The UN Human Rights Council’s fact-finding mission has accused Israeli forces of violating international law when they raided a Gaza-bound aid flotilla.
The three UN-appointed human rights experts said in a report released on Wednesday that Israeli forces showed “incredible violence” during and after their raid on the aid flotilla that left eight Turkish activists and one Turkish-American killed.
The UN probe said there was “clear evidence to support prosecutions” against Israel for “wilful killing” and torture committed when its troops stormed the aid flotilla last May.
Israel’s military response to the flotilla “betrayed an unacceptable level of brutality” and violated international law “including international humanitarian and human rights law.” The three-member panel said.
“The conduct of the Israeli military and other personnel towards the flotilla passengers was not only disproportionate to the occasion but demonstrated levels of totally unnecessary and incredible violence.”
The report is scheduled to be debated by the Human Rights Council on Monday.
The report also rejected Israel’s stance that its forces acted in self-defence when they raided the flotilla, arguing that even those who did not attempt to stop Israeli soldiers from boarding the aid ships “received injuries, including fatal injuries.”
“It is apparent that no effort was made to minimise injuries at certain states of the operation and that the use of live fire was done in an extensive and arbitrary manner. The circumstances of the killing of at least six of the passengers were in a manner consistent with an extra-legal, arbitrary and summary execution.”
Israel rejected the report as “biased” and “one-sided.”
“The report… is as biased and as one sided as the body that has produced it,” the statement said.
“Israel… is of the opinion that the flotilla incident is amply and sufficiently investigated as it is. All additional dealing with this issue is superfluous and unproductive.”
Israel insisted that it acted in line with international law, arguing that it had the right to retaliate against ships attempting to breach its blockade of the impoverished Gaza Strip.
However, the panel said that since Gaza was suffering from a humanitarian crisis on the day of the deadly raid, for this reason alone, Israel’s blockade is unlawful and cannot be sustained in law.
Hamas welcomed the report and told Al Jazeera that the findings show that Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territories violates human rights.
“More should now be done, the commander who led the raid should be taken to International Criminal Court.” Hamas said.
The fact-finding mission, chaired by Karl Hudson-Phillips, former judge of the International Criminal Court in The Hague, had travelled to Turkey, Jordan and Britain to interview witnesses and officials for the probe.
Desmond de Silva, former chief prosecutor of the Sierra Leone War Crimes Tribunal, and Shanthi Dairiam, as Malaysian human rights expert, are the other members of the panel.
Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in interview with CNN’s Larry King
Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad says the Israeli prime minister is a professional assassin, who should be tried for his crimes against the people of Palestine.
“[Benjamin] Netanyahu should be tried in court for blockading Gaza and massacring innocent Palestinian women and children,” Ahmadinejad said in an interview with CNN’s Larry King on Wednesday.
“Netanyahu is a professional assassin. All dictators in history accuse others to turn the spotlight away from themselves,” the Iranian president said when asked about the Israeli prime minister’s worries about Iran.
“It is questionable [why] American media feel responsible for this person (Netanyahu),” Ahmadinejad said, adding that “you (American media) are afraid of Netanyahu’s warmongering.”
The Iranian president said the US and Israel’s nuclear weapons are the main threat to the world, and they are mistaken to think they can divert attention from this issue by using propaganda campaigns and spreading lies about others.
“Iran is firmly after the nuclear disarmament of the US and Israel.”
Ahmadinejad added that Israel is an “illegitimate regime” and an “occupier” and that the US easily starts wars and massacres people, “they are not qualified to have nuclear weapons and should be disarmed as soon as possible.”
When asked about the fate of a former FBI agent who allegedly disappeared on Kish Island, the Iranian president said a “joint Iranian-American intelligence committee is to investigate the matter.”
Robert Levinson, a former FBI agent, disappeared on March 9, 2007 on Kish Island where he was doing investigative work for a private security firm. US officials have dismissed suggestions that Levinson was on assignment for a US government agency.
Iranian authorities have announced that Tehran has no information on the matter but they stand ready to work with the FBI if asked by Washington.
Al Jazeera has called on the Nato-led International Security Assistance Force (Isaf) to immediately release two of its cameramen arrested in Afghanistan over the last 72 hours.
In a statement issued on Wednesday, Al Jazeera said the arrests were “an attempt by the Isaf leadership to suppress its comprehensive coverage of the Afghan war”.
The two Al Jazeera cameramen detained are Mohamed Nader and Rahmatullah Nekzad.
According to Nader’s wife, he was picked up from his home in southern Kandahar by Isaf troops on September 22.
