geneva’s Article 87 states:

“Collective punishment for individual acts, corporal punishments, imprisonment in premises without daylight and, in general, any form of torture or cruelty, are forbidden.

The (1949) Fourth Geneva Convention’s Article 27 (on the treatment of Civilian Persons in Time of War) states:

Protected persons “shall at all times be humanely treated, and shall be protected especially against all acts of violence or threats thereof….”

Fourth Geneva’s Articles 31 and 32 state:

“No physical or moral coercion shall be exercised against protected persons.”

“This prohibition applies to….torture (and) to any other measures of brutality whether applied by civilian or military agents.”

Fourth Geneva’s Article 147 calls “willful killing, torture or inhuman treatment….grave breaches” under the Convention and are considered “war crimes.”

All four Geneva Conventions have a Common Article Three requiring all non-combatants, including “members of armed forces who laid down their arms,” to be treated humanely at all times.

The (1966) International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights Article 7 states:

“No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.”

Its Article 10 states:

” All persons deprived of their liberty shall be treated with humanity….”

The (1984) UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment is explicit in all its provisions. It prohibits torture and degrading treatment of all kinds against anyone for any purpose without exception.

Various other international laws affirm the same thing, including the UN Charter with respect to human rights, 1945 Nuremberg Charter on crimes of war and against humanity, the (1948) Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the (1988) UN Body of Principles for the Protection of All Persons under Any form of Detention or Imprisonment, the UN (1955) Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners, and (1990) UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. So does Article 5 of the International Criminal Court’s (ICC) Rome Statute with regard to crimes of war and against humanity. Torture is such a crime – the gravest of all after genocide.

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