Friday, 5 September 2014

Israel's Operation in Gaza, War Crimes and ICC

What the Media says
Israel’s Operation in Gaza, War Crimes and ICC

Dr. Mozammel Haque

There are mainly three reasons for which Baroness Warsi tendered her resignation, first, i) disproportionate assault on Gaza, ii) head off a referral of Israel to the International Criminal Court, and iii) failure to halt arms sales. Baroness Warsi’s heartfelt attack includes…”particularly the failure to condemn it (Israeli bombardment) as disproportionate, the failure to halt arms sales, and the attempt to head off a referral of. Israel – and Hamas – to the international criminal court,” The Guardian editorially summed up. (The Guardian on 5 August 2014):

Disproportionate assault on Gaza
So far as the Israeli disproportionate assault on Gaza is concerned, there is a clear verdict by the Guardian poll. Nicholas Watt reported in The Guardian on 12 August, 2014: “A majority of British voters believe Israel acted in a disproportionate manner during the recent Gaza conflict, according to the latest Guardian/ICM poll, which lends support to the arguments that persuaded Lady Warsi to resign from the government.” He also mentioned, “The poll found that 52% of voters believe Israel acted disproportionately when it responded to the firing of rockets by Hamas by launching air strikes against the Gaza Strip.”

“The findings will lend weight to the argument of Lady Warsi who resigned last week as a senior Foreign Office minister after criticising David Cameron for his “morally indefensible” failure to describe the Israeli action as disproportionate,” Nicholas Watt reported.

‘Genocide’ in Gaza
“More than 300 Holocaust survivors and their descendants have issued a statement condemning what they call Israel's "genocide" in Gaza. The International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network placed the statement as an advertisement in the New York Times. The advertisement in the New York Times is signed by 40 Holocaust survivors and 287 descendants and other relatives. It calls for the blockade of Gaza to be lifted and Israel to be boycotted. “As Jewish survivors and descendants of survivors and victims of the Nazi genocide we unequivocally condemn the massacre of Palestinians in Gaza and the ongoing occupation and colonization of historic Palestine,” the statement says.(BBC News, 24 August 2014)

The Guardian reported on 23 August 2014, “More than 2,090 Palestinians have been killed since fighting began on 8 July, including around 500 children, and about 100,000 Gazans have been left homeless, according to United Nations figures and Palestinian officials. Israel has lost 64 soldiers and four civilians, including a four-year-old boy killed by a mortar shell on Friday.”

“UN and Palestinian officials say three-quarters of those killed in Gaza have been civilians. On Saturday, an air strike on a house in central Gaza killed two women, two children and a man, according to medics at the Red Crescent. Six strikes also hit a house in the Zeitoun neighbourhood of Gaza, causing severe damage and wounding at least five people, Gaza police said.” (The Guardian, 23 August 2014)

“Aid agencies said a child had been killed every hour on average in the past two days, and there had been a sharp spike in premature births. Gaza officials said more than 3,000 homes had been destroyed or damaged, and 46 schools, 56 mosques, and seven hospitals had been hit. Israel claims that militants fire rockets from and store weapons in civilian buildings.” (Harriet Sherwood from Jerusalem and Ian Black and Paul Lewis from Washington in The Guardian, 23 July, 2014)

Richard Falk and Akbar Ganji wrote, “Israel's 2014 aggression against Gaza launched on July 8 has so far killed more than 2,000 Palestinians, injured nearly 10,181, with 75-80 percent of the casualties being civilians. This massive Israeli military operation has caused more than 660,000 Gazans to be internally displaced, highlighting the denial of any right of Palestinians to leave the combat area throughout the military onslaught that has terrorised the entire population of Gaza.. .In contrast, Israel's losses in this attack have led to 68 Israeli deaths, of whom 65 were soldiers. The casualty disparity and the ratio of military to civilian deaths are significant indicators of how to apportion moral responsibility of the carnage caused. (Richard Falk and Akbar Ganji's essay on Israel's international law violations. Published on Wednesday, 20 August (Al-Jazeera, 20 August 2014)

War Crimes and ICC
Now so far as Baroness Warsi’s second reason is concerned a referral to the International Criminal Court, it appears from the news and reports that from the Secretary General of the United Nations to the Human Rights Organisations and journalists, believed that war crimes may have been committed and it should be referred to the International Criminal Court at Hague.