Rahmatullah Nekzad was arrested by Isaf in Afganistan
She said she was woken up when the troops raided their home during the night. The troops then proceeded to arrest her husband, removing him from his bedroom, she said. The troops also confiscated some of their valuables.
Nekzad, the other cameraman working for Al Jazeera in a freelance capacity, was arrested two days earlier under similar circumstances in Ghazni province.
Isaf, though, in statements described both as “suspected Taliban media and propaganda facilitator[s]“.
“The insurgents use propaganda, often delivered through news organisations as a way to influence and in many cases intimidate the Afghan population,” Isaf wrote to Al Jazeera.
“Coalition and Afghan forces have a responsibility to interdict the activities of these insurgent propaganda networks. Individuals detained as a consequence will be investigated and if substantiated will remain in detention awaiting Afghan judicial review.
“Each case will be investigated and reviewed in accordance with standard Isaf and USFOR-A procedures,” the statement said.
Al Jazeera response
Al Jazeera, however, strongly rejected the claims and insisted the two were innocent.
“There are two very important issues here, one is the vagueness of the allegations against this cameraman: what exactly is the allegation of being ‘a propagandist’ – how do you define that?” Anthony Mills, from the International Press Institute in Geneva, told Al Jazeera.
“If it just means that as a cameraman he was doing his work as a journalist filming the violence which we know has been wrecking that country in recent years – I think one has to be really careful before jumping to these kinds of accusations and arresting the cameraman.”
If there are no concrete criminal charges behind the arrest, then they should be released immediately, Mills said.
The arrests follow a recent pattern of escalation by Isaf and coalition forces to target Al Jazeera journalists in Afghanistan.
Recently, Al Jazeera’s Afghan bureau chief Samir Allawi was threatened and pressed to change the editorial line.
Al Jazeera, however, said it will continue to maintain its coverage on the basis of fair and impartial journalism in line with its Code of Ethics and will not bias its coverage in favour of any party or coalition despite pressures being imposed on it.
As part of their work, cameramen and crew need to contact all sides of those involved in a particular issue, which in this case includes Isaf forces, the Afghanistan government as well as the Taliban.
These contacts should not be seen as a criminal offence but rather as a necessary component of the work that journalists undertake, the channel said.
Retired NASA engineer explains why he doesn’t believe the official 9/11 report
It has been said that it requires a very unusual mind to undertake the analysis of the obvious. But is it unusual to want peace? Truth? Dwain Deets doesn’t think so, and the retired NASA director is determined to demonstrate that the official version of the events of 9/11 defies science. His lectures have been gaining popularity… Deets, a physicist and engineer, was the former director of NASA’s Dryden Flight Research Center’s Aerospace project and is currently a member of Architects and Engineers for 9/11 Truth. Having retired from a 37-year career, Deets has set out to show that the American public has been duped into the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. His goal is simple. Faith alone cannot end the wars abroad. But perhaps science can.
VCReporter: Of all the indications that the official 9/11 explanation is insufficient, what is the most glaring?
Deets: Building 7 is the most glaring. I think people can realize, after what happened at Building 7, that the public was not told anything close to what went on. I think you actually get kind of the same thing in all three buildings at the World Trade Center. So when I talk about them and the major problems presented, it will be with all buildings in mind. There are four main points: One, there is no historical precedent with steel-frame, high-rise buildings to have been totally destroyed due to fire. So you got a situation with no precedent, but it happened three times in the same day. These buildings supposedly came down due to fire, officially. Second, there is indisputable evidence that there were extraordinarily high temperatures, in the ground and it persisted for weeks. When I say indisputable evidence, I mean things like satellite imaging photos from NASA. They can measure the temperatures showing how it’s persisting weeks after the event. And there are eyewitnesses of molten metal and things that would require extremely high temperatures. There are a number of different elements that have been analyzed chemically afterwards, and it can only be explained due to extremely high temperature. There are a lot of tiny spheres. We refer to them as microspheres, and they are iron-rich. To be a sphere, they had to have been liquid, even to the point of maybe vaporizing because that is the way it would form into a sphere. The surface tension, as it cooled down, it would do so in a spherical shape. So that’s hard evidence that there had to be extremely high temperatures.
When you refer to high temperature, are you suggesting there were explosives involved?
