Human Rights Watch

Rights org: Cutting Gaza electricity and fuel is collective punishment

New York, 29 October - Israel’s decision to limit fuel and electricity to the Gaza Strip in retaliation for unlawful rocket attacks by armed groups amounts to collective punishment against the civilian population of Gaza, in violation of international law, and will worsen the humanitarian crisis there, Human Rights Watch said today. “Israel may respond to rocket attacks by armed groups to protect its population, but only in lawful ways,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, director of Human Rights Watch’s Middle East division. 

Rights group: End abuse of Palestinians fleeing refugee camp

The Lebanese army and internal security forces have arbitrarily detained and physically abused some Palestinian men fleeing the fighting in Nahr al-Bared refugee camp, Human Rights Watch said today. Since Sunday, more than 340 civilians have fled the camp in northern Lebanon, where fighting between the Lebanese army and the armed group Fatah al-Islam has entered its fourth week. The Lebanese army is interrogating many of the men as they leave the camp, and detaining those suspected of supporting or having information about Fatah al-Islam. 

Human Rights Watch: Fighting at Refugee Camp Kills Civilians

The number of civilians killed in the fighting remains unknown, as the Lebanese authorities are restricting access due to the ongoing fighting. Health personnel who have gained access to the camp have focused on evacuating the wounded. A Lebanese Red Cross official told Human Rights Watch that the organization transferred at least 57 wounded from the camp to hospitals in the last 48 hours of fighting, including 40 on Tuesday. According to Reuters, at least 27 civilians have been killed since Sunday, as well as 22 militants and 32 soldiers. 

HRW Calls for Lifting of Travel Ban on Human Rights Defender

The Israeli authorities should immediately lift a travel ban on Shawan Jabarin, the general director of the Palestinian human rights organization Al-Haq, a group of leading international human rights organizations said today. Jabarin was unable to attend the annual Congress of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) in Lisbon on April 19, 2007 because Israeli authorities would not allow him to leave the occupied West Bank. 

HRW: "Israel: Stop forcing civilians to assist military operations"

The Israeli army should immediately cease deliberately endangering Palestinian civilians by forcing them to assist military operations, Human Rights Watch said today. During recent military operations in the Old City of Nablus, Israeli soldiers forced at least three Palestinians at gun point, two of them children, to assist in searching apartments for suspects. International humanitarian law prohibits a party to a conflict from using the civilian population or individual civilians in order to attempt to shield military operations. “The soldiers’ actions fly in the face of the Geneva Conventions, an Israeli high court decision, and the IDF’s own prior commitments,”said Joe Saunders. 

HRW calls on Syria to open border to Palestinian refugees fleeing Iraq

Syria should immediately reopen its border to Iraqi Palestinian refugees fleeing deadly attacks against their community, Human Rights Watch said today. Human Rights Watch called on the international community, and the United States in particular, to provide financial assistance to Syria to help it host the Palestinian refugees, and to share the burden of this refugee problem by offering third-country resettlement opportunities to Palestinian refugees in Syria.
Since the fall of Saddam Hussein’s government, Palestinian refugees in Iraq have increasingly become targets of violence and persecution, with abductions of scores of Palestinian men in the past week. 

HRW: US should cut off cluster-bomb sales to Israel

Preliminary US government findings that Israel violated agreements with the United States by its use of cluster munitions in Lebanon last summer should lead to an immediate cutoff of all US cluster munitions sales to Israel, Human Rights Watch said today.The Bush administration is expected to report to Congress today on a State Department investigation into the use of US-made cluster munitions by Israel. Demining groups estimate that Israel used cluster munitions containing some 2.6 to 4 million submunitions in Lebanon, the majority of which were produced in the United States. 

Civilians must not be used to shield homes against military attacks

Palestinian armed groups must not endanger Palestinian civilians by encouraging them to gather in and around suspected militants’ homes targeted by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), Human Rights Watch said today. Calling civilians to a location that the opposing side has identified for attack is at worst human shielding, at best failing to take all feasible precautions to protect civilians from the effects of attack. Both are violations of international humanitarian law. According to media reports, on Saturday the IDF warned Mohammedweil Baroud, a commander in the Popular Resistance Committees, to leave his home in the Jabaliya refugee camp as they planned to destroy it. 

HRW retracts statement about "human shields"

16 December - We regret that our press release below (“OPT: Civilians Must Not Be Used to Shield Homes Against Military Attacks”) gave many readers the impression that we were criticizing civilians for engaging in nonviolent resistance. This was not our intention. It is not the policy of the organization to criticize non-violent resistance or any other form of peaceful protest, including civilians defending their homes. Rather, our focus is on the behavior of public officials and military commanders because they have responsibilities under international law to protect civilians. 

HRW: IDF probe no substitute for real investigation

The Israel Defense Forces’ internal inquiry into its artillery shelling of Beit Hanoun, which killed 19 Palestinian civilians and left dozens injured in northern Gaza, failed to address the key questions of whether the attack was a violation of international law and who should be held accountable for the lethal fire, Human Rights Watch said today. The Israeli government should immediately conduct a comprehensive independent investigation to establish these issues. “The IDF’s internal probe suggests that the Beit Hanoun tragedy can be chalked up to an errant volley of shells,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, director of the Middle East and North Africa Division of Human Rights Watch.