By William Fisher | January 08, 2010 | Excerpt
On Thursday, the D.C. circuit court heard oral arguments in a case known as Maqaleh v. Gates – the first legal challenge in U.S. courts on behalf of prisoners detained at Bagram Airbase in Afghanistan.
The case was brought by the International Justice Network (IJNetwork) on behalf of two Yemenis and one Tunisian citizen, each seized outside of Afghanistan from third countries and held without charge or trial in U.S. custody for more than six years.
Evidence suggests that each man was shuttled through U.S.-run secret prisons (“black sites”) for torture and interrogation, prior to ultimately being transferred to Bagram – itself the site of well-documented human rights violations – where they continue to be subjected to indefinite detention under sole U.S. military custody.
During the entire six-year period he has been in U.S. custody, Maqaleh has not been permitted to see his family and has been denied any access to lawyers or a court of law. Because he is being held virtually incommunicado, his father authorized IJNetwork to file a petition for a writ of habeas corpus in U.S. court seeking his release.
Though his case has now been pending for over three years, the government continues to refuse to allow Maqaleh to communicate with his attorneys.
In April 2009, Judge John D. Bates ruled that Maqaleh and two other petitioners in the case, Amin al-Bakri and Redha al-Najar, have a constitutional right to petition U.S. courts for a writ of habeas corpus.
Judge Bates’ decision was based on the Supreme Court’s decision in Boumediene v. Bush, which established that detainees held in U.S. custody at Guantanamo had a constitutional right to file habeas corpus petitions in U.S. courts.
But before any of the Bagram detainees could have his day in court, the Barack Obama administration appealed Judge Bates’ decision, arguing that none of the 600 detainees at Bagram have any rights under U.S. law.
As the organization representing the Bagram detainees, the IJNetwork has called on the Obama administration to end the practices of rendition, torture, and indefinite detention and provide fundamental human rights to all individuals held in U.S. custody – including at Bagram.
Though President Obama has vowed to close Guantanamo, the Department of Justice continues to defend the George W. Bush administration’s position that individuals held at other U.S.-run military facilities have no legal rights.
Deputy Solicitor General Neal Katyal, arguing for the government, said the circumstances surrounding detention of prisoners at Bagram are unique and do not match the circumstances at the Guantanamo Bay base in Cuba. Katyal noted that Bagram is in the middle of a war zone.
But Tina Foster, executive director of the IJNetwork, who argued for the Bagram detainees, told IPS, “Our clients are three innocent men who have been imprisoned without charge for seven years and haven’t even been told why.”
“The fundamental question at issue in these cases is whether the United States government can seize individuals from peaceful countries anywhere in the world and imprison them without charge indefinitely, based solely on the location of the prison facility where the government decides to detain them,” Foster said.
She added, “The position of the Obama administration is that it can do so, as long as it uses Bagram, instead of Guantanamo, as its legal black hole. This is an extreme position – and one that allows the president to do exactly what the Supreme Court said was unconstitutional in the Guantanamo cases.”
By Ein Katzenfreund | Aletho News | January 9, 2010
The neoconservative Wall Street Journal, New York Times and many other English-language media and even the Chinese news agency Xinhua just wrote in bold headlines that the US has asked Pakistan to stop “harassment” of their “diplomats”. It is quite uncommon that a country tries to escalate diplomatic differences with a friendly country over the mass media, rather than resolving it discreetly. Pakistan is an important “partner” for the United States in its struggle to dominate the Middle East, which it sells to the public as a global war on terror.
In the Wall Street Journal version and the associated Western media, the story of the diplomatic dispute is told somewhat like this: Pakistani authorities and security forces are harassing US diplomats in Pakistan by temporarily arresting them, searching their cars and systematically delaying visa requests. Due to this harassment the US now has difficulty implementing its five-year program to support civilian projects in Pakistan worth 1.5 billion US dollars annually. The Pakistani government demands direct payment so that it can spend the money where it is needed but the US doesn’t do this as it wants full administrative control. The Wall Street Journal suggests that the Pakistani intelligence service ISI is behind the harassment campaign and that the ISI is impeding peace and development in Pakistan. That’s what the story looks like in Rupert Murdoch’s Wall Street Journal. The New York Times adds that the US embassy in Islamabad has plans to increase its staff to implement its assistance program in Pakistan from 500 to 800 people and casually states that President Zardari has demanded a cessation of air strikes by US drones on Pakistani territory, and instead proposes that the US give Pakistan the drone technology.