UN Secretary General
Ban Ki-moon
Ban Ki-moon, the UN Secretary General, said the attack was “outrageous and unjustifiable” and demanded “accountability and justice”. The UN said its officials had repeatedly given details of the school and its refugee population to Israel.

New Statesmen reported, “The most recent attack on an UN-run school in Rafah, a town in the south of the Strip on the border with Egypt, was denounced by Ban Ki-moon, the UN Secretary General, as “a moral outrage and a criminal act”. The attack, he said, was “yet another gross violation of international law.”(New Statesmen)

United Nations officials described the killing of sleeping children as a disgrace to the world and accused Israel of a serious violation of international law after a school in Gaza being used to shelter Palestinian families was shelled on Wednesday. (Harriet Sherwood, The Guardian, 31 July, 2014)

UN top human rights official says
Israel’s military actions as war crimes
“The UN's top human rights official has condemned Israel's military actions in the Gaza Strip, saying that war crimes may have been committed. Navi Pillay told an emergency debate at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva that Israel's military offensive had not done enough to protect civilians. She also condemned Hamas for "indiscriminate attacks" on Israel. (Harriet Sherwood from Jerusalem and Ian Black and Paul Lewis from Washington in The Guardian, 23 July, 2014)

“The UN has said that Israel may have committed war crimes in its offensive against Hamas in Gaza, in which hundreds of Palestinian civilians have been killed in two weeks, and voted to launch an international inquiry. The US opposed the move, and 17 countries abstained.(Harriet Sherwood from Jerusalem and Ian Black and Paul Lewis from Washington in The Guardian, 23 July, 2014) “There seems to be a strong possibility that international law has been violated, in a manner that could amount to war crimes,” Navi Pillay, the UN high commissioner for human rights, said in the debate in Geneva.( Harriet Sherwood from Jerusalem and Ian Black and Paul Lewis from Washington in The Guardian, 23 July, 2014)

“Navi Pillay, the UN’s top human rights official, accused Israel of not doing enough to protect civilians in Gaza and suggested war crimes may have been committed. She also accused Hamas of “indiscriminate attacks” on Israel.” (mentioned by Rory Carroll in her write-up in The Guardian, 11 August 2014)

Pierre Krähenbühl, Commissioner-General
UN Relief & Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees
“Pierre Krähenbühl, Commissioner-General of the UN Agency for Palestinian refugees, (UNRWA), said the shelling of the school was a “serious violation of international law by Israeli forces”. Krähenbühl said: “Last night, children were killed as they slept next to their parents on the floor of a classroom in a UN-designated shelter in Gaza. Children killed in their sleep; this is an affront to all of us, a source of universal shame. Today the world stands disgraced.””(Harriet Sherwood from Jerusalem and Hazem Balousha in Jabaliya in The Guardian, 31 July, 2014)

Arab League
The Arab League chief denounced the “dangerous Israeli escalation” and warned against its humanitarian consequences in Gaza.  “The continued attacks on Palestinian civilians by Israel is a flagrant violation of International humanitarian law, the Geneva Convention and international resolutions on occupied Palestine,” said the Arab League chief.

Demands for International Investigation
“For three weeks, the world has watched war crimes apparently committed by both sides in Gaza: lethal attacks on schools and hospitals, rockets aimed at civilians, tunnels chillingly lined with syringes and ropes; and the dead and dying children. Now the call goes out from politicians and the UN secretary general for “accountability” and “justice”. That should mean a proper forensic investigation with criminal charges against commanders if the evidence warrants, heard in an international criminal court. It is important to understand why this could happen and why it probably will not – and why British diplomats have connived in making Gaza a legal black hole,” reported by Geoffrey Robertson in The Guardian on 1 August 2014.

