By Ali Al-Nasani
[This article is translated from the German on the World Wide Web, http://www.zeit-fragen.ch/. Ali Al-Nasani is coordinator for the Middle East in the German section of Amnesty International.]
The human rights violations during the war between Israel and Hezbollah must be investigated and researched. Amnesty International presses for this.
While the current discussion after the war in the Middle East turns around the question what military action can secure the peace, the elaboration of war crimes and human rights is still a future challenge. Unfortunately UN resolution 1701 neglected to enjoin observance of humanitarian international law including the necessity of identifying those responsible for offenses. The elaboration of human rights violations is more than a marginal note of history. Without truth and justice, there can be no future reconciliation or peace in the Middle East.
The four Geneva Conventions of 1949 and the two additional protocols of 1977 protect the civilian population in war times and simultaneously safeguard the rights of wounded or captured soldiers. Both Israel and Lebanon are signators of the Geneva Convention. Hezbollah as a war party must observe the Geneva Convention according to customary international law.
Amnesty international has monitored the course of the war with missions in Israel and Lebanon. These missions identified continued human rights violations and war crimes on both sides. The populations in northern Israel and southern Lebanon had to be evacuated under order. Several villages on both sides had no functioning early-warning sirens. Air-raid bunkers were inadequate. Medical and psychological assistance for victims could only be offered under difficult circumstances. Unfortunately the death of many innocent civilians on both sides only led to nourishing future conflict. The targeted destruction of civilian infrastructure will make difficult a return to normal life for a long time. Amnesty International demands a neutral and thorough investigation of all violations of international law by Hezbollah and Israeli armed forces. To that end, an international investigatory commission must be instituted according to Article 90 of the protocol to the Geneva Convention. How the large number of killed and injured civilians on both sides occurred and who is responsible for that must be examined from an independent side.
Neither Hezbollah nor Israel treated prisoners as war prisoners according to the Geneva Convention. Nevertheless taking hostages is forbidden according to international law. Amnesty International has urged both sides to treat prisoners according to humanitarian international law as prisoners of war, not as hostages and allow them unhindered contact with representatives of the International Committee of the Red Cross. The tactic of instrumentalizing civilians as “protective human shields” is clearly prohibited by international law as a war crime according to Article 51 of the protocol of the Geneva Convention. The systematic shooting of Israeli civilians by Hezbollah is a clear offense against international law like the destruction of the civilian infrastructure in Lebanon by the Israeli army.
The fear that uninvestigated war crimes, open wounds and continuing humiliations of the victims who are not compensated for their suffering and rehabilitated will define life on both sides after the war’s end is obvious. If those responsible do not have to fear any sanctions, the victims have no chance of justice. As long as impunity lasts, a society cannot possibly overcome the traumatization of war. Justice is also a collective right that is historically established and should help prevent the repetition of human rights violations in the future.
“DESTRUCTION IN LEBANON WAS INTENTIONAL AND PLANNED”
Ecumenical delegation reports on its visits in Beirut and Jerusalem and the desires of local churches
“What caused this dreadful destruction?” Members of an ecumenical pastoral delegation asked this question repeatedly in connection with the Israeli attacks on Lebanon.
The delegation was sent by the World Council of Churches, the conference of European churches, the Lutheran World Alliance and the Reformed World Alliance with the commission to manifest the solidarity of the worldwide ecumene to the churches and people affected by the present Middle East conflict. The delegation returned with the task of conveying the hopes and expectations of the churches in Lebanon, Palestine and Israel to the international ecumenical family. The members of the delegation issued a report about their visits to Beirut and Jerusalem from August 10-15. The delegation members agreed the destruction in Lebanon was intentional and planned.
The bearers of responsibility of faith communities supported this analysis by emphasizing their apprehension about the growing influence of neo-conservative US forces on Israel’s political leadership. In particular, they questioned the statement by Condolezza Rice, the US Secretary of State, that the sufferings of Lebanon were the birth pangs of the New Middle East.
The delegation underscored the statements of representatives of different faith communities in Lebanon about the great importance of the multi-culturality and multi-confessionality as guarantees for peace. The Lebanese conversation partners declared the members of all Lebanese religious communities, Christians and Moslems, Sunnites and Shiites, stood together in solidarity despite the enormous potential division caused by this war.
At a press conference in Geneva, de Clement, a French Roman Catholic archbishop who was part of the delegation, explained to journalists that Israel obviously did not want any democratic Lebanon in which Jews, Christians and Moslems live peacefully side-by-side because it did not want a neighboring state that had success where they were not successful. De Clement described Hezbollah as a scapegoat: “The central point of the present crisis is the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, not the role and actions of Hezbollah,” he said and continued: “All religious leaders in Israel and Palestine and the Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas told us the time has come to move back and negotiate with every party.” He added a “de-militarization of thinking” among the political leaders is necessary.
The delegation made contact with the Israeli president Moshe Katsan and several ministers and hoped for a meeting with Israeli government officials. However “there was no sign that the Israeli government took notice of the presence of a delegation of the World Council of Churches while the Lebanese Prime Minister Siniora welcomed us and emphasized the importance of a spiritual message in these days of crisis,” de Clement said.
Cf. WCC report from 8/18/2006 and Jerusalem Post 8/17/2006