In Pakistan the story appears a bit different. First of all, it is carefully noted in Pakistan that the US hires death squads from the notorious Blackwater outfit as “diplomats”. The US government officially denies that it uses Blackwater for assassinations, but since it was announced that the suicide attack on the secret drone base in Afghanistan’s Khost killed two mercenaries from Blackwater the official claims have been exposed as a blatant lie.
However the troubles of the US in Pakistan are even more serious. Zahid Malik explained on December 7th in the Pakistan Observer in detail that the head of the ISI, General Ahmed Shuja Pasha, personally confronted the CIA boss Leon Panetta with evidence that the US backs warlords and terrorist groups in Afghanistan and Pakistan for the purpose of destabilizing Pakistan. The role Stanley McCrystal’s JSOC terrorist group plays in this dirty war is also public knowledge. None of this surprises Pakistanis as everyone in Pakistan knows that the US runs a secret war against Pakistan. This is becoming disastrous for the US because in the eyes of the Pakistani population the US is widely decried as a state sponsor of terrorism and any Pakistani government making common cause with the United States is considered to be treasonous.
The most important point is that the United States under Obama is trying to deceive Pakistan. The US promised to fight alongside Pakistan but they secretly fought against Pakistan and they were caught. It couldn’t be worse for the US. In this situation even the $1.5 billion annual bribe won’t help them out. If the US does not maintain the cooperation of Pakistani security services there will be no reliable transit of supplies for the U.S. occupation forces in Afghanistan via Pakistan anymore. Pakistan can add to its demands whatever it wants whenever it wants, because the US is so dependent on the supply routes through Pakistan. Obama would like to increase US troops in Afghanistan by about 30 – 40,000 official soldiers. As for supply routes for his troops in Afghanistan he has the following possibilities: Pakistan, Russia, and Iran. As the US has no internal influence in Iran and Russia, these countries are not ideal options. The result is that if Pakistani supply routes are closed Obama’s occupation of Afghanistan will end and Pakistan wins influence. Until then Pakistan may ask what it wants of the US, and the US must pay whatever the price is. If the US is escalating its diplomatic dispute with Pakistan now in the media, that suggests that the US administration has just now realized what kind of an ugly trap they have fallen into in Afghanistan.
Was this really that hard to foresee? Honestly, who is stupid enough to choose to occupy Afghanistan? OK, the think tank IASPS proposed it, but they also called for war on Iraq for the reorganization of the Middle East in Israel’s favor. It is noteworthy that Barack Obama still follows this Zionist-designed war policy even though it brings nothing but predictable disaster for the US.
Iran’s Press TV is modest: it reported that five Americans were arrested because they used fake license plates, but that they were released later because the US embassy said that they were diplomats. Oh, but of course when US Marines raided the Algerian embassy in Baghdad it was something entirely different and in no way harassment or a violation of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations.
The author manages a German language news blog at – http://www.mein-parteibuch.com/
Part 13 of a series recounting the findings of South African jurist Richard Goldstone’s UN Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict.
Bethlehem – Ma’an – On 8 January 2009, one year ago today, Israeli artillery shells struck the seventh-floor apartment of Dr Jaber Abu An-Naja, the former PLO ambassador to Senegal and a well-known Fatah politician.
The doctor’s wife and son-in-law were killed immediately as they sat on the balcony eating pastries. His wife was cut in half by the explosion and his son-in-law was thrown from the balcony on to the street below.
His daughter, Ihsan, was seriously injured and taken for treatment to Al-Quds Hospital, a medical center located near Abu An-Naja’s and a number of other civilian apartment buildings on Al-Abraj Street in Gaza’s Tal El Hawa district, which had come under attack for four days.
According to three senior doctors at the hospital and two residents from Al-Abraj Street, at some point between 3 and 6 January several tanks were stationed several hundred meters east of Al-Quds, visible from the hospital’s ambulance depot. Throughout the days of 5-8 January, there was significant artillery fire on apartment buildings nearby to where Abu An-Naja’s relatives were killed.
