Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Amnesty International Issues New Report on Applicable Laws and Accountability in Gaza

Report charges Israel, Hamas with war crimes in Gaza

January 19, 2009 -
Amnesty International has put out a new report titled "The conflict in Gaza: Investigations on applicable law, investigations, and accountability." In the report, Amnesty lays out detailed evidence that Israel committed war crimes in Gaza and issues the following call:

"In some instances Amnesty International has identified violations and abuses of nternational human rights law and international humanitarian law by the parties to the conflict in Gaza. This briefing includes examples of attacks that appear to violate applicable law. In light of this, Amnesty International calls:

(a) for the conduct of hostilities by all parties to be the subject of an international enquiry as laid out in the recommendations at the end of this report. Given the allegations of crimes under international law by members of the Israeli armed forces and members of Hamas, an independent fact finding mission is required to carry out a prompt, thorough, impartial and independent investigation.

(b) where there is sufficient admissible evidence, persons suspected of perpetrating crimes under international law must be prosecuted in proceedings which meet international standards of fairness.

The report determines that Israel is the de facto occupying power in Gaza and is therefore responsible for the welfare of the population. One example of a conclusion in the report is:

Israel’s aerial bombardment, artillery shelling and ground assault have caused extensive destruction of civilian property in the Gaza Strip. In some cases, civilian buildings and homes were deliberately destroyed. It is too early to
assess the full extent of the damage; but satellite images suggest that it is devastating – particularly in areas such as Rafah in the south, and parts of the north and east of the Gaza Strip that had already suffered from illegal house
destruction by Israeli forces on a mass scale prior to the disengagement in 2005.3

According to Article 147 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, “extensive destruction and appropriation of property, not justified by military necessity and carried out unlawfully and wantonly” is a grave breach and hence a war crime.

Another example:

Attacking, destroying, removing or rendering useless objects indispensable to the survival of the civilian population is prohibited (Additional Protocol I, Article 54(2)). The parties to the conflict must allow and facilitate rapid and unimpeded passage of impartial humanitarian relief (Additional Protocol II, Article 18). They must respect and protect medical personnel and their means of transport (Additional Protocol I, Articles 15 and 21). The specific duties of an occupying power in this regard are discussed in section 1.2.3.

Medical personnel attempting to evacuate injured civilians to hospitals have been victims of Israeli attacks. Several ambulances have been hit by direct gunfire and medical personnel have been seriously injured or killed. According
to Physicians for Human Rights - Israel, an attack by helicopter fire on medical personnel on 31 December 2008 left three people dead, including a doctor and medic.

On 8 January 2009 a UN aid convoy was attacked near Erez. The UN said that it had coordinated the convoy’s movements in advance with Israeli officials.

The attack, which killed one UN-contracted employee and injured two others, was one of a series of attacks on relief and medical personnel that led UNRWA and the ICRC to strictly limit their operations in Gaza due to safety concerns.
Wounded adults and children of the Samouni and Daya families in the Zeitoun neighbourhood of Gaza City were left among their dead relatives’ bodies in collapsed houses for four days as the ICRC and Palestine Red Crescent Society
were denied access to the area by the Israeli army from 3 to 7 January 2009.

Of 110 people sheltering in the houses, 30 had been killed. The ICRC said that the Israeli soldiers stationed nearby must have known of the people in the houses but that the wounded died as they waited for medical care due to the
slow negotiations for access.

Intentionally directing attacks against personnel, installations, material, units or vehicles involved in a humanitarian assistance mission in the accordance with the UN Charter is a war crime. Intentionally directing attacks against medical
units and transport, and personnel using the distinctive emblems of the Geneva Conventions in a war crime. Intentionally using starvation of civilians as a method of warfare by depriving them of objects indispensable to their
survival, including wilfully impeding relief supplies as provided for under the Geneva Conventions, is a war crime.

There are many such conclusions in the full report, available at the link.

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