What I’m saying is, the temperatures are so high that the ordinary office fires and aviation fuel fires can’t come close to explaining those high temperatures. The third point is, there has been evidence of high-tech, and I can’t say they’re explosives, but they are nano-thermite. Nano meaning they’re extremely small and had to be manufactured with very sophisticated equipment and knowledge, which we only know about in government laboratories. But it was highly sophisticated, and how exactly it is designed, it could be very explosive, or something used in a different way. We use the term pyrotechnic to describe that category. So it was used as an explosive or pyrotechnic. But either way, the key thing is it provides an explanation why the temperatures were so high and persisted for so long afterwards. So it fits together with that set of findings in a very consistent way. The fourth major thing is, all three buildings came down at freefall, gravitational freefall, or very close to it. The only way that can happen is if the lower structure was abruptly removed to allow the top part to fall into freefall. This fits into the other things I talk about. There were several varieties of explosives. And the ones that we found are just one of those, and not necessarily the one that did most of the damage. We just don’t know that kind of thing. When I say we, there was an international team of scientists and chemists that studied the dust from the WTC and reported in the open literature, so it’s there and there has not been any counterpublication to say this is not true.
In regard to Building 7, is it not possible that the debris from the previously collapsed main towers had initiated the fires that damaged the bottom eight floors to the point of collapse causing the free-fall?
There is no evidence that there were fires for the initial time period. There could be that there were. But there have not been any photographs released to the public. About 100 minutes is the first indication that there were any fires, and even then it was not on the floors where supposedly the fire damage caused the buildings to come down. That would be several hours later. Let’s say you were taking this to [a] court of law; you wouldn’t have a chain of evidence that led from the debris to the fires. The other piece of evidence is whether the fires, especially that kind of office fire, can lead to compromising the steel structure and causing the whole thing to come crashing down. So you go back to saying there is no precedent in the history of high-rise steel structures that fires lead to the building coming down. Some of those fires have historically lasted up to 18 hours and still didn’t compromise the structure. So it’s unreasonable to think that if the fires did start from the debris it would lead to the buildings coming down. The other part is that it came down in pure free fall for what is equivalent to eight stories’ worth of free fall
Why do you think the government has never officially addressed the collapse of Building 7?
I think it causes a severe problem for them in explaining what happened. At first you have to talk about the great length of time that the government agency that was supposed to investigate Building 7, which was NIST (National Institute of Standards and Technology.) They stalled up until November 2008 before they issued their final report. That is seven years to come up with a final report. Clearly, it was a problem to them. Either they couldn’t explain it or they could, but didn’t want to. They didn’t want to give the explanation that the evidence pointed to, which I think is the case.
Didn’t they also deny a request from engineers into the report about how Building 7 came down, citing a “concern for public safety”?
They did. In this case, this is a freedom-of-information request asking for details of their computer model. They said they had a very sophisticated computer model that modeled the structure, the fires, and based on that, they said this is the explanation, that fires caused the whole thing. For professional engineers to request that information through the law of the Freedom of Information Act, to provide that information, they have resisted it to this day. So anyway they are using this argument that revealing this sophisticated model could or might endanger public safety is very hard to justify, particularly when it’s professional engineers wanting to understand what caused the building to come down.
That in itself should be an effort in the interest of safety. In each of these four cases I brought up, if you look at what NIST has done, they have basically denied that these issues exist. Regarding hot temperatures, they come out and say we have no evidence of either high temperatures or that anybody saw it, even though there are testimonies from responders. They are just stonewalling all the way.
But they did admit, however, that the building collapsed at free fall. Shouldn’t that be evidence in itself?
Yes, they did admit that. But the thing is, they didn’t change any of their conclusions.
Why? Do you believe this is some sort of plan to engage our country into wars with Iraq and Afghanistan?
Well, I certainly think that we, as prudent members of the public, should consider it was highly likely, and it’s based on a record that our government has done that in a number of cases. Most recently, it did it to escalate the war in Vietnam. The Gulf of Tonkin incident turned out to not be an incident, and that has become publicly known because documents concerning that have been declassified but not publicized by the media. There is certainly a pattern. If you just put together the fact that all this happened on 9/11 and then we go to war. It fits a pattern and you have to wonder about that.
Let’s assume you are right. What is your political agenda? What do you want the public to do?
I want the public to demand of their representatives to investigate this, to stop stonewalling and investigate this to wherever it leads. I think that will be healthy for the country. It will be difficult to go through that, but it will force politicians to be more careful about doing things, because they will realize they won’t be able to get away with it. I think it will be good for the country. I think it will end the war. A large segment of the population believes we should be in Iraq and Afghanistan because of 9/11, but I think that would change.
Why do you think the vast majority of the public has accepted the findings?
The big media plays such a big role. The mainstream media, and I don’t know how this works, but they haven’t allowed any questioning of 9/11. A lot of the questions about what went on get marginalized and called conspiracies.