The shelling on 8 January was just one incident of dozens in and around the area that damaged portions of the hospital and destroyed other buildings in their entirety during Israel’s three-week assault on the Gaza Strip, which ended in late January 2009.
Continuous damage to medical buildings
When the air offensive began on 27 December, for instance, a government building opposite the hospital’s administrative building on Al-Abraj Street was almost totally destroyed. The building had previously served as a criminal detention center and is still referred to locally by that designation although it had recently been used for other purposes, including customs administration. The same building was reportedly struck on a number of other occasions after 27 December, after which the site was completely demolished.
Kitty-corner to the hospital, on Jami’at Ad-Duwal Al-Arabiya Street, was another building rented to the de facto government and used primarily as a public registry office. At the time of writing, only the ground floor of the building remained. Witnesses, speaking to the Goldstone commission, indicated that the upper floors had been destroyed, probably by artillery fire, on 6 and 7 January.
By 15 January, the area immediately to the south of Al-Quds Hospital (the customs building and the registry building) had been totally or very substantially destroyed. The area to the east on Al-Abraj Street had been significantly attacked by artillery fire.
By this time, several hundred civilians had also gathered in the hospital buildings seeking safety.
The Al-Quds Hospital belongs to the Palestinian Red Crescent Society (PRCS). It consists of three buildings facing west toward the sea on the corner of Jami’at Ad-Duwal Al-Arabiya Street and Al-Abraj Street in the area of Tel Al-Hawa.
The building nearest the corner was seven stories high. Its principal purposes were administrative and cultural rather than medical. It stored a huge quantity of PRCS archives. The middle building contained the accident and emergency treatment areas as well as other offices of medical and administrative staff. The building furthest from the corner was the main medical building with operating theaters in the basement. About 200 meters east on Al-Abraj Street was the PRCS ambulance depot.
The buildings all suffered significant damage in the course of an Israeli bombardment on 15 January 2009, which included the use of white phosphorous, endangering the lives of staff and more than 50 patients. There was no warning given for any of the attacks.
Direct Attack on the Hospital
During the night of 14 January, Israeli forces began an extended barrage of artillery fire over the area. It continued into the morning of 15 January. Between 8 and 9am doctors in the main building were in the principal meeting room when shells landed on either side of the building. They saw white phosphorous wedges burning near a container of diesel and efforts were successfully made to move those away.
The initial explosions blew out the office windows. The administrative building on the corner was also hit. Because the hospital building was largely constructed out of timber (rare in Gaza), staff were worried that the fire would spread. A witness described how hospital staff, including senior doctors, all sought to break, by hand, the wooden bridge linking the administrative building to the hospital building, in an attempt to prevent the fire from spreading.
Shortly after the initial explosions and fire were observed, a tank shell directly penetrated the rear of the middle hospital building. That part of the building was made of corrugated iron. The shell made a clearly defined home in the hospital wall, and the impact crater continues through the cement wall into the hospital’s pharmacy.The pharmacy was completely destroyed as a result.
An eyewitness said that through the resulting hole, he observed a tank on a road between two buildings about 400 meters east of the building. Although he could not say whether it was this tank that had struck the hospital directly, it was in a direct line in relation to the entry point of the shell.
No civil defense forces were available to fight the fire at the hospital, so medical staff worked on their own to save the building and ensure the safety of the patients.
It was not until 4pm that the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) was able to respond and help evacuate patients. Officials at the ICRC made it clear upon arrival that it would be able to carry out this procedure only once. Those not evacuated at 4pm were relocated to the operating theaters of the damaged hospital.
At 8pm, another fire broke out in the hospital. As a result, a total evacuation of remaining patients and those who had sought refuge at the hospital was carried out. It was at this stage that one of the senior doctors took an eight-year-old girl who had been struck by a bullet in the jaw and was critically ill to Ash-Shifa Hospital, where she later died. One of the medical staff at the hospital told the Goldstone commission that there was very heavy fire in the area, and he felt sure there were direct hits by Israeli forces on the ambulance depot.
