Thursday, August 24, 2006

Amnesty International Accuses Israel of Committing War Crimes in Lebanon


"In a few minutes we are going to get a response on the report from Israel’s deputy ambassador to the UN, Daniel Carmon, but first we take a closer look at the report’s findings with Marty Rosenbluth. He is a specialist for Israel, the Occupied Territories and the Palestinian Authority for Amnesty International-USA. He was on one of the research missions for the group that helped compile this report.

AMY GOODMAN: It's good to have you joining us in the Reuters studio. Can you talk about your major findings in this report?

MARTY ROSENBLUTH: Well, sure. What the report shows is that the Israeli claims that the damage to the civilian infrastructure was purely collateral damage just really doesn't match the facts. And you really only have to look at the statements by Israeli government officials. I mean, Dan Halutz, who’s the Israeli Defense Forces chief of staff, said at the very beginning of the war that the purpose of the air strikes was to send a message to the Lebanese government that if they didn't rein in Hezbollah, that the Lebanese population would pay a heavy price. I mean, that's prima fascia evidence that the strikes were designed as collective punishment. But also just the sheer level of the destruction, the destruction of the electrical infrastructure, the water infrastructure, the roads, the bridges, houses, businesses, etc., just doesn't match the Israeli claims that this was either collateral damage or due to the fact that Hezbollah was shielding amongst the civilian population.

JUAN GONZALEZ: When you say the principle of distinction -- for example, in your report you mentioned the many roads that were destroyed by Israel. Israel was claiming that these roads could potentially be used for military transport. But you raise the issue that while that may be true, they were principally used by civilians and that that should have been the overriding factor?

MARTY ROSENBLUTH: Correct. And that's really what the principle of distinction means: you have to distinguish between whether it's primarily a military purpose or primarily a civilian purpose to balance essentially what the military advantage is versus the effect on the civilian population. So when we met with senior IDF officials in Israel, they said, “Well, the electrical infrastructure is a military target, because Hezbollah needs electricity.” Well, of course Hezbollah needs electricity, but so do hospitals, so do civilians for refrigeration, so does the water infrastructure. The electrical pumps rely on electricity for water. So if you knock out the electricity infrastructure, you also knock out the water, which creates a major health hazard. So, simply claiming that there's some military potential or it contributes in some way to Hezbollah's military purposes doesn't mean that it can be targeted as a military target. That's a clear violation of the laws of war."

No comments: