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ISRAEL AND THE OCCUPIED PALESTINIAN TERRITORIES/PALESTINIAN AUTHORITY: Open letter to members of the United Nations Security Council on the situation in Lebanon / Israel

8 Aug 2006
Region: ISRAEL AND THE OCCUPIED PALESTINIAN TERRITORIES/PALESTINIAN AUTHORITY
Topic: Regional conflict
Dear Ambassador,

Amnesty International isgravely concerned at the Security Council's inaction to end blatant violations of international humanitarian law by both parties to the conflict in Lebanon and Israel for which numerous civilians on both sides of the border have paid a heavy price.
The Council must take immediate measures to protect civilians in both countries.

The devastating attack on Qana on 30 July 2006 in southern Lebanon, in which the vast majority of victims were children, is symptomatic of the way in which this conflict has been fought to date.

Israel has failed to take necessary precautions to spare civilians. It has launched disproportionate attacks causing many civilian deaths and injuries. Israel has directly targeted civilian objects such as roads, bridges and power plants. In the case of the attack on Qana the Israeli authorities have claimed that Hizbullah used civilians as "human shields" -- a tactic clearly prohibited under international humanitarian law. However, Israel has provided no evidence to support that allegation. Moreover, any such violation of international humanitarian law by Hizbullah would not have absolved Israel from its legal obligations to protect civilians by strictly observing the principle of proportionality. For its part, Hizbullah's firing of rockets against Israeli cities and towns violates the prohibition of direct attacks against the civilian population.

With evidence of war crimes mounting on a daily basis, Amnesty International supports the High Commissioner for Human Rights in emphasizing that international law demands accountability and requires individual criminal responsibility especially for those in command and control. Amnesty International is disturbed to see that a draft resolution circulating among Council members fails to make any mention of the need for parties to the conflict to respect their obligations under international law or of the need to establish accountability. These questions must be addressed in the resolution which the Council prepares to adopt. The Council should also demand that the parties to the conflict immediately take all measures to effectively protect civilians and civilian objects by observing fully the principles of civilian immunity, distinction and proportionality.

Amnesty International notes Israel's announcements that it will conduct inquiries into the deaths of civilians at the hands of its own forces at Qana. We are deeply disappointed that no investigations have been announced regarding other incidents involving civilian deaths. Amnesty International calls for a thorough, independent and impartial inquiry to establish the facts surrounding all alleged serious violations of international humanitarian law committed by Israel and Hizbullah in this conflict. Such an inquiry could be conducted by the International Humanitarian Fact-Finding Commission established under Article 90 of Additional Protocol I to the 1949 Geneva Conventions. The General Assembly stressed, in adopting resolution A/RES/55/148, "the possibility of making use of the International Fact-Finding Commission in relation to an armed conflict, pursuant to article 90 of Protocol I" and recalled "that the International Fact-Finding Commission may, where necessary, facilitate, through its good offices, the restoration of an attitude of respect for the Geneva Conventions and the Protocol,"

Amnesty International welcomes provisions in a current draft resolution circulating among Security Council members that call for an immediate cessation of hostilities and the need to create conditions for a permanent ceasefire and a lasting solution to the current crisis. Our organization is urging an immediate, full and effective ceasefire to protect civilians on both sides of the conflict. Amnesty International urges the Security Council to retain strong provisions to that effect in the resolution to be adopted. In addition, our organization urges the Security Council to adopt, without delay, a resolution that:

Calls on the parties to the conflict to immediately observe their obligations under international humanitarian law and to respect the principles of distinction and proportionality;

Calls on Israel and Lebanon to immediately accept the competence of the International Humanitarian Fact-Finding Commission established under Article 90 of Protocol I to the Geneva Conventions to carry out thorough, independent and impartial investigations of alleged grave violations of international humanitarian law such as in Qana and invite the Commission to visit their territories;

Calls on all states to exercise their jurisdiction over persons suspected of war crimes and other crimes under international law in the current conflict to ensure that there will be individual accountability;

Calls on the parties to the conflict to allow immediate and unimpeded humanitarian access to civilians and to ensure their unhindered and safe passage from areas of military operations and urges the international community to support the United Nations in creating the conditions for the protection and assistance for all persons displaced by the current conflict

Amnesty International greatly appreciates your attention to these matters.

Yours sincerely,


Irene Khan
Secretary General

AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL

Open Letter

AI Index: IOR 41/013/2006 (Public)
News Service No: 202
2 August 2006

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