Al-Quds Bard College, Al-Quds University, Palestine

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NEW REPORT: Breaking The Silence on ‘Children and Youth, Soldiers’ Testimonies 2005-2011′

DOWNLOAD FULL REPORT: <http://www.breakingthesilence.org.il/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/Children_and_Youth_Soldiers_Testimonies_2005_2011_Eng.pdf>.

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The Guardian: <http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/aug/26/israeli-soldiers-mistreatment-palestinian-children?newsfeed=true>.

Former Israeli soldiers disclose routine mistreatment of Palestinian children

Booklet of testimonies of former Israeli soldiers describes beatings, intimidation and humiliation of children

More than 30 former Israeli soldiers have disclosed their experiences of the treatment of Palestinian children during military operations and arrests, pointing to a pattern of abuse.

A booklet of testimonies, published by Breaking the Silence, an organisation of former Israeli soldiers dedicated to publicising the day-to-day actions of the army in the occupied territories, contains descriptions of beatings, intimidation, humiliation, verbal abuse, night-time arrests and injury. Most of the children had been suspected of stone-throwing.

The witness statements were gathered to show the “common reality” of acts of violence by soldiers towards Palestinians, including children, in the West Bank, said Yehuda Shaul of Breaking the Silence. “Sadly enough this is the moral consequence of prolonged occupation of the Palestinian people,” he said.

One former soldier describes serving in Hebron in 2010: “You never know their names, you never talk with them, they always cry, shit in their pants … There are those annoying moments when you’re on an arrest mission, and there’s no room in the police station, so you just take the kid back with you, blindfold him, put him in a room and wait for the police to come and pick him up in the morning. He sits there like a dog …”

Children frequently soiled themselves, according to the testimonies. “I remember hearing him shitting his pants … I also remember some other time when someone pissed in his pants. I just became so indifferent to it, I couldn’t care less. I heard him do it, I witnessed his embarrassment. I also smelled it. But I didn’t care,” said another.

Another soldier describes an incident in Qalqiliya in 2007 in which a boy was arrested for throwing stones. “At the end of the day, something has to make these kids stop throwing stones on the road because they can kill,” he said.

“That specific kid who actually lay there on the ground, begging for his life, was actually nine years oldI mean, a kid has to beg for his life? A loaded gun is pointed at him and he has to plead for mercy? This is something that scars him for life. But I think if we hadn’t entered the village at that point, then stones would be thrown the next day and perhaps the next time someone would be wounded or killed as a result.”

Some of the statements illustrate the disjunction between the Israeli military and Palestinians. One soldier said: “You put up a checkpoint out of boredom, sit there for a few hours and then continue on. Once I saw kids passing, and one of the guys, a reservist who spoke Arabic, wanted to ask them what they study. He didn’t mean it in any bad way. Then I saw how the kid nearly peed his pants as the guy tried to kid with him, how the two worlds are simply disconnected. The guy was kidding and the kid was scared to death.”

Most of the soldiers have given testimonies anonymously. One, who spoke to the Guardian, said he had been given no guidance during his training for military service on how to deal with minors. He said children were sometimes arrested and interrogated, not because they were suspected of an offence, but to try to elicit information about older family members or neighbours.

He had given a witness statement to Breaking the Silence because “I thought that people who don’t see this on an everyday basis should know what’s going on.” He said many Israelis were unwilling to acknowledge the reality of the military occupation in the West Bank. “It’s very easy [for the Israeli public] to be completely detached. It’s a hard thing to handle – stuff like that being done in your name.”

According to Gerard Horton of Defence for Children International – Palestine (DCI) the testimonies confirm a pattern of behaviour uncovered by his organisation’s research into the treatment of Palestinian children by the Israeli security forces.

DCI and other human rights organisations say Palestinian children are routinely arrested at night, handcuffed, blindfolded, mistreated and denied access to their parents or a lawyer.

“For years credible reports of human rights abuses against children living under Israeli military occupation have emerged,” he said. “These latest testimonies from young soldiers given the task of enforcing the occupation provide further evidence of its deeply corrosive effects on all. The testimonies lay bare the day-to-day reality of the occupation. These are not isolated incidents or a question of ‘a few bad apples’. This is the natural and foreseeable consequence of government policy.”

A spokesman for the Israeli Defence Forces said that Breaking the Silence had declined to provide the IDF with testimonies ahead of publication so they could be verified and investigated.

He said its true intention was “to generate negative publicity regarding the IDF and its soldiers. The IDF has in the past, and continues to, call upon the organisation to immediately convey complaints or suspicions of improper conduct to the relevant authorities. In line with the IDF’s ethical commitments, any such incidents will be thoroughly investigated.”

