Take HRW, for example. In examining the Russian invasion of Georgia, HRW writes:
Russia is bound by the law of occupation wherever it exercises effective control within the territory of Georgia without the consent of the Georgian state. Anywhere Georgian authorities are prevented from their full and free exercise of sovereignty - such as denying access for Georgian authorities including law enforcement and military forces - because of Russian presence, Russia is assuming the role of an occupying power for the purposes of international humanitarian law, and all its obligations towards the civilian population remain.In the first paragraph, dealing with straight occupation, Human Rights Watch clearly defines occupation in terms of physical presence that denies "free exercise of sovereignty".
If Russia exercises effective control of access to an area, such as a so-called buffer zone, even if it grants access to some authorities, for example, Georgian police, it is still bound by its obligations to the civilian population to ensure public safety and welfare and permit humanitarian access.[emphasis added]
According to that definition, Israel--which has no presence in Gaza and does not deny Hamas sovereign control over the area--is not an occupying area. The second paragraph, while vague, is apparently talking about controlling from within the country, which again is not applicable here--besides which, Israel allows tons of aid into Gaza each day, and will now be allowing even more.
In terms of Amnesty International, here is what they said in response to the US invasion of Iraq:
The definition of belligerent occupation is given in Article 42 of the Hague Regulations:Again, time and again, Amnesty International emphasizes physical control: where territory is "actually placed under the authority of the hostile army" and "where such authority has been established and can be exercised"--that combined with "the de facto absence of a national governmental authority in effective control." Is there a Gazan who thinks that Hamas is not in control?
"Territory is considered occupied when it is actually placed under the authority of the hostile army. The occupation extends only to the territory where such authority has been established and can be exercised."
The sole criterion for deciding the applicability of the law on belligerent occupation is drawn from facts: the de facto effective control of territory by foreign armed forces coupled with the possibility to enforce their decisions, and the de facto absence of a national governmental authority in effective control. If these conditions are met for a given area, the law on belligerent occupation applies. Even though the objective of the military campaign may not be to control territory, the sole presence of such forces in a controlling position renders applicable the law protecting the inhabitants. The occupying power cannot avoid its responsibilities as long as a national government is not in a position to carry out its normal tasks.
The international legal regime on belligerent occupation takes effect as soon as the armed forces of a foreign power have secured effective control over a territory that is not its own. It ends when the occupying forces have relinquished their control over that territory.
The question may arise whether the law on occupation still applies if new civilian authorities set up by the occupying power from among nationals of the occupied territories are running the occupied territory’s daily affairs. The answer is affirmative, as long as the occupying forces are still present in that territory and exercise final control over the acts of the local authorities.[emphasis added]
But when talking about Israel, a second set of criteria are applied:
After Hamas took control in Gaza in June 2007, the existing Israeli policy of closure was tightened to a blockade restricting the entry of food, fuel, and other basic goods....Closing ones border with another country does not constitute "occupation"--but that does not stop Amnesty International.
As the occupying power, Israel bears the foremost responsibility for ensuring the welfare of the inhabitants of Gaza.
The error that both Amnesty International make is to take a pre-existing situation that no longer exists, yet insist on applying it until all conflict and tension is resolved.
Let's put this another way: if Israel had never been in Gaza, but because of the attacks by Hamas on Israel's civilian population had decided on measures to prevent those continued attacks: would anyone claim that Israel was occupying Gaza?
The answer is clearly no.
The egregious biases and double standard of Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch are out there for all to see.
Crossposted on Soccer Dad
Technorati Tag: Human Rights Watch and HRW and Amnesty International.