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Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Kofi Annan Condemns 'Targeted Assassinations'

With thousands of people being ethnically cleansed in the Sudan every day, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan is concerned with Israel killing terrorist leaders without trials in 'targeted assassinations.'

Secretary-General Annan yesterday criticized one of the most potent weapons in the war against terrorism, saying he "has noted with concern" a spate of targeted killings by Israel in Gaza and the West Bank. Mr. Annan's statement came after acting Prime Minister Olmert reportedly instructed the army to escalate its anti-terror campaign amidst renewed Palestinian Arab attacks.

The criticism of Israel's targeted killings, which are considered instrumental to its success in reducing terrorist attacks in recent years, highlighted an ongoing debate about the application of international treaties to the war against terrorism. While Mr. Annan calls for countries to apply civil law to terrorists, Israel, as well as the Bush administration, sees them as dangerous combatants.

At Eye on the UN, Anne Bayefsky comments:

Not less than two weeks after commemorating the deaths of Jews sixty years ago, Secretary-General Kofi Annan is back to UN business as usual - condemning Jews of today for defending themselves against a mortal threat. He ignores international law and plays to his regular political constituency - the undemocratic UN majority.

The actual state of international law, contrary to Annan's predilections: (1) Killing combatants is not illegal. It is not the targeted killings that place innocent bystanders at grave risk. The terrorists who live and operate among them place innocent bystanders at grave risk. That is why combatants who use civilians as human shields are not immune. In the words of the Geneva Conventions, the presence of "civilians shall not be used to render... areas immune from military operations... in attempts to shield military objectives from attack." (2) The overriding legal limit on the conduct of war and the targeting of combatants is the rule of proportionality. In the words of the Geneva Conventions, an attack on a military target "which may be expected to cause incidental loss of civilian life" is prohibited if "excessive." The likelihood of civilian casualties must be carefully considered prior to taking action, but international law requires proportionality not immunity. (3) Targeted killings are not executions without trial. Combatants - including unlawful combatants who seek to make themselves indistinguishable from the civilian population - are not entitled to prior judicial process. Furthermore, judicial process in these instances is not an option, since attempted arrest by Israeli forces would place both IDF and Palestinian civilians at much greater risk of harm, and Palestinian Authority forces refuse to arrest.


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