New al-shabaka policy brief: The Russell Tribunal on Palestine and the Question of Apartheid

By Victor Kattan

The third session of the Russell Tribunal on Palestine recently convened in Cape Town, South Africa. Its perhaps most controversial finding was that Israel applies a system of apartheid to the entire Palestinian people, including its own citizens. What is the significance of this finding, and what does it mean for civil society in Palestine and the Diaspora — and for Israel and its supporters? In this policy brief, Al-Shabaka Program Director Victor Kattan describes what apartheid means under international law, highlights the Tribunal’s findings, and explains its significance.  
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Note: This policy brief may be republished, but please include due attribution to the author and Al-Shabaka. For more information, please contact admin@al-shabaka.org.

The Russell Tribunal on Palestine: Israel’s policies amount to Apartheid

See Russell Tribunal’s website.

Operating as a court of the people, the Russell Tribunal on Palestine held its third international session on 5-6 November 2011 in the symbolic city of Cape Town, South Africa. The Russell Tribunal on Palestine addressed the question of whether Israel’s rule over the Palestinian people could be characterised as a regime of apartheid and found that the Palestinian people are subject to an institutionalised regime of domination.

Al-Haq welcomes the findings of the Russell Tribunal on Palestine as they represent an important step towards mobilising public opinion and putting pressure on decision makers with regard to Israeli practices against the Palestinian people in breach of the prohibition on apartheid.

Following the hearing, the third international session of the Russell Tribunal on Palestine concluded that Israel subjection of the Palestinian people to an institutionalised regime of domination manifests itself in varying intensity and forms. Despite distinguishing between Palestinians living under colonial military rule in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT), who are subject to a particularly aggravated form of apartheid, and Palestinian citizens of Israel, systematically discriminated against across the broad spectrum of human rights, the Tribunal finds that Israel’s rule over the Palestinian people collectively amounts to an integrated regime of apartheid as defined under customary international law.

Prior to the South African session of the Russell Tribunal on Palestine, Al-Haq presented a written submission on the legal and administrative measures impacting residency rights and the freedom of movement of Palestinians in the OPT. The testimony focussed on Israel’s institutionalised discriminatory policies that have resulted in the overarching fragmentation of the Palestinian population into sub-groups – West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip. These divisions prevent Palestinians from participating in the political, social, economic and cultural life in the OPT, thus impeding their full development as a group.

On the second day of the Russell Tribunal, Al-Haq provided an oral testimony, highlighting the factual restrictions on Palestinians living in the OPT. Today, more than 580 obstacles, such as roadblocks, checkpoints, trenches and road gates, obstruct Palestinian movement within the West Bank, including East Jerusalem. In addition to these restrictions, Palestinians with West Bank IDs are prohibited from entering East Jerusalem without a permit from the Israeli authorities, which is virtually impossible to obtain. Most of the movement restrictions imposed on Palestinians aim to privilege the over 500,000 Israeli settlers living in settlements established, in contravention of international humanitarian law, throughout the West Bank.

In addition, Al-Haq emphasised the discriminatory policies imposed on Palestinians living in the Jordan Valley, presenting a stark example of segregation between Palestinians and Jewish settlers. The area contains the land and water reserves of the West Bank, but a draconian matrix of Israeli military and administrative measures severely restricts Palestinian access to land and natural resources, including water. Whereas the over 9,000 Israeli settlers living in the Jordan Valley enjoy uninterrupted water supply for their household consumption as well as large amounts of subsidised water for irrigation, Palestinians have no choice but to buy water, which costs up to 5 times the price paid by households connected to the water network.

All States have a legal obligation under international law to cooperate to bring an end to the illegal situation arising from Israel’s practices of apartheid. Al-Haq urges all States to effectively comply with their obligations under international law, including:

  • by exercising pressure on Israel to put an end to the violations; and
  • by refraining from recognising or providing aid and assistance to Israel for its violations of international law.

Palestine and Israel: A rights-based approach

Calling for negotiations instead of statehood for Palestine “holds justice hostage to the political will of Israel”.
Shawan Jabarin Last Modified: 05 Oct 2011 11:08

Some governments have objected to the Palestinian leadership’s bid to upgrade Palestine’s status at the UN on the basis that only negotiations with Israel can bring peace. For a long time, some governments have supported negotiations at all costs, even if doing so meant denying justice to victims of violations of international law, including the most egregious international crimes.

This perpetuation of the politics of the “negotiating table” holds justice hostage to the political will of the Israeli government, obstructing recourse to justice for Palestinian victims. They have willfully ignored the basic principle that preventing future crimes and promoting human dignity are essential preconditions for a durable peace. Governments that claim to support accountability and the rule of law should be held to account for their support of such actions.