As the hospital was evacuated, the depot, 200 meters to the east in Al-Abraj Street, sustained damage, and one of its principal buildings was entirely destroyed. Remnants of three PRCS ambulances that had been parked at the entrance to the depot were seen were still visible by summer. Two had been crushed by tanks but not burned out. The other ambulance showed signs of having been struck directly in the front below the windscreen by a missile of some description and having been burned out.
The devastation caused to both the hospital buildings, including the loss of all archives in the administrative building, and the ambulance depot was immense, as was the risk to the safety of the patients.
The Israeli position
In the conclusions of their investigations on 22 April 2009, Israeli authorities did not specifically mention the incident at Al-Quds Hospital, although a portion of it addresses some allegations regarding the use of ambulances. In another report, released in July 2009, the Israeli government quotes part of an article from Newsweek magazine:
One of the most notorious incidents during the war was the Jan. 15 shelling of the Palestinian Red Crescent Society buildings in the downtown Tal-al Hawa part of Gaza City, followed by a shell hitting their Al Quds Hospital next door; the subsequent fire forced all 500 patients to be evacuated. Asked if there were any militants firing from the hospital or the Red Crescent buildings, hospital director general Dr. Khalid Judah chose his words carefully. “I am not able to say if anyone was using the PRCS buildings [the two Palestine Red Crescent Society buildings adjacent to the hospital], but I know for a fact that no one was using the hospital.”
In the Tal-al Hawa neighborhood nearby, however, Talal Safadi, an official in the leftist Palestinian People’s Party, said that resistance fighters were firing from positions all around the hospital. He shrugged that off, having a bigger beef with Hamas. “They failed to win the battle.” Or as his fellow PPP official, Walid al Awad, put it: “It was a mistake to give Israel the excuse to come in.” [para. 173].
While the Israeli government does not comment further on the specific attack, it would appear to invoke these comments to justify the strikes on the hospital and surrounding area.
The final report of Richard Goldstone’s UN inquiry understood that the Israeli government “may consider relying on journalists’ reporting as likely to be treated as more impartial than reliance on its own intelligence information,” but said its investigators were “nonetheless struck by the lack of any suggestion in Israel’s report of July 2009 that there were members of armed groups present in the hospital at the time.”
The report also said it addressed questions to Israel’s government regarding the use of white phosphorous munitions against the hospital and the direct military advantage pursued by their use under the circumstances, but received no reply.
The Goldstone report finds that on the morning of 15 January the hospital building and the administrative building were struck by a number of shells containing white phosphorous and by at least one high explosive shell. “The fires these caused led to panic and chaos among the sick and wounded, necessitated two evacuations in extremely perilous conditions, caused huge financial losses as a result of the damage and put the lives of several hundred civilians including medical staff at very great risk.”
In its conclusions, the mission also notes that as a result of the conditions the attack created, the hospital was unable to provide the necessary care for an eight-year-old girl. “Despite heroic attempts to save her, she died later in another hospital. The girl had been shot by an Israeli sniper. The Mission finds the Israeli armed forces responsible for her death.”
On the issue of armed groups being present in the hospital buildings, the team does not agree that anything in the extract cited from Newsweek magazine justifies the conclusion that the hospital premises were being used by armed groups.
The fact that Dr Judah spoke with certainty about matters within his knowledge “cannot be presumed to mean that he believed other parts of the hospital premises were being used by armed groups,” the Goldstone report notes, speculating that it could have been “journalistic gloss and is tantamount to putting words in the mouth of Dr. Judah.” The comments attributed to Safadi that “resistance fighters were firing from positions all around the hospital” can mean either that people were inside the hospital firing or were in positions outside but near to the hospital, Goldstone adds, “The journalist did not clarify precisely what was meant.”
The mission carried out over eight hours of interviews with senior and junior staff at the hospital, and having sought to verify the matter with others, including journalists who were in the area at that time, concluded that it was unlikely there was any armed presence in any of the hospital buildings at the time of the attack. It also notes that no warning was given at any point of an imminent strike and at no time has the Israeli government suggested such a warning was given, compared to other instances in which they insist they did.
Goldstone’s report states that in reviewing the scene at the time of the strikes, “it is important to bear in mind that a great deal of destruction had already occurred and that buildings with an apparent connection to the local government had been attacked and largely destroyed. As such, Israeli tanks had a relatively clear view of the area immediately to the south of the hospital.
