Monday, August 07, 2006

Some Lebanese civilian casualties constitute war crimes.

There was an interesting opinion piece in the Toronto Star by Haroon Siddiqui dicussing how the Canadian people feel about the war. More important were some relayed comments from Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch.
The whole article is worth reading, but I've excerpted the second half:

'As Lebanon has been reduced to rubble, and hundreds of civilians continue to be killed and thousands injured, Israel and its very vocal supporters have kept up a drumbeat that Israel tries very hard to avoid civilian casualties. It obviously hasn't tried hard enough.

In fact, Human Rights Watch, the highly respected New York-based group, says that Israel has "consistently launched artillery and air attacks with limited or dubious military gain but excessive civilian cost." (

In a report released Thursday, it accuses Israel of "a systematic failure to distinguish between combatants and civilians," and of "serious violations of international humanitarian law."

Kenneth Roth, executive director, writes: "We've all heard the Israeli government blame Hezbollah for the large number of civilian deaths. Hezbollah is placing its troops and matériel in the villages, the argument goes, so what can Israel do? ...

"The problem with this ... is that it doesn't correspond with our research on the ground. Hezbollah has placed its troops and matériel near civilians, and sometimes civilians may have died as a result. But Human Rights Watch has investigated the circumstances of roughly half of the civilian deaths caused by Israeli bombing, and time after time it was clear that there was no Hezbollah around.

"So why is Israel bombing indiscriminately?

"Judging from the comments of its senior military officials, part of the reason is that, having issued evacuation warnings for southern Lebanon, Israel now assumes anyone left in that area is a combatant.

"But that is not factually correct: many people have been compelled to stay because they are old, infirm, unable to afford exorbitant taxi fares, or unwilling to risk travel on roads where many civilians have died. Many simply don't want to leave their homes and possessions.

"But it is also not legally correct under the laws of war: Israel is to be commended for issuing warnings, but warnings do not absolve it of the duty to continue at all times to distinguish between civilians and combatants in launching attacks.

"If that were not true, Hamas might `warn' all settlers to leave the settlements and treat those who remained as fair game for attack. Particularly disturbing is that there are some cases ... in which the circumstances of the attack suggest that civilians were deliberately targeted. Clear civilian targets were attacked with no military justification. That is a war crime."

Calling these conclusions "shocking," Roth said: "None of this is to diminish the severity of Hezbollah rocket attacks on Israeli civilians. These indiscriminate and deliberate attacks are themselves war crimes ... But international humanitarian law is absolutely clear that violations by one side do not justify violations by another."'


Blogger Xander said...

My comments can be found here:

5:26 PM  
Blogger Darren said...

I've posted the following on Xander's blog:
For all your wonderful dismissiveness, you seemed to miss the main point I was trying to make:
Some Israeli bombs are not coming close to Hezbollah fighters, they are just killing civilians.

That's it. And why is that important? Not to support moral equivalency, but because many people don't realize that is true (the day I posted that McCain was on Leno saying 'only military targerts' are being bombed. Thus, the point was to correct an inaccurate perception.

10:49 AM  

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