Archive for the 'International Humanitarian Law' Category

UN Committee on Rights of the Child Evaluates Israel

The Committee on the Rights of the Child today evaluated Israel’s record on children’s rights.

Israel’s delegation was headed by Mr. Daniel Taub, the Senior Deputy Legal Advisor of Israel’s Foreign Ministry. It also included Mrs. Simona Halperin, Director of the International Organizations and Human Rights Department at the Foreign Ministry; Mrs. Hila Gilad Tenne, Director of the Department for International Agreements and Litigation of the Ministry of Justice; and Mr. Harel Weinberg, legal advisor of the Ministry of Defense.

The Committee questioned the panel on military recruitment policies, the situation of children in Gaza, the West Bank and the Golan, and on Operation Cast Lead. Committee member Ms. Hadeel Al-Asmar of Syria asked, “Do you actually systematically collect data on the impact on children of armed conflict?” She expressed “regret” and “deep concern” that the report “only provide[s] details on Israeli children, not on the children in the Occupied Palestinian Territories who are so deeply affected by hostilities.”

Israel said that that every day Israeli children are victimized by Hamas rocket attacks that deliberately target civilians. Taub added that the death of any child, Israeli or Palestinian is a tragedy, and that Israel “strives constantly to develop solutions to difficult humanitarian questions.” He emphasized that it is an “unfortunate fact that a large number of youngsters are involved in terrorist activities. The age of suicide-bombers has dropped, and, due to their small size, children are used to build tunnels.”

The Committee consistently interrupted the panel with questions about Israel’s treatment of Palestinian children. The Israeli delegation noted Hamas’s record of protecting child rights, including teaching terrorist ideology, enrolling children in terrorist training camps, and using children as human shields.

The Committee repeatedly questioned the delegation on conscription of minors into the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF), in spite of Halperin’s assertion that “voluntary recruits under the age of eighteen cannot take part in combat duty. Only those trained in combat can take part in combat, and in no way can a person under eighteen be trained in combat.”

Furthermore, in response to the Committee’s allegations that the IDF employed human shields during Operation Cast Lead, the panel emphasized that “all IDF personnel receive training in human rights and international humanitarian law and are expressly prohibited from using civilians as human shields or directly involving them in operations in any way.”

Though the Committee members were charged only with evaluating Israel’s record of protecting and promoting children’s rights, commitee member Rosa Maria Ortiz of Paraguay asked, “If this is true, that all IDF soldiers receive human rights training, how do you explain your actions in Operation Cast Lead?”

Taub replied that Israel seeks constantly to find solutions to the toughest humanitarian questions, that it aims to protect civilian life at almost any cost, and that, most of all, it strives for peace in the region, so that children today, and in the future, no longer have to fear for their lives.

Israel approves Palestinian-run ambulances in Jerusalem

Last-minute Israeli approval to the operation of Palestinian ambulance teams in Arab-populated areas of eastern Jerusalem prevented a rocky conclusion to an international Red Cross and Red Crescent conference that wrapped up today in Geneva. The ambulances are staffed by the Palestinian Red Crescent Society (PRCS) but bear Israeli license plates and are subject to Israeli health regulation.

Delegates from national governments and relief societies adopted a consensual resolution expressing “concern” over the implementation of a ground-breaking 2005 memorandum of understanding between the PRCS and its Israeli counterpart, the Magen David Adom, which deals with Palestinian ambulances in Jerusalem and Israeli ambulances operating in the West Bank. Agreement today between Israeli and Palestinian delegates prevented a much harsher text from being introduced by Arab states, which would have sought to condemn Israel in tones similar to those common in many UN bodies.

In his speech to the plenary, the head of the Palestinian society announced it had received guarantees to operate ambulances in eastern Jerusalem, and that an hour and a half later they were operating. The PRCS called on Israel to embrace the cooperation between the two relief societies, “a genuine example of peace-building in the region.”

The Magen David Adom said that the PRCS is the first Palestinian legal entity to operate in Jerusalem with the agreement of Israel, and that it wanted to open relations with the Lebanese and the Syrian societies as well.

The Palestinian government’s representative praised the spirit of the Annapolis peace conference and thanked Israel and its national society for their efforts toward the full implementation of the 2005 cooperation agreement.