In parallel to applying for UN membership, the Palestinian leadership may also ask the General Assembly to invite Palestine to become a member of other international organisations. Palestine could then seek to join the International Criminal Court (ICC).

Yet the EU and a number of its member states are reportedly trying to condition such a General Assembly resolution on a Palestinian promise not to turn to the ICC. Along with discrediting the Court and its authority, such tactics threaten to thwart a much-needed monumental opportunity for justice and accountability.

It is the responsibility of the EU and its individual member states to send the clear and unambiguous message that accountability for crimes … will be pursued

They also send the dangerous message that Israel is, and should remain, above the law – reaffirming the current climate of impunity for Israel’s international crimes, in stark defiance of the UN’s extensive documentation of crimes committed during Israel’s “Operation Cast Lead” in the Gaza Strip, and the principle of equal access to justice by all parties to the conflict.

Such action would directly contravene the EU’s common position on the ICC, which calls on all EU countries to support the Court’s work and recalls the importance of its contribution to “freedom, security, justice and the rule of law as well [as] … the preservation of peace and the strengthening of international security”.

These attempts to bar access to justice have already damaged the authority and credibility of the EU and its agenda for human rights and democracy across the Euro-Mediterranean region, by proving its double standard in enforcing these obligations on the governments with which they conduct relations. It is the responsibility of the EU and its individual member states to send the clear and unambiguous message that accountability for crimes under international law will be pursued, irrespective of any political considerations.

What can be said for the state of international justice when law-abiding states themselves are not only unwilling to prevent Israel’s international crimes, but also actively support Israel’s continued impunity? If the EU and its member states do not reject the call for negotiations at the expense of justice, who can be expected to defend the normative foundations of the just and peaceful world order that states and international organisations like the UN exist to promote?

Since 1967 there have been numerous processes and initiatives meant to facilitate negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian representatives with the intention to bring about peace. These actions have sidelined initiatives for international justice, resulting in the exacerbation of the situation of the Palestinian population through the perpetuation of Israel’s violations of international law in a state of impunity. Moreover, the PLO-Israel Interim Agreements 1995 (Oslo Accords) have been misused to perpetuate measures that violate the very basic pillars of international law, contrary to their avowed objective as an interim step on the path to a durable peace.

Negotiations on final status issues, including borders and refugees, cannot be resolved before the occupation is brought to an end, with the end of hostilities and the effective withdrawal of all troops as well as the cessation of all violations of international law, including the withdrawal of all settlements. International law and a rights-based approach must stand at the core of any just and durable resolution of the conflict.

International law prohibits the acquisition of territory by force. In other words, the long-standing “land swaps” initiative proposed by the Israeli government with support from the EU and the US is therefore strictly proscribed by international law. Despite this, the Quartet’s statement (a diplomatic initiative consisting of the UN, US, EU and Russia) issued on September 23 claims that negotiations should continue on issues of territory, including “land swaps”.

The Palestinian leadership should take all necessary measures to ensure that the rights of the Palestinian people are protected to the fullest extent, through the promotion of the exercise of the right to self-determination by all the Palestinian people, including the right of return, and their sovereignty over natural resources.

Concurrently, the international community, and in particular the EU, should adhere to its obligations towards the Palestinian people and their situation as well as the obligations flowing from Israel’s persistent violations of international law by ensuring that Palestine’s application for UN membership goes through. The Palestinian UN bid, which is meant to facilitate access to international accountability mechanisms such as the ICC, must not be derailed by the political pressures of some states to return to negotiations, denying justice to victims and shielding perpetrators from international accountability.

Shawan Jabarin is General Director of Al-Haq, an independent Palestinian non-governmental human rights organisation based in Ramallah, in the occupied West Bank. Established in 1979, the organisation has special consultative status with the United Nations Economic and Social Council. 

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial policy.

Career Advice for International Law Students

See the original post on ‘International Law Prof Blog’.

September 26, 2011

Over the years I’ve written a number of articles on career advice for law students who are interested in having a career in international law.  Here are links to some of those articles.  To download the articles you have to register your email address with SSRN, but that only takes a minute.  Here’s the list of articles:

 

Joint Statement by Al-Haq, PCHR and FIDH: Human Rights Organisations Demand PLO and International Community Uphold Victims Rights

See for the original Press Release.

PRESS RELEASE
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
DATE: 29 September 2011
REF.: 308/2011

During the 66thUN General Assembly,Al-Haq, the Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) and the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) published a joint statement demandingthat due regard be given to the recognition of rights, and the fundamental importance of the rule of law.