French essayist Bernard-Henry Levy and President Nicolas Sarkozy have mobilized French public opinion to save an Iranian woman, accused of adultery, from being stoned to death. Overcome with emotion, the French did not take the time to verify the allegations, until actor Dieudonné M’bala M’bala traveled to Teheran. Once in the Iranian capital, everything turned out to be false. Thierry Meyssan addresses the spectacular and reckless manipulation that took place.
The calls for Koran burnings by certain US clergymen on the occasion of the ninth anniversary of the September 11 attacks, shook the Muslim world. The reactions to the announcement differ according to the culture. In the western world, it is regarded as a provocation which should not be overdramatized. True, the Koran is a sacred book, but it’s only paper, after all. Inversely, in the Islamic world, the burning of the Koran is perceived as an attempt to disconnect man from the sacred teachings and to deny him salvation. This gives rise to uncontrollable emotional reactions which are considered by the West as religious hysteria. Nothing like it could ever happen in Europe, and much less in France, a country steeped in militant secularism for more than a century. And yet …
Mobilizing public opinion
French author Bernard-Henri Levy  recently alerted the French public to the case of Sakineh Mohammad-Ashtanni, a young Iranian woman reportedly condemned to death by stoning for committing adultery. He launched a signature campaign through the Internet to put pressure on the Iranian authorities, urging them to stop this barbaric act.
In close touch with both the victim’s son, a resident of Tabriz, and the victim’s lawyer, Javid Hustan Kian, who has recently settled in France to flee the Iranian regime, Mr. Levy didn’t skimp on any of the details: stoning – a practice which was interrupted through a moratorium – has been revived on President Ahmadinejad’s initiative. Ms. Sakineh Mohammadi-Ashtiani could be put to death at the end of Ramadan. Meanwhile, the prison warden, riled by the media scandal, ordered her to be lashed 99 times.
The French essayist concentrates his attacks on the mode of execution, observing:
“Why stoning? Isn’t there another way of killing in Iran? Because it is the most abominable of all. Because an aggression against a person’s face, a deluge of stones cast at an innocent and bare face, the refinement of cruelty to the point of encoding the size of the stones to guarantee the victim’s protracted suffering, represent a rare composite of inhumanity and barbarity. And because this way of obliterating a face, of exploding the flesh and reducing it to a bloody magma, of bombarding it until it transforms into a blob, symbolizes much more than a simple execution. Stoning is not just a death sentence. Stoning is the extermination of a flesh that was put on trial, albeit somewhat retroactively, for having been a flesh, and that flesh in particular: the flesh of a young and beautiful woman, one who was both loved and a lover, who possibly also experienced the happiness of loving and of being loved.”
President Sarkozy endorsed Levy’s allegations during the annual conference of French Ambassadors . After his speech he declared that the condemned woman would henceforth fall under “the responsibility of France”.
Numerous associations and high-profile personalities quickly joined in the movement and more than 140 000 signatures were collected. France’s Prime Minister François Fillon turned up in the newsroom of the main public television channel to express his feelings of solidarity with Sakineh, “sister of us all”. Meanwhile, former French Secretary for human rights Rama Yade stated that from that moment on France was considering this case as a “personal affair”.
Although they may not know it, the emotive reaction of the French people is tightly associated with the religious side of their collective subconscious. Whether Christian or not, the French have been marked by the story of Jesus and the adulteress. Let us briefly recall the myth .
The Pharisees, a group of arrogant Jews, wanted to put Jesus in an embarrassing situation. They brought a woman to him who had been caught committing adultery.
According to the laws of Moses, the woman should have been stoned, but that cruel prescription had luckily been abandoned. The Pharisees asked Jesus to decide what had to be done. If he approved of her stoning, they would regard him as a fanatic. If, on the contrary, he refused to punish her, he would be accused of going against the law. But Jesus saved the woman by affirming: “let he who is without sin, cast the first stone”. Jesus reversed the dilemma: if the Pharisees stone her, it is because they think of themselves as pure. If they don’t, they are the ones violating the law. And, the book states: “they gradually withdrew, beginning with the elders”. In western thought, this myth constitutes the cornerstone of the separation between civil and religious law. The adulteress committed a sin and is therefore accountable only to God. She did not commit a crime and therefore cannot be judged by man.
The French people see the announced stoning of Sakineh Mohammadi-Ashtiani as an outrageous regression. The Islamic Republic of Iran must be a religious regime enforcing the Law of Moses as revised by the Koran, the Sharia. The Mollahs must be a bunch of phallocratic fanatics who repress women’s love affairs outside marriage and keep them subject to men. Blinded by their own obscurantism, they even go so far as to kill them in the most horrible way.
This is what should be considered as collective religious hysteria since, in such circumstances, the normal behavior of sensible people should have been to verify the accusations, something that no one had bothered to do all this time.