The Union of the Arab Red Crescent Societies called for “an end to the suffering of the Palestinian people,” and asked for measures similar to the Israel-Palestinian memorandum be extended to the Golan.

The head of the U.S. delegation, John B. Bellinger, welcomed the resolution and said that the U.S. was committed to results on the ground. The American Red Cross said it was impressed by the cooperation between the two societies offered their good offices for the future.

Pakistan, on behalf of the Islamic group of states, called the consensual adoption of the resolution a “historic moment,” and they appreciated Israel’s resolve to support consensus.

Israel said this was the first Red Cross conference where the Magen David Adom participated as a full member. Israel was committed to continue facilitating the arrangements and today the ambulances were in operation. On the occasion of the 60th anniversary of the UN General Assembly vote to establish a Jewish and an Arab state in Palestine, Israeli Ambassador Isaac Levanon said that they “are still waiting for that vision of the two states to become a reality.”

Egypt on behalf of the African Group urged the Israeli authorities to fully implement the 2005 memorandum. Iraq on behalf of the Arab group said that promises had been made to Syria and Lebanon on humanitarian needs.

Dr. Jakob Kellenberger of the International Committee of the Red Cross paid tribute to “the courage” of the Israeli and Palestinian societies, and said his organization would continue to push for the full implementation of the 2005 agreement.

Arab states at Red Cross conference seek to censure Israel and Magen David Adom

At the 30th International Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent now underway in Geneva, the Arab states are seeking to condemn Israel for “inhumane practices,” “the lack of commitment demonstrated by the Israeli authorities to the principles of international humanitarian law,” alleging that Israel’s relief society is not complying with a recent agreement signed with its Palestinian counterpart.  (See two draft resolutions below.)

One of the draft resolutions cites a new report, authored by former Finnish Prime Minister Mr. Par Stenback, as alleged proof that the Israeli authorities and the Magen David Adom, Israel’s humanitarian society, are not cooperating with the Red Cross Movement or respecting their prior commitments.

The Stenback report itself, however, says no such thing. While shortcomings are identified, Mr. Stenback describes the cooperation between the MDA and the Palestinian Red Crescent in several fields as “exemplary of how sister Societies can and should co-operate.” Mr. Stenback also recognizes the good will shown by the Israeli authorities, stating that “interventions by the Prime Minister’s office have facilitated the process by giving the political directives needed in order to resolve a number of bureaucratic issues.”

It is unfortunate that the Arab relief societies have chosen to drag atavistic politics into the Red Cross Movement, a forum dedicated to the principle of humanitarian cooperation. The danger is real that, if the censure is adopted, the resort to partisan point-scoring might upset the fragile new relationship that the Steinback report seeks to protect and cultivate.

Related texts from this week’s conference:

Red Cross course for Gaza hooded terrorists: Israeli “targets they can attack”

The International Committee of the Red Cross is now teaching terrorist groups in Gaza about the finer points of international humanitarian law, which concerns the protection of civilians during war. Since the main fighting method of organizations like Hamas and Islamic Jihad is the intentional, mass murder of civilians — by suicide bombers heading for martyrs’ paradise — one wonders what it is precisely that the good people of the ICRC hope to accomplish here. 

The BBC writes about the story here. But the must-see report is an Al Jazeera video — which could easily be mistaken for a clip from Comedy Central — where hooded terrorists gather in a classroom with colored markers to debate international law and rights.

What exactly are they learning, though?

Iyad Nasr, ICRC spokesman, is quoted on the video as saying, “We’d like these armed guys to understand the civilian population, the target, the military targets that they can attack, and the ones they cannot attack.” The reporter tells how the fighters were “absorbing what was sometimes surprising new information, learning that the armed resistance they engage in is a right the law guarantees them.” 

“I have rights,” exclaims one hooded fighter. “Who knew?”

While it is true that under the highly controversial 1977 Protocol I Additional to the Geneva Conventions (never ratified by the U.S.) “organized armed groups” are accorded prisoner of war treatment, there is absolutely nothing in international law that condones armed aggression, by state or non-state actors, against civilian or military personnel.

Was the ICRC suggesting that certain Hamas attacks, like the one in June 2006 that killed or wounded five Israeli soldiers (including the captive Gilad Shalit), are not illegal?

Mr. Nasr and the ICRC would do well to clarify what it is exactly that they are teaching.

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