Following a request by the United Nations General Assembly, Secretary-General Kofi Annan today released a report on the events surrounding the Israeli military incursions earlier this year into the West Bank town of Jenin and other Palestinian cities.
Unfortunately, this disappointing report fails to provide the full context, does not geographically cover all Palestinian cities, omits vital information and fails to make sound conclusions and meaningful recommendations. LAW believes that the UN has failed to discharge its
obligations to adequately assess and determine the facts from all evidence available and to provide meaningful recommendations.
The report provides false legitimacy to Israeli claims that its military actions were only acts of ‘self defence’, designed to ‘defeat the Palestinian terror infrastructure’. Kofi Annan’s report does so in part by ignoring the context, namely Israel’s on going ‘illegal occupation’, a
term which Kofi Annan himself introduced on March 12, referring to the illegal basis on which the occupation has been used to further Israel’s annexation policies and settlement activities. Israel’s military actions have instead furthered its underlying annexationist designs, as more
recently evidenced by its current physical, direct re-occupation of the entire West Bank and Gaza Strip.
Moreover, the report uses the term ‘terrorism’ and ‘terrorists’ without definition, and only in reference to acts committed by Palestinians, but fails to address the issue of Israeli state acts designed to spread terror among the civilian Palestinian population, namely state terrorism.
In spite of the large body of evidence provided to the UNSG’s office and conclusions drawn by international agencies, the report fails to conclude that Israel has committed or potentially committed grave breaches of the Fourth Geneva Convention and other war crimes, even though the report refers to ‘allegations’ of unlawful killings, the use of human shields, disproportionate use of force, arbitrary arrests and torture and denial of medical treatment and access.
A Human Rights Watch report of May 2002, concluded that ‘Israeli forces committed serious violations of international humanitarian law, some amounting prima facie to war crimes’ and a recent report of Amnesty International (July 2002) refers to Israeli grave breaches of the Fourth Geneva Convention i.e. war crimes, and crimes against humanity.
The report was meant to cover events in Jenin and other key Palestinian Cities. However, most of the report covers events in Jenin alone, with some limited references to events in Nablus, Ramallah and Bethlehem, and fails altogether to investigate events in Hebron, Tulkarem, Qalqiliya, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip. LAW, the Palestinian Center for Human Rights in Gaza (PCHR) and Adalah have provided Kofi Annan with a report summarizing violations in all these key cities.
LAW takes issue with a number of the detailed conclusions. For instance, although the report refers to attacks on Palestinian Authority civilian infrastructure and ‘military targets’, it completely ignored evidence provided of deliberate targeting of offices of non-governmental
organizations, including human rights organizations, media offices, civilians in civilian areas outside battle areas, and the deliberate physical destruction of other key civilian infrastructure such as water, electricity and telephone lines; all of which belies Israeli claims that it was only seeking to ‘root out terror bases’.
The report refers to Israeli claims that approximately 11,000 inhabitants of Jenin refugee camp were allowed to ‘depart voluntarily’, when the Israeli army first surrounded the camp. However, as Kofi Annan was informed by LAW and others, the Israeli government acknowledged in its
own state response to three High Court petitions (HC 3114/02, 3115/02, 3116/02) submitted by LAW and others to stop the removal of dead bodies from Jenin refugee camp, that ‘up to the evening of April 7th 2002, hardly anyone had left the camp, and then around 100 people left’.
By the state’s own admission, the vast majority of residents remained in Jenin refugee camp during the aerial and ground assaults and bombardments in the first few days of the invasion.
Furthermore, the report appears to accept various Israeli allegations which have not been confirmed by independent military experts as far as LAW is aware, including allegations that Palestinian groups would have ‘widely booby-trapped civilian homes’ and laid ‘booby traps’, (as defined by military experts).
The report fails to refer to key recommendations, as made by LAW, PCHR and Adalah, that LAW believes remain vital to determining the true facts of events in Jenin refugee camp. For example, to deploy further UN staff and other resources to assist the existing agencies in conducting a proper, independent investigation by documenting evidence, such as of any
remaining body parts from rubble in Jenin refugee camp before the site is cleared, and seeking to locate all families and individuals registered within the Jenin refugee camp, city and surrounding villages to ensure all individuals are accounted for.
An important failure of the report is the lack of concrete measures to ensure respect of the Fourth Geneva Concention to prevent further deterioration of the human rights situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. In its observations, the report does not refer to the
absence of a multi-national protection force, which could have saved the lives and would still save the lives of civilians within the Occupied Palestinian Territories.
In the light of this report and the current deteriorating situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, LAW urges the UN General Secretary to consider a potential UN-led force to be sent through the UN General Assembly, and to recall the first peacekeeping mission sent to the Middle
East by the UNGA in 1956 when the UN Security Council failed to adhere to its responsibility in protecting the interests of regional and world peace and security matters. LAW believes that a proper investigating UN body must still be established to investigate, search for, and prosecute
any state actors found responsible for perpetrating grave breaches and other war crimes and crimes against humanity against Palestinian civilians.
LAW - The Palestinian Society for the Protection of Human Rights and the Environment, PO Box 20873, Jerusalem, tel. +972-2-5833530, fax. +972-2-5833317, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org, web: www.lawsociety.org