Monday, February 2, 2009

A Short Course in International Humanitarian Law

Here you go, Mr. President.
Read this short, clear and concise article and get a good grounding in International Humanitarian Law...and a better understanding of how Israel behaves and will behave again in the future if we do not all join together to reject it.

International Law
Israeli conduct in its offensive against Gaza has been widely condemned. The president of the United Nations General Assembly has accused Israel of violating international law with its war on Gaza in which over 1300 Palestinians have been killed in three weeks, more than half of them civilians. Israel stands accused of war crimes and the disproportionate and indiscriminate use of force. Even prior to this conflict, the Israeli blockade of Gaza violated international law.
The violations of international law inherent in the Gaza assault have been well documented and include collective punishment, disproportionate military force [and] attacks on civilian targets, including homes, mosques, universities, schools.

Overview of International Humanitarian Law (IHL)
International humanitarian law is a system of legal safeguards that cover the way wars may be fought and the protection of individuals. It protects persons and property that are, or may be, affected by an armed conflict and limits the rights of the warring parties to use methods and means of warfare of their choice. IHL only concerns actions taken during armed conflict and does not deal with whether or not the war itself is just.

International Humanitarian Law exists in both treaty and customary form. The main IHL treaties are the Geneva Conventions and their Additional Protocols, which contain the most important rules limiting the barbarity of war. They protect people who do not take part in the fighting (civilians, medics, aid workers) and those who can no longer fight (wounded, the sick, prisoners of war).

In addition, customary law consists of those rules of war that are recognized as binding by states even when the state is not required by treaty to observe them. For example, many of the rules in the first Additional Protocol, including those about the targeting of civilians, indiscriminate attack, and humane treatment of all prisoners, are agreed to be part of customary law. This means that they are binding on nations even if they have not signed Additional Protocol I.International Law is very clear about the rules of engagement during warfare and Israel has most definitely violated these rules before and during these attacks.

The Laws Governing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict
Israel’s Legal Obligations

As an Occupier: The Fourth Geneva Convention, which protects civilians in time of war or occupation, applies to Israeli actions in the Occupied Territories. In addition, Common Article 3 to the Geneva Conventions and the Additional Protocol II of 1977 is also applicable to internal armed conflict.

Israel disputes the notion that the Gaza Strip remains occupied since it unilaterally withdrew its military forces and settlers in 2005 after decades of occupation. As such, Israel claims it no longer has responsibility over the welfare of the Gazan population. However, rights groups and international legal experts state that Israel retains the position of an occupying power as it exercises “effective” and total control over Gaza’s air and sea space, land borders, its electricity, sewage, and water networks, and frequently carries out armed incursions into the coastal strip. The absence of a full military administration in Gaza does not diminish its responsibility.

The Right to Self-Defense
Israel's attacks on Gaza from Dec 27, 2008 to Jan 17, 2009, have been argued by the Israeli government, and justified by President Bush and his administration to be a war of self defense as permitted by article 51 of UN charter.

This is not self-defense, it is a war of aggression.

First, Israel is an occupying power under international law and cannot in principle invoke the right to self-defense against an armed attack coming from the territory it occupies. The International Court of Justice's advisory opinion on the Wall states that "unless an attack is directed from outside territory under the control of the defending State, the question of self-defense in the sense of Article 51 does not normally arise."

Second, self -defense is an act of last resort and in any case is subject to the customary rules of proportionality and necessity. According to international law, an Occupying Power could, at best, justify reasonable, proportional targeted attacks against Hamas military objects, commensurate with the Qassam rocket attacks. However, the scale and manner of its operations in the Strip reveal it to be a war of aggression, in contravention of international law.

Third, Israel broke the ceasefire by assassinating six Gazans on 4 November 2008, provoking Hamas to fire rockets into Israel in response. Moreover, these rocket attacks by Hamas in terms of scale and effect do not amount to an armed attack that warrants the right to self-defense. Such an armed attack must be characterized by serious violations of the peace.
It is critical to understand that these attacks were not, as Israel claims, in self defense. One must be very careful about contextualizing the recent events. Where the clock starts is crucial to interpreting and understanding the current conflict. For more information on the context preceeding these attacks, please go to 'Setting the Context' the below link.
I suggest you put the above website link in your favorites. It is top notch.

Thanks to:

Dear readers, please forward this helpful post to your concerned friends. It is hard to sort out the facts on this issue unless you make it your lifes work...and who has the time? This article should be very helpful to all who care.

- Terry Allen -

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