Having himself signed the aforementioned petition, the leader of France’s Anti-Zionist Party, Dieudonné M’bala M’bala – who happened to be in Tehran for a film project – was willing to mediate in favor of the condemned woman. He requested an audience and was received by Ali Zadeh, vice-president of the Judicial Council and spokesperson for the Ministry of Justice.
The interview was truly a model of its kind. While Mr. Zadeh was wondering whether his interlocutor, a humorist by profession, was in fact joking when voicing his concerns, M’bala kept asking the Iranian official to repeat the answers to his questions, since he could hardly believe he had been the prey of such a gross manipulation.
After overthrowing the dictatorship of Shah Reza Pahlevi, the Islamic Republic made it a priority to put an end to authoritarian abuses by establishing the rule of law in the most rigorous way possible. For those cases tried in a criminal court, an appeal mechanism has existed in the Iranian judicial system for a long time. At any rate, the Court of Appeals, as a rule, automatically verifies the legality of the procedure. In this respect, the Iranian judicial system offers superior guarantees to those of French courts, and the mistakes are far less frequent.
This being said, the convictions are still particularly harsh. In particular, the death penalty is applied. Instead of diminishing the amount of convictions, the Islamic Republic has chosen to restrict their enforcement. The forgiveness of the victims or their families is enough to obtain the annulment of the execution. Due to the existence of that provision and to its widespread application, the presidential pardon does not exist.
Capital punishment is often pronounced, but is rarely executed. The Iranian judicial system provides for a delay of 5-years before executing the sentence, trusting that the victim will forgive the offender who will thus be pardoned and immediately liberated. In practice, executions are applied mainly to big drug traffickers, terrorists and child murderers. The death penalty is normally executed by hanging in public.
There are reasons to hope that the Islamic revolution will continue making progress and may soon abolish the death penalty.
In any case, it is a fact that the Iranian Constitution recognizes the separation of powers. The judicial system is independent and president Ahmadinejad doesn’t have any say in a judicial decision, whichever it may be.
In the specific case of Sakineh, everything that was reported by Bernard-Henry Levy and endorsed by President Sarkozy is false.
1. This lady has not been tried for adultery but for murder. As it happens, there is no conviction for adultery in Iran. Instead of revoking this type of incrimination, the law has subordinated the establishment of the facts to a series of conditions which are impossible to satisfy. “Four people have to witness the adultery at the same time” .
2. The Republic of Islam does not recognize the Sharia, but – only and exclusively- the law passed by the representatives of the people sitting in Parliament.
3. Ms. Sakineh Mohammadi-Ashtiani administered a drug to her husband and got her lover, Issa Tahen, to kill him while he was asleep. The “diabolical lovers” have already been tried in the first and secondary instances and were sentenced to death in both. The Court did not establish any discrimination between the two genders. It is important to note that the indictment does not even mention the intimate relations between the accused, precisely because it is impossible to prove they actually existed according to the Iranian law, even when the family members attest to such a relationship.
4. The death penalty is likely to be executed by hanging. Stoning – which still prevailed under the Shah’s rule and was maintained for a number of years after his overthrow – has been abolished by the Islamic Revolution. Irritated by the statements of Bernard-Henry Levy and Nicolas Sarkozy, the vice-president of the Iranian Judicial Council told Dieudonné M’bala M’bala that he defies these Zionist figures to find one single text of contemporary Iranian law that contemplates stoning.
5. The sentence is currently being examined by the Court of Appeals, which has to scrutinize the legality of each and every detail of the procedure. If any irregularity is found, the trial will be declared null and void. This examination procedure triggers the provisional suspension of the sentence. Since the final judgment has not yet been pronounced, the defendant still enjoys the presumption of innocence, and furthermore, there was never any question of executing her at the end of Ramadan.
6. Ms. Mohammadi-Ashtiani’s defense attorney, Mr. Javid Hustan Kian, is an impostor. He is linked with the son of the accused, but has never been appointed by Ms. Mohammadi-Astiani and has never been in touch with her. Javid Hustan Kian is a member of the People’s Mujahidin, a terrorist organization that enjoys the protection of Israel and of the neo-conservatives .
7. The son of the accused lives generally in Tabriz. He is free to have as many telephone conversations with Mr. Levy as he likes in order to denigrate his own country, which denotes the free and democratic nature of his government.