“The Mission also notes that as a result of the attacks on al-Abraj Street by tanks for several days, the scope for resistance, if any, from that particular quarter had been significantly reduced.
The mission concedes that it was aware of reports that there was significant resistance from Palestinian groups in the area on the night of 14 January, in which Israeli troops entered buildings along the street and allegedly used human shields to check if there was any presence of enemy combatants of explosive devices and found none.
Article 18 of the Fourth Geneva Convention provides that civilian hospitals may in no circumstances be the object of attack but shall at all times be respected and protected by the parties to the conflict. Civilian hospitals’ protection shall cease “only after due warning has been given, naming, in all appropriate cases, a reasonable time limit and after such warning has remained unheeded,” article 19 states.
“Even in the unlikely event that there was any armed group present on hospital premises, there is no suggestion even by the Israeli authorities that a warning was given to the hospital of an intention to strike it,” the Goldstone report states. “As such the Mission finds on the information before it that Israeli armed forces violated articles 18 and 19 of the Fourth Geneva Convention.
“On considering the information before it, the Mission takes the view that there was intent to strike the hospital, as evidenced in particular by the high explosive artillery shell that penetrated the rear of the hospital and destroyed the pharmacy.
“Even if it is suggested that there was no intent to directly strike the hospital but that Palestinian armed groups had taken up positions near al-Quds hospital, the Israeli armed forces would still have been bound to ensure that risk of death, injury or damage to the people in the hospital or the hospital itself would not be excessive in relation to the military advantage anticipated in attacking the hospital.
“Taking into account the weapons used, and in particular the use of white phosphorous in and around a hospital that the Israeli armed forces knew was not only dealing with scores of injured and wounded but also giving shelter to several hundred civilians, the Mission finds, based on all the information available to it, that in directly striking the hospital and the ambulance depot the Israeli armed forces in these circumstances violated article 18 of the Fourth Geneva Convention and violated customary international law in relation to proportionality.”
Press TV – January 8, 2010
As the prospects of China over-shadowing the struggling US economy grow stronger, Beijing robs Berlin of its title as the world’s leading exporter.
Chinese exports from January to October were valued at 1.07 trillion dollars, enjoying a wafer-thin lead over Germany whose exports during the same period amounted to 1.05 trillion dollars, AFP reported.
The Chinese economy has grown 15 times since the late 70s, when the country opened its doors to foreign investment. In 2007, China overtook Germany as the world’s third largest economy. It now threatens to topple Japan — second in the global economy after the United States.
Analysts have given credit to Beijing over its economic management during the global recession when the German economy shrank by five percent. The country found itself in its worst economic predicament since the World War II.
Submitting her four-year plan to the Bundestag in November, German Chancellor Angela Merkel warned German legislators about worsening economic conditions before the country can rebound from the effects of the global recession. The chancellor’s recovery measures, among them a policy to deny the blue and white collar workers parts of their benefits, attracted notable opposition from the rival factions.
Physicians for Human Rights | January 7, 2010
The Israeli authorities at Erez checkpoint this week prevented the exit of 19 sight-impaired patients, suffering from various eye diseases, from the Gaza Strip in order to undergo cornea transplants, a treatment that is not available in the Gaza health system. Because of this delay, the medical window of opportunity to perform the transplants for these patients was closed, because corneas can be transplanted only within the shortest time frame (24-48 hours after they are extracted from the donor’s body). The patients from Gaza whose exit was prevented will therefore have to wait for another donation, which may or may not happen.
At the beginning of the week Physicians for Human Rights – Israel (PHR-Israel) received an appeal from the Musallam Medical Center in Gaza. According to the appeal, a large group of 14 patients from Gaza, who were invited to Ramallah for cornea transplants from Sunday to Wednesday this week (January 3-5, 2010), did not reach their destination. Five other patients approached PHR-Israel separately. The group of patients includes some who were waiting weeks or even months for cornea transplants. The longest wait was 31-year-old S.A., who has been waiting for this operation for three years.
The main Musallam Medical Center in Ramallah this week received two deliveries from the US with dozens of corneas, donated by Tissue Bank International, an American organization that facilitates cornea and tissue transplants. Every year corneas are sent during Christmas break, during which such operations do not take place in the US, as a donation to the Palestinian health system, and dedicated especially to eye patients from Gaza.
