Sunday, July 23, 2006

War Crimes, somebody is saying War Crimes!

/ the rape of Lebanon /
At last an international body not afraid to speak its mind. The International Commission of Jurists seems to not have lost the ability to call a war crime a war crime, when it's happening. They are among the few international bodies that are "extremely concerned by the apathy of the international community and the inactivity of key governments toward the ongoing Israeli military actions in Lebanon as well as in Gaza" and they point out that:
For the past eight days and nights, the Israeli air forces have destroyed countless civilian buildings, infrastructure and means of transportation in operations that have killed more 300 people - most of them civilians - and wrecked havoc on Lebanese cities, harbours, airports and other infrastructure, leading to the displacement of more than half a million people. Appalled by the impact of the ruthless military operations, the ICJ recalls that Israel has to unconditionally respect the lives and security of civilians and abide by the Geneva Conventions to which it is a party. Under the law of war, intentional attacks against the civilian population as such or against civilians not taking direct part in hostilities, as well as the extensive destruction of property not justified by military necessity, constitute war crimes. The wanton destruction of the Beirut airport and civilian aircrafts are blatant examples of these destructions. Similarly, the bombing of undefended towns, villages and dwellings that are not military objectives, as well as the intentional attacks that will knowingly cause incidental loss of life or injury to civilians also constitute war crimes for which individuals can be held criminally responsible.

"While Israel has a legitimate right to defend itself against hostage-taking and the launching of rockets by the Hezbollah over Israeli territory, this right is not unlimited and is subject to the restrictions of international law," said Mr Andreu-Guzman. "Indeed, the disproportionate and indiscriminate reactions of the Israeli military are reprisals against the civilian population and thus amount to collective punishment. Collective punishments constitute a war crime under international law", added Mr Andreu-Guzman...

On a similar vein UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour, to her credit, noted that:

"Indiscriminate shelling of cities constitutes a foreseeable and unacceptable targeting of civilians,"...

"Similarly, the bombardment of sites with alleged military significance, but resulting invariably in the killing of innocent civilians, is unjustifiable."

Ms Arbour expressed "grave concern over the continued killing and maiming of civilians in Lebanon, Israel and the occupied Palestinian territory".

Without pointing to specific individuals, she suggested that leaders could bear personal responsibility.

"I do believe that on the basis of evidence that is available in the public domain there are very serious concerns that the level of civilian casualties, the indiscriminate shelling of cities and so on, on their face raise sufficient questions that I think one must issue a sobering signal to those who are behind these initiatives to examine very closely their personal exposure," she told the BBC.

As to the use of disproportionate force, Israel's ambassador to the UN pretty much conceded that point, when he said:

Referring to complaints that Israel was using disproportionate force, Dan Gillerman, IsraelÂ’s United Nations ambassador, said at a rally of supporters in New York this week, "“You'’re damn right we are."”

"“If your cities were shelled the way ours were,"” he said, addressing critics, "“you would use much more force than we are or we ever will."

Anyway the sad reluctance around the world to state anything that might actually challenge Israel's right indiscriminately whoever and whatever it wants and cause (until now) more than 300 deaths of civilians and more refugees per capita than the Yugoslav wars, is becoming really worrying. Zapatero seems to be the only European leader to manage to actually condemn Israel's actions and demand that they cease - good for him.

[As I write this I see that Jon Egeland, the UN's emergency relief chief has also said that the "disproportionate response" by Israel was a "violation of international humanitarian law"]

Let me add that the whole idea that by bombing Lebanon back to the stone age, Israel will be safer, is idiotic. Similarly idiotic is the idea that Hezbollah can be removed from Lebanon - in fact the recent events make it quite likely that Hezbollah will emerge from this round of events stronger - as pointed out be no less a figure than Lebanese President Fuad Siniora:

"...the criminal Israeli bombardments must stop immediately. Israelis are bombing civilians and this increases Hezbollah's popularity, even among people who would not normally support it..."

Add to this the fact that it doesn't seem at all likely that by shelling apartment buildings, refugee convoys and airports any serious blow against Hezbollah is being struck, and one is left wondering... what is this ongoing massacre really about?

1 comment:

cosmix said...

Well, the problem *is* the international community and has been all along: by allowing Israel to acquire the role and force it has in the region, by not finalising the 1947 Partition Plan, which after the expiration of the British Mandate could have gone ahead, albeit with some changes, or perhaps concessions to the Palæstinians; by not establishing a considerable peacekeeping force in the region ensuring both the security of Israel as well as that of the Palæstinians.

I am not suprised to see most international bodies cowering, to protect their interests. The UN, esp. considering the operational framework of the Security Council, is not really an international organisation/body; it is a thinly veiled vehicle for moral and political support of U.S. policy. Although the latter has proven time and again that it doesn't really need (or necessarily want) its support.

Now, as far as the EU is concerned: let's stop fooling ourselves. The EU, as a bloc, is powerless, lacking both the economic and military power it would require to dictate terms to Israel. Zapatero's words don't matter. Along with Zapatero, many EU government officials from most countries in the Union have expressed their condemnation of the Israeli operations, but most 'demands' for cessation of those operations are completely void of any credibility. Zapatero's España, and the EU as a whole, cannot and will not ever interfere as long as the current global political and military environment perpetuates.

But the attrocities continue, and -- as usual -- it is, unfortunately, the States that will be called (forced?) to take some action to stop them.