In sum, nothing, absolutely nothing, of what Levy and Sarkozy have said about Ms. Sakineh Mohammadi-Ashtiani’s story is true. Bernard-Henry Levy might have repeated, in good faith, false accusations to buttress his crusade against Iran. However, President Sarkozy can hardly resort to the same alibi. Officials of the French Foreign Service, the most prestigious in the world, must surely have provided him with all the relevant reports on the case. Therefore, Sarkozy deliberately lied to French public opinion, probably to be able to justify post facto the harsh sanctions adopted against Iran to the detriment of the French economy itself, already seriously affected by his policies.
 See our file on Bernard-Henri Levy, Réseau Voltaire
 Speech by Nicolas Sarkozy at the annual Ambassadors of France’ Conference, Voltaire Network, 25 August 2010.
 In this context, the term myth must be understood in the most neutral sense. Whether or not one believes in the sacred scriptures, the story of the adulterous woman is part of western symbolism.
 For the same type of disinformation, see Pour diaboliser l’Iran, « Rue 89 » confond crimes pédophiles et homosexualité (To demonize Iran, “Rue 89″ amalgamates crimes of pedophelia with homosexuality), Réseau Voltaire, 13 July 2007.
 See our file Mujahedin-e Khalq, Voltaire Network.
Translated from Spanish by Luis Mdáhuar.
Ramallah – On Monday, 20 September 2010, DCI-Palestine and Adalah lodged a complaint with the Israeli Military Advocate General (MAG) arising out of the use by Israeli soldiers of a child as a human shield.
DCI-Palestine and Adalah have received credible evidence that at 3:30am, on 18 February 2010, a 16-year-old girl (D.A.) was used as a human shield by units of the Israeli army whilst conducting operations in the old city of Nablus, in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.
It is alleged that in the early hours of 18 February, Israeli soldiers broke down the door to the family home and stormed the house. According to sworn affidavits collected by DCI-Palestine the soldiers came to arrest the girl’s older brother, M.A. (17) and accused him of possessing a weapon. The soldiers beat M.A. and their younger brother, K.A., who is 15. Meanwhile, the girl was ordered to fetch her brother’s I.D. card and was followed by two soldiers into the bedroom. When D.A. entered her brother’s bedroom one of the soldier’s pointed his weapon at her and told her to stand in the corner. ‘I was shivering in fear,’ recalls D.A. ‘I gave the I.D. to one of the soldiers and one of them ordered me to sit on the bed. They pointed their weapons at me and one of them sat beside me. Some of them were taking pictures of the house with a digital camera.’ The soldier sitting next to D.A. on the bed then stood up and ordered her to lift the mattress to see what was underneath. ‘You lift the mattress and we step away,’ said one of the soldiers. ‘I did so while I was quivering because I was very scared. They moved three metres back towards the door while aiming their weapons at me.’ D.A. was crying and shivering the whole time but was not strong enough to lift the mattress. Eventually the soldiers ordered her to leave it and ordered her to search the closets and other items in the room whilst pointing their weapons at her. After the search was over the soldiers took D.A.’s brother away.
The practice of using human shields involves forcing civilians to directly assist in military operations or using them to shield an area or troops from attack. Both of these circumstances expose civilians to physical, and sometimes, mortal danger. Civilians are usually threatened and/or physically coerced into performing these tasks, most of the time at gunpoint. The practice is illegal under both international and Israeli domestic law.
Since April 2004, DCI-Palestine has documented 15 cases involving Palestinian children being used as human shields by the Israeli army. Fourteen of the 15 cases, occurred after the Israeli High Court of Justice ruled the practice to be illegal in October 2005, suggesting that the army is not effectively implementing the Court’s decision.
|#||Name||Date of incident||Age at incident||Nature of incident|
|1||M.B.||15 Apr 04||13||Tied to the bonnet of a military jeep for four hours during clashes.|
Israeli High Court rules that the use of civilians as human shields is illegal
|2||A.E.||26 Feb 07||15||Forced at gunpoint to walk in front of soldiers during clashes.|
|3||J.D.||28 Feb 07||11||Forced at gunpoint to walk in front of soldiers and enter an abandoned house in search of combatants.|
|4||I.M.||11 Apr 07||14||Forced to sit for 15 minutes on the bonnet of a jeep during clashes.|
|5||O.G.||11 Apr 07||15||Forced to sit for 10 minutes on the bonnet of a jeep during clashes.|
|6||R.N.||11 Jul 07||14||Wounded whilst being forced to evacuate a house.|
|7||A.S.||04 Jan 09||14||Detained for 10 days and forced to search houses during war in Gaza.|
|8||A.A.||05 Jan 09||15||Detained close to military operations for four days during war in Gaza.|
|9||A.A.||05 Jan 09||16||Detained close to military operations for four days during war in Gaza.|
|10||N.A.||05 Jan 09||17||Detained close to military operations for four days during war in Gaza.|
|11||K.A.||05 Jan 09||15||Detained close to military operations for four days during war in Gaza.|
|12||H.A.||05 Jan 09||12||Detained close to military operations for four days during war in Gaza.|
|13||Majed R.||15 Jan 09||9||Forced at gunpoint to search bags thought to contain explosives during war in Gaza.|
|14||D.A.||18 Feb 10||16||Forced at gunpoint to search for a weapon.|
|15||S.A.||16 Apr 10||14||Forced at gunpoint to walk in front of soldiers during clashes.|
DCI-Palestine and Adalah reiterate that full and impartial investigations meeting international standards must be carried out in all cases involving the use of children as human shields, and that the Israeli army must be given adequate training and supervision to ensure compliance with the 2005 ruling of the Israeli High Court of Justice.
