Sunday, September 10, 2006

Human Rights Watch and Red Cross on Kidnapped Israeli Soldiers: zzzzzzzzzzzz...

Israel Matzav notes how the Red Cross has yet to be able to visit Israel's kidnapped soldiers--nor has it raised a stink over it either.

Arutz Sheva asked the ICRC some questions:
Asked what public pressure the ICRC is exerting in order to get to see the three, the spokesperson noted the issuance of several press statements expressing the organization's concern over the plight of the abducted soldiers.

The last such press announcement was issued on August 9, stating that ICRC president Jacob Kelenberger had arrived in Israel and would discuss with Israeli officials "the humanitarian situation in northern Israel and in Lebanon, access to those in need, and the fate of captured soldiers and other people detained in connection with the conflict." [emphasis added]

...In response to the claim that no announcement on the matter had been issued in a month, and that the captives' issue seemed always to be buried among other issues, Yechezkel-Oron said, "The official announcements do not reflect the extent of our activity on the matter. There are behind-the-scenes contacts being made all the time. We are not a military organization, and we cannot force them."

Arutz-7 then asked why the ICRC does not hold a special press conference to declare that Hamas and Hizbullah refuse to allow visits to the captives. "Would this not keep the matter in the public eye, be the subject of newspaper articles, and force the world community to take note?" she was asked. The spokesperson responded that the ICRC and its demands had been mentioned in recent media articles regarding the captives.
Here isw an example of an ICRC press release, with the issue of Shalit's kidnapping buried among other issues. Maybe part of the problem is the Red Cross' sense of priorities. Take a look at this press release they put out on July 13:
ICRC gravely concerned about humanitarian situation in Gaza
Geneva (ICRC) – The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) is alarmed about the deteriorating situation in the Gaza Strip.

The continuing escalation of violence, with military operations taking place in highly populated areas, has serious consequences for the civilian population.

Over the past two weeks, Israeli military operations in the Gaza Strip have led to the deaths of dozens of people and the wounding of many more, among them a large number of civilians. In one single incident on 12 July, nine family members – including children – were killed in their home by an air strike in Gaza City. In some cases, people living near operations have been unable to leave their homes for several days.

The ICRC has urged and continues to urge Israel to respect the rules of international humanitarian law. In particular, in the conduct of hostilities, Israel must take all precautions to spare civilian life and property. It must also ensure that the wounded have access to medical facilities.

Meanwhile, the humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip is continuing to deteriorate. The strike on Gaza's only power plant on 28 June reduced the power supply in the Strip by half, with direct and indirect effects on the population. Hospitals and a large part of the water and wastewater systems now depend on generators that consume considerable amounts of fuel, which is also in short supply owing to recurrent closures of the Strip. Furthermore, the strict controls imposed on the passage of basic items into the Strip have exacerbated the difficulties faced by residents, who were already living in precarious conditions. Under international humanitarian law, Israel is responsible for meeting the basic needs of the population, which include food, medical supplies and means of shelter.

As a further consequence of the ongoing situation in the Gaza Strip, hundreds of Palestinians have been stranded on the Egyptian side of the Rafah terminal, two of whom have reportedly died. The material and psychological conditions in which these people live are deteriorating day by day and no solution to their plight has been found by the parties concerned. The ICRC has already offered its services to facilitate their passage into the Gaza Strip. Meanwhile, together with the Egyptian Red Crescent, it is providing the affected people with assistance.

The ICRC is seriously concerned about the consequences of the repeated launching of rockets from the Gaza Strip against the civilian population in Israel. These attacks, which have wounded several people, are indiscriminate and thus prohibited by international humanitarian law.

Finally, the ICRC urges those detaining IDF corporal Gilad Shalit to treat him humanely and allow him to contact his family. It has informed all the parties that it stands ready to provide its services.
The Red Cross' 'humanitarian concern' places Shalit last as a priority. One wonders if ICRC's "behind the scenes" efforts are as buried as their casual reference to Shalit in their news release.

Arutz Sheva gives links for contacting the ICRC:

The ICRC can be emailed as follows:
The Washington office
The Geneva office
The Tel Aviv office

Meanwhile, Human Rights Watch has not exactly been banging the drums either about the kidnapped soldiers.

Part of the problem may be their contradictory message. On the one hand they have news releases that claim:
Since June 25, Palestinian armed groups have abducted and killed an Israeli settler in the West Bank and are currently holding Israeli soldier Corporal Gilad Shalit hostage, whom they have offered to release in exchange for some of the Palestinians imprisoned by Israel. A hostage is a person held in the power of an adversary in order to obtain specific actions, such as the release of prisoners, from the other party to the conflict. Holding persons as hostages and the summary execution of anyone held captive are war crimes. [emphasis added]
Clearing, the reference to the holding of hostages as a war crime is referring to Shalit.

But on July 26, in an open letter to Ahmadinejad, HRW helpfully writes:
On July 12, Hezbollah launched an attack on Israeli positions, killing three Israeli soldiers and capturing two. The targeting and capture of enemy soldiers is allowed under international humanitarian law. However captured combatants in all circumstances must be treated humanely.

Hezbollah leader Hassan Nassrallah stated that Hezbollah will use the captured soldiers to negotiate the release of Palestinian, Lebanese and other Arab prisoners from Israel. The use of captives who are no longer involved in the conflict for this purpose constitutes hostage-taking. Hostage-taking as part of an armed conflict is strictly forbidden under international law, by both common Article 3 and customary international law, and is a war crime. [emphasis added]
So HRW wants Ahmadinejad to know that kidnapping the soldiers was OK, up to the point of demanding prisoners in return.

Questions:

So according to HRW, even though there was no state of war between Lebanon and Israel, it is OK for Hezbollah to attack Israel and create the conflict under which the soldier they set out to kidnap becomes an enemy soldier? How nice of them to send a letter to Ahmadinejad giving their seal of approval for the actions of his proxie.

But what about when the group doing the kidnapping is acting independently of the country which it inhabits? Or is HRW saying that Hezbollah attacked Israel on the authority of the Lebanese government? Is HRW claiming that Israel and Lebanon were enemies before the attack?

How about Human Rights Watch?

Note that like ICRC, HRW also never came out with an independent news release about the kidnapping of Goldwasser and Regev. Their first release addresses the issue of Israel's reaction to the kidnapping.

Likewise, the first HRW press release in response to the June 25 kidnapping of Shalit came on June 29, in response to Israel's destruction of the power station.

Where is the outcry?
Human Rights Watch can be contacted here.

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