Thursday, August 03, 2006

Yeah, They're War Crimes

Human Rights Watch have completed an extensive report on the IDF's systematic failure to distinguish between combatants and civilians. The money quote, from the report's summary:

Since the start of the conflict, Israeli forces have consistently launched artillery and air attacks with limited or dubious military gain but excessive civilian cost. In dozens of attacks, Israeli forces struck an area with no apparent military target. In some cases, the timing and intensity of the attack, the absence of a military target, as well as return strikes on rescuers, suggest that Israeli forces deliberately targeted civilians.

Their conclusion:

By consistently failing to distinguish between combatants and civilians, Israel has violated one of the most fundamental tenets of the laws of war: the duty to carry out attacks on only military targets. The pattern of attacks during the Israeli offensive in Lebanon suggests that the failures cannot be explained or dismissed as mere accidents; the extent of the pattern and the seriousness of the consequences indicate the commission of war crimes.

The report also casts some doubt on the oft-repeated claim that Hezbollah employs human shields:

The Israeli government claims that it targets only Hezbollah, and that fighters from the group are using civilians as human shields, thereby placing them at risk. Human Rights Watch found no cases in which Hezbollah deliberately used civilians as shields to protect them from retaliatory IDF attack. Hezbollah occasionally did store weapons in or near civilian homes and fighters placed rocket launchers within populated areas or near U.N. observers, which are serious violations of the laws of war because they violate the duty to take all feasible precautions to avoid civilian casualties. However, those cases do not justify the IDF’s extensive use of indiscriminate force which has cost so many civilian lives. In none of the cases of civilian deaths documented in this report is there evidence to suggest that Hezbollah forces or weapons were in or near the area that the IDF targeted during or just prior to the attack.

Not that Hezbollah is let off the hook:

While not the focus of this report, Human Rights Watch has separately and simultaneously documented violations of international humanitarian law by Hezbollah, including a pattern of attacks that amount to war crimes. Between July 12, when Hezbollah captured two Israeli soldiers and killed eight, and July 27, the group launched a reported 1,300 rockets into predominantly civilian areas in Israel, killing 18 civilians and wounding more than 300. Without guidance systems for accurate targeting, the rockets are inherently indiscriminate when directed toward civilian areas, especially cities, and thus are serious violations of the requirement of international humanitarian law that attackers distinguish at all times between combatants and civilians. Some of these rockets, Human Rights Watch found, are packed with thousands of metal ball-bearings, which spray more than 100 meters from the blast and compound the harm to civilians.

h/t to the ever useful Informed Comment site for pointing out the HRW report.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

I believe you commented on this matter in an earlier post;

http://web.inter.nl.net/users/Paul.Treanor/HRW.html

Anonymous said...

My mistake, I meant to send you this;

http://canadiancoalition.com/forum/messages/18128.shtml

Anonymous said...

Ha human rights watch. Holy biased, unreliable source, Batman!

Hezbollah is the one committing the blatant war crimes but hiding among civilians.

Kyle Olsen said...

Causing civillian deaths while hitting legitimate military targets is not a war crime. It does not make the targets off limits.

Any target which confers military advantage is fair game, and is deemed a military target (besides hospitals, religous sites)

HRW is reading alot into the Geneva convention which is not there.