The inquiry by the medical center in Ramallah raised the concern that the exit of the patients from Gaza was being prevented by the Israeli authorities, and accordingly PHR-Israel on Sunday made an urgent request to the DCO in Gaza, responsible for issuing exit permits to patients. In its appeal to the DCO, PHR warned that preventing the exit of the vision-impaired patients for eye operations this week will necessarily cause them to lose the opportunity for cornea transplants in the near future, if ever, because the corneas designated for the transplants have a very short expiration date.
Despite this request, the Israeli authorities prevented the exit of the 19 patients for the operation on time. Five patients were not given any answer; four patients were summoned to ISA investigations, scheduled for dates later than the cornea expiration dates; two requests were rejected; and eight requests were approved only after media intervention, but after the corneas had already expired.
This case, with its far-reaching consequences for the vision-impaired patients who now lost the opportunity to repair their eyesight, illustrates the many difficulties that face the residents of Gaza who need medical care that is not available in the Gaza Strip. The delays, apathy and rejection by the Israeli authorities, which every month curtail the access of dozens of patients to medical care, had particularly severe significance in this case, because prevention of these patients’ exit from Gaza caused the loss of the corneas (which can be transplanted within no more than 48 hours from the moment of donation). Now the patients will have to wait for another cornea donation, at an unknown time and likelihood.
Therefore, PHR-Israel strongly protests the blatant disregard of the Erez checkpoint authorities for the medical urgency of allowing the exit of patients for cornea transplant operations.
Stuart Littlewood | January 7, 2010
While the Viva Palestina convoy drama was being played out, a delegation of senior Israeli military officers cancelled a planned visit to the UK for fear of being arrested over alleged war crimes in Gaza.
With the insufferable arrogance we have come to expect from Israelis, deputy foreign minister Danny Ayalon demanded from Britain’s Attorney General, Baroness Scotland, an immediate solution to the “intolerable” situation.
“If the British law remains unchanged, this would undermine the good relations between the two countries who share common values and interests. The British must bear in mind that these visits serve both countries,” Ayalon is reported as saying.
“This legislation is often misused,” he added. “It initially targeted Nazi criminals, but terrorist organisations like Hamas are today using it to take democracies hostage. We have to put an end to this absurdity…”
That is typical Israeli ‘crapaganda’. Britain does not share Israel’s racist and criminal values. In fact, we have nothing in common worth mentioning. And of course Hamas is no more a terrorist organization than the Israeli regime itself.
What is absurd is that murderous Israelis, with the stench of mega-deaths on them, expect to be let into the UK.
Last month, Tzipi Livni, now leader of Israel’s main opposition party but foreign minister at the time of the blitzkrieg against Gaza, cancelled a visit to Britain after an arrest warrant was issued by a British court. An Israeli spokesperson said: “Only actions can put an end to this absurd situation, which would have seemed a comedy of errors were it not so serious.”
The errors are all Livni’s. Her appalling crimes are not funny. Yet British prime minister Gordon Brown insists that she is welcome and says he’ll change the law that allows British courts to issue warrants for alleged war crimes suspects.
According to Baroness Scotland, speaking at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israeli leaders should not face arrest for war crimes under the law of universal jurisdiction. “The government is looking urgently at ways in which the UK system might be changed to avoid this situation arising again. Israel’s leaders should always be able to travel freely to the UK.”
And David Miliband, foreign secretary, says the British government is determined that arrest threats against visitors of Ms Livni’s stature won’t happen again. “Israel is a strategic partner and a close friend of the United Kingdom. We are determined to protect and develop these ties. Israeli leaders – like leaders from other countries – must be able to visit and have a proper dialogue with the British government.”
Livni, referring to the slaughter she oversaw in Gaza a year ago, had the gall to say: “I would make the same decisions all over again.” So Miliband seems happy for even the vilest foreign criminals to walk the streets of our capital.
However, Livni is no longer a serving minister so why should even the most twisted minds in the British government consider rolling out the red carpet for her?