• 11 March 2010 – Ha’aretz Newspaper – Two IDF soldiers charged with using 9-year-old ‘human shield’ in Gaza war
The ‘vague’ law is used to lock up activists
A vague security offence of ‘contact with a foreign agent’ is being used by Israel’s secret police, the Shin Bet, to lock up Arab political activists in Israel without evidence that a crime has been committed, human rights lawyers alleged this week.
The lawyers said the Shin Bet was exploiting the law to characterise innocent or accidental meetings between members of Israel’s large Arab minority and Arab foreign nationals as criminal activity.
The chances of such contacts have increased rapidly with advances in new technology and opportunities for Israel’s Arab citizens to travel to the wider Arab world, said Hussein Abu Hussein, a lawyer who represents security detainees.
The lawyers’ criticisms come at a particularly sensitive moment, as Israel has been widely accused of hounding two prominent political activists. Both were arrested on the grounds that they spied for the Lebanese militant group Hizbollah.
One, Omar Said, was released last week after a plea bargain in which the Shin Bet reduced a serious security charge of “aggravated espionage” to “contact with a foreign agent”.
The evidence it revealed suggested that Said had attended the meeting in Egypt unaware that his contact was a possible Hizbollah agent and that he had turned down an alleged offer to spy for the organisation.
Amnesty International has termed the continuing prosecution of the other defendant, Ameer Makhoul, as “pure harassment”.
As he was freed, Said, from Kfar Kana, near Nazareth, accused Israel of persecuting activists whose politics it does not like.
Abir Baker, a lawyer with the Adalah legal centre, said cases such as Said’s were intended to have a “chilling effect” on Israel’s Arab community, which comprises one-fifth of the population.
She said his arrest should be seen in the context of efforts by Israel to limit the right of Arab citizens to strengthen cultural and political ties to the rest of the Arab world.
Several of Israel’s Arab political parties, including the one Said belongs to, have been trying to inform the Arab world about the minority’s campaign for democratic reforms to end Israel’s status as a Jewish state.
A 2008 law removed the diplomatic immunity from Arab members of the Israeli parliament to visit Arab countries defined as enemy states.
One MP, Said Nafaa, who is to be tried over a visit to Syria with a party of Druze clerics in 2007, faces charges of contact with a foreign agent for meetings he held with Syrian politicians.
“There are laws to stop us from visiting countries classified as enemy states such as Syria and Lebanon, but Israel uses this particular offence to make us afraid to talk to any Arab national, whether at international conferences or online,” said Baker. “Israel wants to make us invisible.”
Khaled Ghanayim, a law professor at Haifa University, said misuse of the offence of contact with a foreign agent had grown with the right wing’s ascendance in Israel.
“Paradoxically, the Soviet Union advanced a similar policy for decades to prevent Jews in the Eastern bloc from meeting Israeli Jews. Israel and the West denounced that policy as a violation of their human rights, but today Israel is doing the same to its Arab citizens.”
Abu Hussein said the offence was particularly hard to challenge because, uniquely in Israeli criminal law, the onus to prove that the meeting did not harm state security rested with the defendant, not the prosecution.
The Shin Bet was unavailable for comment. But the agency is believed to be concerned that Hizbollah, which fired thousands of rockets into Israel during a month of hostilities in 2006, is trying to recruit spies among Israel’s Arab community.
According to the Shin Bet’s website, Hizbollah is particularly keen to identify the sites of Israeli security facilities in the north that might be targeted in a future confrontation and gauge the Jewish public’s mood.
Gideon Ezra, a former deputy head of the Shin Bet and now a member of parliament, said: “The state of Israel does not seek to put people in jail, but to carry out proper investigations. There is always a gap between what is known at first and the final outcome.”
