January 31, 2008

Winograd washes whiter

The Winograd Commission has produced a "deeply flawed" report on Israel's "2nd Lebanon War". That's the word from Amnesty International under the headline, Israel: Winograd Commission disregards Israeli war crimes. The report on the Amnesty site sets out what the Winograd Commission chose to focus on and effectively accuses the Commission of dishonesty.
it essentially brushed aside available evidence of serious violations of international law, claiming that interpretations of international humanitarian law are controversial, that it did not have the capacity to deal with the volume of data, that the alleged violations were already being investigated by other bodies, and that such allegations are used as propaganda against Israel -- whereas it did scrutinize military strategies and the conduct of certain operations in detail, including in cases which were already being investigated separately.
The report then sets out what the Commission didn't say:
Based on its on-the-ground research and analysis of the conduct of hostilities in 2006, Amnesty International concluded that it was the Lebanese civilian population - not Hizbullah combatants -- who paid the heaviest price of the Israeli army's attacks. Of some 1,190 people killed, the vast majority were civilians not involved in the hostilities, among them hundreds of children. The overwhelming majority of homes, properties and infrastructure targeted in air strikes and artillery attacks were likewise civilian.

Other international human rights and humanitarian organisations and United Nations (UN) bodies that examined the situation reached the same conclusion. In its report of 10 November 2006 the UN Commission of Inquiry concluded that: '... a significant pattern of excessive, indiscriminate and disproportionate use of force by the IDF [Israel Defense Forces] against Lebanese civilians and civilian objects, failing to distinguish civilians from combatants and civilian objects from military targets'. A separate investigation by four UN independent experts also reported in October 2006 that 'Available information strongly indicates that, in many instances, Israel violated its legal obligations to distinguish between military and civilian objectives; to fully apply the principle of proportionality'.

In addition, the launching of hundreds of thousands of cluster bombs, containing an estimated four million cluster sub-munitions (bomblets), in the last few days of the war left a deadly legacy. This is continuing to cause casualties among the civilian population, humanitarian workers, and mine-clearance personnel who put their lives on the line to clear unexploded ordnance.
Can it get worse? Of course it can. This is Israel we're talking about.
The Israeli government's persistent refusal to hand over the cluster bombs strike data and the exact coordinates of the areas into which its forces fired the cluster bombs has made this already painstaking mine-clearance task more deadly and time consuming. To date, 40 people (27 civilians and 13 de-mining personnel) have been killed and 243 have been injured (200 civilians and 34 de-mining personnel) by unexploded ordnance. The United Nation Mine Action Coordination Centre (UN-MACC) has identified more then 900 sites contaminated by unexploded but still lethal remnants of cluster bombs and other ordnance launched by Israeli forces into South Lebanon.
Well after all that it's only right and proper to issue a call to the racist war criminals of Israel and alert the world to their crimes against humanity.
Amnesty International calls on the Israeli government to:
-Provide to the UN-MACC the cluster bombs strike data and the exact coordinates of the areas into which its forces fired cluster bombs.
-Establish an independent and impartial investigation into evidence indicating that its forces committed serious violations of international human rights and humanitarian law during the conflict, including war crimes, and ensure that those responsible are brought to justice.
-Revise its interpretation of the rules and principles relating to the concepts of military objective, military advantage and proportionality, to ensure that its interpretation is fully consistent with international humanitarian law, and that the Israeli military complies fully with the duty to take precautionary measures when carrying out attacks, as well as in defence, and does not carry out attacks as a form of collective punishment.
-Announce a moratorium on the use of all cluster weapons and, in any event, ensure that such weapons are never again used in civilian areas under any circumstances.
To dream the impossible dream. But what's all this about Hizbullah?
The organisation also calls on Hizbullah, whose forces also committed war crimes during the 2006 conflict, to:
-Renounce its unlawful policy of reprisal rocket attacks against the civilian population of Israel and ensure that its fighters comply fully with the need to take precautionary measures in attacks and in defence, including the need to distinguish themselves from non-combatants to the maximum extent possible.
-Ensure that Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev, the two Israeli soldiers captured by Hizbullah fighters on 12 July 2006, are treated humanely at all times and are allowed immediate access to the International Committee of the Red Cross.
Or, put another way, Amnesty gets a lot of donations from America. Keep'em coming folks!

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