Israel itself was happy to use “universal jurisdiction” to try Adolf Eichmann in Jerusalem in 1961. The principle, let us remember, is that there can be no hiding place for those accused of genocide, crimes against humanity, extrajudicial executions, war crimes, torture and forced disappearances.
But it seems Brown and Miliband will go to any lengths, even as far as dismantling our solemn obligations under international law, in order to protect their unsavoury friends. They need reminding that states which are party to the Geneva Conventions are obliged to seek out and either prosecute or extradite those suspected of having committed grave breaches of the Conventions: “Each High Contracting Party shall be under the obligation to search for persons alleged to have committed or to have ordered to be committed, such grave breaches, and shall bring such persons, regardless of their nationality, before its own courts…”
“Grave breaches” means willful killing, torture or inhuman treatment, causing great suffering or serious injury to body or health, and other serious violations of the laws of war… all the atrocities committed by Israel in the Gaza Strip.
Instead of making Britain an even bigger laughing-stock, Brown, Miliband and Scotland should get busy and do their duty, not duck it. The British public’s message to Israel meanwhile is simple. If you must come here, make sure your hands are clean. War criminals are not welcome.
7 January 2010
Stuart Littlewood is author of the book Radio Free Palestine, which tells the plight of the Palestinians under occupation. For further information please visit http://www.radiofreepalestine.co.uk
International Solidarity Movement | January 7, 2010
Twenty olive trees belonging to the Sufan family of Burin village were destroyed by settlers this morning. Burin, located in the northern West Bank, comes under frequent attack from the settlements of Yitzhar and Bracha enveloping the village.
Under the cover of dark, settlers entered the olive groves of the Sufan family home at around 3am and began chopping the trees. The attack is the third of its kind in the last two months, with the family losing 96 trees in November. The family’s home sits on the southern tip of the village towards the hill ascending to Yitzhar settlement, and bears the brunt of their violent neighbours’ attacks. It is the third attack of its kind in the last two months alone, with the family losing 96 of their olive trees in November directly after the harvest.
The Sufan family has experienced harassment from the settlement almost from the day of its construction in 1982, but the violence has peaked in the last three years, seeing settlers attempting to torch the home on several occasions, several rooms of which are still burnt and damaged. The family has been forced to equip every window in the house with strong wire fencing, in the hopes of protecting themselves when settlers descend on the property en masse, hurling stones at the house. Even the family’s livestock have come under attack.
Burin village is located in a valley directly between two mountains, colonised by two of the northern West Bank’s most extreme settlements – Yitzhar and Bracha. Burin’s 1000 residents have suffered greatly over the years, seeing destruction and arson of home and property, the slaughter of livestock and constant violence and intimidation at the hands of their neighbours. In addition to this, the village’s available farmland is under threat and continues to shrink, as Burin farmers abandon their lands, fearing the risk of harassment lest they be spotted by settlers and provoke an attack.
Yitzhar settlement is notorious for its fanatically ideological residents, the violence they inflict on neighboring Palestinian communities, and the extremist doctrines they espouse. Saturdays, the Jewish religious holiday of Shabbat, typically sees Yitzhar settlers roused to fever pitch zeal, wrecking havoc upon Palestinian villages unfortunate enough to live in its shadow. Settlers have frequently launched attacks with rocks, knives, guns and arson on Palestinian families and property in the area. In one of the most extreme act of terrorism students of the Yitzhar Od Yosef Hai yeshiva fired homemade rockets on Burin in 2008.
Not content with committing their own acts of brutality, Yitzhar rabbis are key players in incitement of targeted violence across the West Bank. Rabbi Elitzur from the same Yitzhar yeshiva published a book this November titled “The Handbook for the Killing of Gentiles”, condoning even the murder of non-Jewish babies, lest they grow to “be dangerous like their parents”. Rabbi Elitzur is vocal in his encouragement of “operations of reciprocal responsibility” such as the arson attack made on Yasuf mosque in November 2009.
Despite West Banks settlements’ status as illegal under international law, Yitzhar was included in the Israeli governments’ recent “national priority map” as one of the settlements earmarked for financial support. Construction has continued unabated in both Yitzhar and Bracha, despite the 10-month “freeze” announced in November. Yitzhar and Bracha also receives significant funding from American donations, tax-deductible under U.S. government tax breaks for ‘charitable’ institutions.