Baker, who is studying the use of the “contact” offence, said there was a clear pattern in which the Shin Bet started its investigation with a serious security violation, such as transferring information to the enemy, which carries a life sentence, in addition to the allegation of contact.
“That way an impression is created with the public and the media that the suspect was harming state security.”
As the investigation proceeded, she said, the Shin Bet typically dropped the serious charge and sought a plea bargain on contact with a foreign agent. The charge carries a sentence of up to seven years in jail.
Defendants, faced with secret evidence and limited rights as security prisoners, were under pressure to agree, Abu Hussein said.
Baker said it was difficult to be sure exactly how often the law was being used but pointed to several notable recent cases.
In 2005, Sheikh Raed Salah, the head of the main wing of the Islamic Movement in Israel, and Suleiman Aghbaria, mayor of the city of Umm al Fahm, served jail terms of 30 months and 46 months, respectively, after agreeing a plea bargain.
The Shin Bet’s case that the pair belonged to a terrorist organisation, Hamas, and supplied it with weapons, collapsed during the trial.
In the most recent case, both Said and Makhoul claimed they were tortured while they were held without access to a lawyer.
Ghanayim said it was notable that both men were publicly involved in activities to challenge Israeli policies. Makhoul is known to have angered the Shin Bet by leading demonstrations against Israel’s attack on Gaza in winter 2008 and by heading calls for a boycott of Israel.
In the past the Shin Bet has warned that it would use all the powers at its disposal to “thwart” political activities it regarded as a threat to the state’s legitimacy.
Baker said use of the law against contact with a foreign agent had begun shortly after the start of the second intifada in 2000 to prevent Arab citizens meeting Palestinians in the occupied territories.
Last year, in a case that attracted wide attention in Israel, Rawi Sultani, a 24-year-old activist from Tira in central Israel, was sentenced to five and a half years after attending an international Arab summer camp in Morocco at which he was approached by a Hizbollah agent.
Mr Sultani was originally accused of conspiring to assassinate Gabi Ashkenazi, Israel’s chief of staff. The charge was dropped but he was convicted of giving information to the enemy by revealing that he had visited a gym used by Ashkenazi.
- Jonathan Cook is a writer and journalist based in Nazareth, Israel. His latest book is “Israel and the Clash of Civilisations: Iraq, Iran and the Plan to Remake the Middle East” (Pluto Press). His website is www.jkcook.net.
Brazil, Russia, India and China (BRIC) are urging the UN to reproach countries that impose unilateral sanctions not approved by the UN Security Council, Brazilian foreign minister says.
“We’re beginning to have some political coordination on General Assembly resolutions,” Celso Amorim told Reuters on Tuesday, referring to the coordination among the four nations which make the BRIC group.
“In some cases we’re even against multilateral sanctions, so for sure unilateral sanctions aren’t welcome because they’re outside the UN system,” said Amorim, who is in New York to attend the opening of the UN General Assembly. He further added that the BRIC members discussed the proposed resolution in a meeting of foreign ministers on Tuesday in New York.
According to Reuters, a resolution in this regard, if approved by the UN General Assembly, could lead to depletion of the legitimacy of additional sanctions imposed by the United States and other Western powers against Iran’s nuclear program.
Following the imposition of US-engineered UN Security Council sanctions against the Islamic Republic in June, the United States and the European Union imposed further unilateral sanctions on Tehran over its nuclear program.
Fearing those tensions could escalate into war, Brazil had earlier tried to evade the additional sanctions, intermediating a nuclear fuel swap deal between Iran and Turkey. That agreement was largely ignored by the United States.
Commenting on relations between Brazil and the US, Amorim said relations between the two countries remain good, though they disagree on strategy to prevent Iran’s access to nuclear weapons.
“Government relations remain very good, but in some issues we’re going to disagree,” he concluded.
Silwan: Very early this morning in Silwan Village, a patrol of private armed guards stopped near a group of unarmed Palestinian men who were on the Wadi Hilweh Street. According to eyewitness reports, the guards spoke provocatively to the Palestinians, and an argument took place between them. It was during the verbal argument that eyewitnesses say the settlement guards opened fire on the Palestinian men. The two injured were brought to Ein Kerem hospital. One of the Palestinians, Samer Sarhan, who is a father of five young children, was pronounced dead immediately upon arrival to the hospital. The second man is now confirmed as having died.
After confirmation was received of the first Palestinian death from Silwan, clashes erupted in the village and are continuing. There are reports of numerous injuries, although the number of injured people is unknown. There is a massive force of police and army personnel in the village, and the entire street has been cordoned off by officials. Helicopters are monitoring the area from overhead.
SilwanIC will be posting updates on the story.