Tareq Shrourou Director, Lawyers for Palestinian Human Rights, Daniel Machover, Michael Mansfield QC, Professor Bill Bowring, Rachel Waller, Andrea Becker, Charlotte Dollard, Hannah Rought Brooks, Claire Jeffery, Nusrat Uddin, Alicia Araujo Mendonca, Sumiya Hemsi, Laila Hamzi, Geoffrey Bindman QC, Tom Short wrote a letter to The Guardian ( The Guardian, 4 August 2014)  “The ceaseless use of overwhelming military force on Gaza by Israel’s military in complete disregard for any reasonable interpretation of international humanitarian and human rights law is an outrage of unspeakable proportions (Outrage after third strike on Gaza school, 4 August). ( Letter to The Guardian, 4 August 2014)  

“This deliberate and systematic targeting policy is an obscenity against humanity and clearly appears to amount to the Commission of war crimes, and further to crimes against humanity, due to its apparent serious violation of the basic laws of war principles of distinction, proportionality and precaution. A thorough implementation of independent investigation and judicial processes is critically important to provide justice for innocent victims, accountability for grave criminal wrongdoing, and deter the types of atrocities which characterise this terrifyingly cruel conflict from being repeated. ( Letter to The Guardian, 4 August 2014)  

Justice for Gaza war crimes?
“Senior British lawyers have written to the international criminal court (ICC) in The Hague, urging it to investigate "crimes" committed in Gaza, including the destruction of homes, hospitals and schools. The letter was sent by Kirsty Brimelow QC, the chair of the Bar Council's human rights committee, and was signed by a host of senior British barristers and law professors. The authors are all respected QC’s or professors,” reported by Owen Bowcott in The Guardian, 5 August 2014.

Addressed to the ICC prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, it calls on the court to launch a preliminary inquiry into abuses committed during the conflict. "The initiation of an investigation would send a clear and unequivocal message to those involved in the Commission of these crimes that the accountability and justice called for by the United Nations on the part of victims are not hollow watchwords,” the letter states.(Owen Bowcott, The Guardian, 5 August 2014)

“The fatalities include entire families killed in their homes, patients killed in their hospital beds, doctors, paramedics, United Nations humanitarian workers and members of the press … Reports produced by non-governmental organisations following preliminary investigations strongly suggest that crimes within the jurisdiction of the international criminal court have been and are being committed.”

Among the many other signatories are Lady Helena Kennedy QC; Sir Geoffrey Bindman QC; Roy Amlot QC, the former chair of the Bar Council of England and Wales; Prof Bill Bowring of Birkbeck College; Edward Fitzgerald QC and Philippa Kaufman QC. (Owen Bowcott, The Guardian, 5 August 2014)

International Criminal Court (ICC)
Joshua Rozenberg wrote in (7 August 2014): “What are the prospects that those responsible for war crimes in Gaza will be brought to justice? And might the international criminal court (ICC) achieve its ultimate goal by deterring such crimes in the future? On Tuesday, the Bar Human Rights Committee urged the ICC prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, to initiate a preliminary investigation into crimes being committed in the Gaza Strip”. The committee published a letter signed by 20 leading practitioners and academics calling on Bensouda to investigate crimes committed "within the jurisdiction of the ICC".

Amal Alamuddin chosen for the
UN’s three-member Commission of Inquiry
The UN’s Geneva-based Human Rights Council announced on Monday that a British Lebanese human rights lawyer, Amal Alamuddin, would serve on the UN’s three-member Commission of inquiry looking into possible violations of the rules of war in Gaza during the Israeli offensive against Hamas. Alamuddin is a London-based international law specialist and former legal adviser to the prosecutor of the special tribunal for Lebanon. The UN’s top human rights body says she will serve alongside Doudou Diene of Senegal, a lawyer who has filled UN posts on racism and human rights in Ivory Coast, and Canada’s William Schabas, an international law professor at Middlesex University in London, who will chair the commission. (Reported in The Guardian, 11 August 2014)

“Amal Alamuddin, the British-Lebanese human rights lawyer who is engaged to George Clooney, has turned down a United Nations offer to investigate war crimes in Gaza. But hours later Clooney’s Hollywood agent, Stan Rosenfield, issued a statement on Alamuddin’s behalf saying she had declined the post because she was too busy. “I am horrified by the situation in the occupied Gaza Strip, particularly the civilian casualties that have been caused, and strongly believe that there should be an independent investigation and accountability for crimes that have been committed,” said the statement.” (Reported by Rory Carroll from Los Angeles in The Guardian, 11 August 2014)

Commenting on the turn down of the UN offer by Amal Alamuddin, Rory Carroll observed, “Hollywood, which has close ties to Israel, has remained largely mute on Gaza. The few who have criticised Israel, such as Penelope Cruz, Javier Bardem and Rihanna, have been strongly rebuked by other celebrities, prompting several to backtrack. Sam Asi, a Hollywood-based Palestinian reporter for the BBC and UK Screen, contrasted the reticence over Gaza with the Arab spring, when artists condemned oppressive regimes.” (The Guardian, 11 August 2014)

ICC under Western Pressure
“The International Criminal Court has persistently avoided opening an investigation into alleged war crimes in Gaza as a result of US and other western pressure, former court officials and lawyers claim. In recent days, a potential ICC investigation into the actions of both the Israel Defence Forces and Hamas in Gaza has become a fraught political battlefield and a key negotiating issue at ceasefire talks in Cairo. But the question of whether the ICC could or should mount an investigation has also divided the Hague-based court itself. (Reported by Julian Borger in The Guardian, 18 August 2014.)

Julian Borger also mentioned, “Dugard said Bensouda was under heavy pressure from the US and its European allies. “For her it's a hard choice and she's not prepared to make it,” he argued. “But this affects the credibility of the ICC. Africans complain that she doesn't hesitate to open an investigation on their continent.”

Julian Borger also mentioned about a book, Rough Justice: the International Criminal Court in a World of Power Politics, written by David Bosco. He said, “According to this book, the Americans suggested that a Palestine investigation  “might be too much political weight for the institution to bear. They made clear that proceeding with the case would be a major blow to the institution.”

“Although the US does not provide funding for the ICC, “Washington's enormous diplomatic, economic and military power can be a huge boon for the court when it periodically deployed in support of the court's work,” writes Bosco, an assistant professor of international politics at American University. In his book, Bosco reports that Israeli officials held several unpublicised meetings with Moreno Ocampo in The Hague, including a dinner at the Israeli ambassador's residence, to lobby against an investigation.( Reported by Julian Borger in The Guardian, 18 August 2014.)

A former ICC official who was involved in the Palestinian dossier said: “It was clear from the beginning that Moreno Ocampo did not want to get involved. He said that the Palestinians were not really willing to launch the investigation, but it was clear they were serious. They sent a delegation with two ministers and supporting lawyers in August 2010 who stayed for two days to discuss their request. But Moreno Ocampo was aware that any involvement would spoil his efforts to get closer to the US.” (Reported by Julian Borger in The Guardian, 18 August 2014.)

Julian Borger also mentioned, “Among the biggest contributors to the ICC budget are the UK and France, which have both sought to persuade the Palestinians to forego a war crimes investigation.”

Professor Richard Falk and Akbar Ganji jointly wrote an essay on Israel’s international law violations, published in Al-Jazeera, on Wednesday, 20 August, 2014. The second part was published in Al-Jazeera, on Thursday, 21 August, 2014. Richard Falk, an Albert G Milbank Professor Emeritus of International Law at Princeton University and Research Fellow, Orfalea Centre of Global Studies. He is also Former UN Special Rapporteur on Palestinian human rights. Akbar Ganji is one of Iran’s leading political dissidents and has received over a dozen human rights awards for his awards.

Professor Robert Falk and Akbar Ganji wrote: “Among the many UNSC resolutions that seek to criticise or condemn Israel for its actions against the Palestinians, almost all have been vetoed by the US. In fact, the US government opposes virtually every resolution approved by any UN organ, including UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC), if it is deemed to be critical of Israel, and this includes even initiatives to establish fact-finding Commission of inquiry to determine whether charges of war crimes are well-founded.”(Al-Jazeera)

“When Israel attacks the defenceless and completely vulnerable Palestinian people, the US justifies such high-intensity and disproportionate violence as "self-defence", obstructs the issuance of a UN call for an immediate ceasefire, and gives diplomatic and material aid and comfort to Israeli aggression from start to finish,” they maintained. (Al-Jazeera).

Professor Falk and Mr. Ganji also said, “After the fact-finding "Goldstone Report" on Israel war crimes in Gaza in 2008-2009 was approved by UNHRC, the US and Israel successfully intervened with the Secretary General to prompt him to urge the non-implementation of the report in relation to Israeli accountability for war crimes. The US government also used its Leverage to prevent even the discussion of this important report in the UNSC. When recently, the UNHRC approved a resolution to investigate Israel's war crimes in Gaza, the US cast the only negative vote.”(Al-Jazeera)
27 August 2014

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