Report slams Israeli, US rights abuses

An international human-rights group has accused Israel of committing abuses that constitute crimes against humanity and war crimes.

    Amnesty has accused Israel of crimes against humanity

    The annual report by the human

    rights watchdog group Amnesty International (AI), released on Wednesday, criticises the Israeli use of

    Palestinians as human shields, extra-judicial killings, systematic house

    demolitions, torture, collective punishment and closures and deliberate killing

    of civilians.

     

    Some 700

    Palestinians were killed by

    Israeli occupying forces last year alone, an increase from the previous year's figure of 600, according to the report. About 150 of these were children, many killed deliberately and unlawfully, charged the watchdog group. 

     

    "

    Many were killed in deliberate as

    well as reckless shooting, shelling and bombardment of densely populated

    residential areas or as a result of excessive use of force," the group says.

     

    "Certain abuses committed by the Israeli army constituted crimes against humanity and war crimes"

    Amnesty International



    The report also says some 109 Israelis, most of them civilians and including eight children, were killed

    by Palestinian armed groups in bombings, shootings and mortar attacks

    inside

    Israel

    and in the occupied territories.

     

    But AI also accuses the Israeli

    army of granting impunity to soldiers and settlers whose crimes against innocent

    Palestinians went unpunished.

     

    "

    In the overwhelming

    majority of the thousands of cases of unlawful killings and other grave human

    rights violations committed by Israeli soldiers in the previous four years, no

    investigations were known to have been carried out," the report stated.

     

    House demolitions

     

    The report attacks

    Israel '

    s policies of house demolitions in

    the southern Gaza Strip, where the Israeli army destroyed 300 homes and

    damaged about 270 others in a refugee camp in Rafah, leaving close to 4000

    Palestinians homeless  

     

    "

    Routine destruction of Palestinian

    homes, land and property in the

    West Bank

    and Gaza Strip was stepped up in the

    biggest wave of house demolitions in the Gaza Strip since the beginning of the

    intifada," the report says.

     

    The wall has cut off many
    Palestinians from their land

    Amnesty further criticises Israel's continual expansion of the

    illegal separation wall and increased attacks by Jewish settlers against

    Palestinians and international activists, and the destruction of their property

    and crops.

     

    "The wall and hundreds of

    Israeli army checkpoints and blockades throughout the

    occupied territories

    continued to hinder or prevent

    Palestinians' access to their land, their workplaces and to education, health

    and other crucial services," the report says.

     

    The Hague-based International Court

    of Justice ruled unlawful the construction by

    Israel

    of a barrier inside the occupied

    West Bank

    last July.

     

    In a chapter devoted to the

    Palestinian Authority, the human-rights group said security officials were

    involved in fighting between various resistance groups, which killed dozens of

    Palestinians.

    According to AI, 18 Palestinians were killed in the clashes after they were suspected

    of collaboration with Israel.

     

     

    US criticised

     

    The report further criticised the

    US for disregarding

    rule of law worldwide and turning a blind eye to Israeli excesses in the name of "counter-terrorism".

     

    "

    The

    USA,

    as the unrivalled political, military and economic hyper-power, sets the tone for governmental behaviour

    worldwide. When the most powerful country in the world thumbs its nose at the

    rule of law and human rights, it grants a licence to others to commit abuse with

    impunity and audacity," read the report.

     

    AI calls the Guantanamo prison
    camp 'the gulag of our times'

    "From

    Israel

    to

    Uzbekistan, 

    Egypt

    to

    Nepal, governments have openly defied

    human rights and international humanitarian law in the name of national security and 'counter-terrorism," it concluded.

     

    In turn, the White House has slammed as "ridiculous and unsupported" AI's charge that the US has undermined respect for human rights across the world by striving to weaken absolute opposition to torture.

     

    "I think the allegations are ridiculous and unsupported by the facts," White House spokesman Scott McClellan said on Wednesday. "The United States is leading the way when it comes to protecting human rights and promoting human dignity.

     

    "We have liberated 50 million people in Iraq and Afghanistan. We have worked to advance freedom and democracy in the world so that people are governed under a rule of law and that there are ... protections in place for minority rights, that women's rights are advanced so that women can fully participate in societies where now they cannot," McClellan said.

     

    Uproar in Israel

     

    The AI report has already caused an uproar in

    Israel, with Yahad (Meretz) lawmaker Zahava Gal-On on Wednesday calling for an

    urgent Knesset debate following its publication.

     

    The Israeli

    government, meanwhile, accused the human rights watchdog group of holding a "very one-sided

    and extremist position".

     

    Eimat Hurvitz ,

    of Amnesty

    International's Israeli office, rejected such claims, saying that

    Israel is judged by the same

    standard as other nations.

     

     "These are not new definitions [of

    war crimes] - they are taken from the Nuremburg trial after the Holocaust
    that

    brought to trial
    Nazi leaders
    "

    Eimat Hurvitz,
    Amnesty International's Israeli representative

    Hurvitz told Aljazeera.net:
    "These are not new definitions [of

    war crimes] - they are taken from the Nuremburg trial after the Holocaust that

    brought to trial Nazi leaders:

    crimes that are perpetrated against

    civilians and that are part of a systemic policy."

     

    He gave the

    example of the Israeli assassination of Palestinians as a policy that "takes

    into account civilians deaths but doesn't take them into account". 

     

    In the end, Hurvitz said definitions

    are not important; abiding by the report is.

     

    "

    What's important is how do we in

    next year, what's important is to have less attacks against civilians or

    minimise such attacks.

    We hope

    Israel

    and the Palestinian Authority will

    read it and try to incorporate some of the issues into their actions, and not

    only try to defy it or explain why it is wrong."

    SOURCE: Aljazeera + Agencies


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