The organisations called upon the General Assembly “to uphold the enforcement of international law, and to ensure that the accountability process triggered more than two years ago by the Report of the UN Fact-Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict reaches its full legal implementation.”

The statement concludes that “At this time it is imperative that the international community sends a clear and unambiguous message: human rights are universal, and all those suspected of committing crimes under international law will be pursued, irrespective of any political considerations.”

Read the statement.

Palestine’s UN Initiatives: Questions and Answers on the Representation of the Rights of the Palestinian People

AL-HAQ PRESS RELEASE
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Ref. 285/2011
DATE: 15 September 2011

As an organisation dedicated to the protection and promotion of human rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT), Al-Haq analysed the legal and political implications of the upcoming Palestinian UN initiatives on the protection of the rights of the Palestinian people under international law. By adhering to a strict application of international law and contemporary legal practice, Al-Haq’s legal briefs on the UN initiatives seek to bring some clarity to the questions and concerns raised in the public debate and highlight, where appropriate, potential threats to the full exercise of all the Palestinian people’s rights.

Al-Haq’s initial legal brief (Al-Haq’s Questions and Answers on the Palestinian Initiatives at the United Nations) examined Palestine’s statehood, the options available to the State of Palestine at the UN and the potential benefits and risks of the UN initiatives. It concluded that the initiatives do not bear any legal implications for Palestine’s statehood status. The existence of a State is not a legal, but a purely factual and political matter, and Palestine has been treated as a State over the years by the majority of States and international organisations. Therefore, by seeking UN admission, Palestinians do not claim a right to statehood, but rather the rights flowing from an existing statehood status.

The upgrade of the Palestinian representation in the UN system is an important adjustment that would provide Palestine with further political leverage and legal avenues. It would strengthen Palestine’s international legal personality and enhance its influence over the international community’s willingness to put an end to Israel’s occupation of the OPT and continuous violations of international law. Nevertheless, the September initiatives do not as such consist in an exercise of any right, they are merely a means to forward existing rights claims.

Recent public debate on Palestine’s UN initiatives has raised concerns about potential changes in the mechanism of representation of the Palestinian people at the international level, and their possible effects on future rights claims, including the rights of return, to reparations and self-determination. The overarching concern has been that the UN initiatives could jeopardise the effective and collective representation of all the Palestinian people – the Diaspora, refugees, Palestinians citizens of Israel and the Palestinians in the OPT – both inside and outside of the UN system.

Al-Haq’s legal analysis of the current structures of the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) and the State of Palestine, respectively, concludes that these two entities have considerably different representational roles and capacities, flowing from their different international legal personalities. The State has the benefit of accessing more effective legal mechanisms, including the international criminal justice system, and engaging with other States – including Israel, on an equal footing to claim its sovereign rights. However, the State of Palestine might face limitations vis-à-vis other States in bringing individual claims through different international mechanisms on behalf of those who are not its nationals or dependents, namely, Palestinian refugees whose homes are in Israel and Palestinians citizens of Israel. On the other hand, the PLO’s representational capacities allow it to represent claims on behalf of all the Palestinian people, the majority of which are refugees, despite its limited leverage compared to that of the State.

As such, it is of prime importance to safeguard the unique internationally recognised representational role and capacities of the PLO in parallel to those of the State of Palestine. With the upgrade in the Palestinian representation at the UN, the UN initiatives should ensure the full integration of the people’s interests represented by the PLO into the participation of the State of Palestine through its seat at the UN. The PLO should also continue to function outside of the UN system in parallel to the State, maintaining its current role and capacities because it is not subject to the limitations placed by international law and practice on relations between States.

Al-Haq acknowledges the importance of upgrading the Palestinian representation in the UN, provided that these steps are taken in a cautious and responsible manner, by undertaking firm measures to ensure the utmost protection of the rights of all the Palestinian people, therefore preserving the role and functions of the PLO. It is equally the responsibility of the international community towards the Palestinian people, in particular the Palestinian refugees, to ensure that their representation is maintained and facilitated both inside and outside the UN system.

Importantly, the future undertaking of internal reforms of the Palestinian representative bodies must guarantee the legal protection of all the Palestinian people, and ensure their political participation in accordance with their civil and political human rights. Al-Haq reiterates its firm belief that strict adherence to international law is the essential framework for the protection of the rights of the Palestinian people, and the only basis for a just and sustainable resolution of the conflict.

Read the Legal Brief:
Al-Haq’s Questions and Answers on Palestine’s UN Initiatives and the Representation of the Palestinian People’s Rights’