Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Israel may face UN court ruling on legality of Gaza conflict.

The UN is to consider seeking an advisory opinion from the International Court of Human Justice on the legality of Israel's attack on Gaza. The ICJ has already given the opinion that the wall Israel built was a violation of it's obligations under international law, an opinion which the Israelis simply dismissed.

But there is a strong case to be made that Israel is in serious violation of international law with her current attacks.

"There is a well-grounded view that both the initial attacks on Gaza and the tactics being used by Israel are serious violations of the UN charter, the Geneva conventions, international law and international humanitarian law," said Richard Falk, the UN's special rapporteur on the Palestinian territories and professor emeritus of international law at Princeton University.

"There is a consensus among independent legal experts that Israel is an occupying power and is therefore bound by the duties set out in the fourth Geneva convention," Falk added. "The arguments that Israel's blockade is a form of prohibited collective punishment, and that it is in breach of its duty to ensure the population has sufficient food and healthcare as the occupying power, are very strong."

Israel is, of course, arguing that she is no longer an occupying power in Gaza and claims that she left the territories in 2005. But, as she continues to control the borders, the air space, and what goes in and out of the area, it is very hard to take Israel's claims seriously. She is clearly still in charge of what happens in the Gaza strip, as her blockade of that area makes abundantly clear.

And it is that blockade which many of us think violates international law.

Collective punishment is illegal and the blockade on Gaza is a form of collective punishment.

"The blockade of humanitarian relief, the destruction of civilian infrastructure, and preventing access to basic necessities such as food and fuel are prima facie war crimes," a group of leading QCs and academics, including Michael Mansfield QC and Sir Geoffrey Bindman, wrote in a letter to the Sunday Times.

One can only hope that Barack Obama takes international law more seriously than the man he is replacing, as we are all used to Israel - and the previous American administration - treating international law as if it were something which can be ignored.

If Obama recognises that serious violations have taken place, and if he decides not to veto any condemnation of Israel's behaviour, then Israel will have no choice other than to take these accusations seriously.

In the dying days of the Bush administration Israel acts as if world opinion can be safely ignored as she is guaranteed the backing of the world's superpower. The UN will only have teeth if Obama signals that he intends to make sure that it's findings are adhered to.

We won't know anything until Obama comes to power and actually starts to make decisions, but there are many of us who hope that he is going to, at last, act as an honest broker in this dispute rather than as the person holding Israel's coat whilst she violates international law and batters a people without an army, navy or air force.

I am sick of watching war crimes on my television, I am sick of hearing the pathetic justifications for what I am seeing, the attempt to pass the blame on to the people being bombed.

Ninety per cent of the targets attacked are civilian. Of nearly 900 confirmed dead, 32% are children. More than 40% of the 4,000 wounded are children, while medical centres and 13 ambulances have been destroyed.

And the stories coming out of Gaza are simply getting worse by the day:
At least three Palestinians in Gaza were shot dead yesterday after Israeli soldiers fired on a group of residents leaving their homes on orders from the military and waving white flags, according to testimony taken by the Israeli human rights group B'Tselem.
The Israelis, of course, denied this after "a preliminary investigation" but we are used to Israel issuing such denials only to later have to admit that they were true.

What is taking place in Gaza is simply a disgrace. But only Obama will be able to force Israel to take international law seriously. And only time will tell whether or not he is willing to do so.

Click title for full article.


Al Talena said...

1. Blockade, control of borders?
Israel emposed closed crossings when Hamass first started firing rockest before & during the cease fire. Are you saying that Israel should have sent in troops instead?
2. Collective punishment?
On one hand, you say that Hamass is the elected gov't of Gaza. Then, you say Gazans are being punished for the actions of one group? Which way is it.?
3. Civilian casualties?
a. You keep reporting Hamass dead as if they are civilians.
4. Hamass violations of international law:
It hides in urban areas,
it cares little about the Gazans as it hopes they will be killed for propoganda purposes,
it fires rockets from schools,
it is using a hospital as a command center,
it wears civilian clothes to blend into the population.
it fires rockets at Israeli civilians as a form of terrorism & collective puinishment.
Oh, your not concerned about these violations.
Are you getting $ from the Hamass Ministry of Propoganda?

Kel said...

1. Israel has been blockading the Palestinians for eighteen months for daring to elect Hamas. And she continued the blockade all through the ceasefire allowing only about 20% of the usual amount of food through.

And no, I am not saying Israel should have sent in ground troops, I am saying she should have agreed to end the blockade and Hamas would have agreed to a new ceasfire. The blockade - and Israel's refusal to lift it - was why the ceasefire was allowed to expire.

2. It is collective punishment to starve the Palestinians in an attempt to get them to overthrow Hamas. It is certainly collective punishment to rain bombs down on Palestinian towns and cities when more than 25% of the people killed by these bombs are innocents. That's more than one in four and it's a disgraceful figure which utterly undermines Israel's claims to be doing it's best to avoid civilian casualties.

And, when you raise my saying that Hamas are the elected representatives of the Palestinian people, are you saying that because they elected Hamas that they somehow deserve what is being done to them? That's awfully near to bin Laden's logic if that is seriously the point which you are making.

3. I have never claimed that all the dead are innocents but it is reported that up to 25% of them are women and children.

4. The IRA could also have had similar charges laid against them when they were blowing up British cities, whilst hiding amongst the civilian population. I don't remember us bombing Belfast and can only imagine the outrage were we to have done to Northern Ireland what Israel is currently doing to the Gaza strip.