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Sunday, July 23, 2006

Human Rights Watch continues its anti-Israel tradition

I've discussed Human Rights Watch and their anti-Israel bias before on this blog. Last week, Human Rights Watch issued a document entitled "Questions and answers on hostilities between Israel and Hezbollah" with the stated purpose of "provid[ing] analytic guidance for those who are examining the fighting as well as for the parties to the conflict and those with the capacity to influence them."

I'm sure that none of you will be surprised to hear that the 'analytic guidance' is way off in Hezbullah's favor. This is from NGO Monitor Report:
The piece purports to be a neutral guide setting out the legal rules governing the current hostilities in Lebanon. However, the authors' distorted views of the underlying facts, selective omission of crucial legal issues, and insistent characterization of Hezbollah and Israel as the primary legal actors - with the attendant implied denial of legal responsibility of Lebanon, Syria and Iran to end their support for Hezbollah - all mislead readers and betray the bias of the piece. This is a consistent pattern followed by HRW in activities related to the Middle East.

The most outstanding example of HRW's approach is provided by its question "What is Hezbollah's status in relation to the conflict?" and the answer:
"Hezbollah is an organized political Islamist group based in Lebanon, with a military arm and a civilian arm, and is represented in the Lebanese parliament and government. As such a group, and as a party to the conflict with Israel, it is bound to conduct hostilities in compliance with customary international humanitarian law and common Article 3."
This description completely omits several legally important facts about Hezbollah. International law precedents such as decisions of the International Criminal Tribunal for Former Yugoslavia make it clear that militias like Hezbollah, given de facto authority by the government of Lebanon (in which Hezbollah has ministerial representation) and acting on behalf of Lebanon, are bound to follow the legal commitments of the state of Lebanon, which extend well beyond common Article 3 and customary law. Moreover, Lebanon itself has the legal responsibility to ensure that Hezbollah abide by international humanitarian law and other bodies of international law.

Furthermore, under Security Council resolution 1373, adopted under Chapter VII of the UN Charter, Lebanon is legally required to take a host of actions against international terrorist groups. Hezbollah is a group that has deliberately targeted and murdered civilians in Israel, Argentina and elsewhere in order to intimidate the population of Israel, and thereby clearly falls into the definition of an international terrorist group. Lebanon is therefore required to end even passive support of Hezbollah; freeze Hezbollah funds; suppress Hezbollah recruitment; eliminate the supply of weapons to Hezbollah; deny safe haven to all Hezbollah persons who finance, plan, support, or commit terrorist acts and bring all such persons to justice; and prevent Lebanese territory being used for the commission of such acts. Similarly, Syria and Iran are forbidden to supply arms to Hezbollah, supply funding or supply safe haven. Shockingly, the only reference to legal obligations related to terrorism in HRW's document is an accusation that the "logic" of alleged Israeli actions "opens the door to ... terrorism," followed by a warning to Israel (!) that "international humanitarian law explicitly prohibits attacks of which the primary purpose is to intimidate or instill terror in the civilian population."

Additionally, under article 1 of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, Lebanon and all other signatories of the Convention are required to prevent further killings of Jews by Hezbollah and punish Hezbollah for past killings. Article 2 of the Convention defines genocide as killings committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial or religious group, as such. Hezbollah has expressed its intent to destroy Jews as such a number of times, as reported, for example, by Badih Chayban in the October 23, 2002 Lebanese Daily Star, where Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah was quoted as saying "if they (Jews) all gather in Israel, it will save us the trouble of going after them worldwide." Each incident in which Jews are killed by Hezbollah is therefore an act of genocide, which countries like Lebanon and Israel (as signatories to the Convention) are legally required to punish and prevent. HRW makes no mention of the parties' legal duties under the Convention.

Another example of bias may be found in HRW's insinuation that Israel is not permitted to target the Beirut airport because, according to HRW, it is "at best debatable" that the Beirut airport "constitutes a station for the transport of arms and infrastructure used by Hezbollah" and a possible means of transporting kidnapped Israeli soldiers to another country. Contrary to HRW's suggestion, it is indisputable - except perhaps by HRW - that Hezbollah has no capability within Lebanon for fashioning weapons such as Katyusha rockets, Raad and Zilzal longer-range missiles, and anti-ship Silkworm missiles that have been used in the fighting of the last few weeks. Since this weaponry cannot be spontaneously generated, the airport is without doubt an important potential way station for transport of war materiel and also hostages. Indeed, Western (including Israeli) intelligence suggests that the airport has already been used in the past for such purposes if HRW has any contrary evidence, or even any ability to obtain contrary evidence, HRW has yet to identify it. Airports and other ports of entry, as well as other means of transportation like roads and bridges are well-recognized in customary international law as legitimate targets in war.

Read the whole thing.


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