Posts tagged ‘Geneva Conventions’

09/21/2011

Palestine: Queen Noor’s Jordanian View

Queen Noor, born in the U.S. in 1951 and educated at Princeton, married the late King Hussein of Jordan in 1977, at age 26, and after his death, she commented on Palestine in her book, Queen Noor, Leap of Faith, Memoirs of an Unexpected Life (2003).

The Queen noted Palestinians have lived in Palestine for thousands of years. When Britain seized Palestine in WWI, Sir Arthur Balfour promised to create a home there for the Jews of Europe. Although Balfour stated: “nothing shall be done that may prejudice the civil and religious rights of the existing non-Jewish communities of Palestine,” the late King Hussein of Jordan called the Balfour Declaration (1917), “the root cause of all of the bitterness and frustration in our Arab world today.”

After WWII, the West alone determined the fate of Palestine, since much of the world was under colonial rule. UN Res. 181 (1947) partitioned Palestine into Arab and Jewish areas, triggering a civil war, because the Jews received 55% of the land, even though they had just 33% of the population. After Israel declared independence in 1948, their forces went house to house to drive the Palestinians out. Roughly 800,000 Palestinians were forcibly uprooted, as Israel took 78% of the land originally assigned to the Arabs. Palestinians fled to Gaza, the West Bank, Jordan, Syria, and Lebanon. Homeless Palestinians lived in caves and makeshift tents, during the winter of 1948-49.

As the Israeli Air Force launched another Arab-Israeli War with a surprise attack against the Arab states in 1967, Jerusalem and the West Bank were occupied. Israel solidified their control of all of Palestine, as another 400,000 Palestinians became refugees. UN Res. 242 criticized Israel saying no land can be acquired by aggression, and ordered a “withdrawal of Israeli armed forces from territories occupied in the recent conflict.” Israel responded by naively suggesting the Palestinians be absorbed by Arab states.

Israel then destroyed Palestinian villages in the Jordan River Valley and built their own settlements, in violation of the Geneva Conventions and international law. By 1991, 100,000 Jews had settled in the occupied territories and 127,000 in East Jerusalem. Prime Minister Netanyahu lifted a ban on Jewish settlements in the 1990s, approved of more homes in the Jordan Valley, and stopped withdrawing troops from Hebron, where 130,000 Palestinians lived. He created a ring of settlements around Arab East Jerusalem, and precipitated another crisis by approving thousands of additional housing units on 425 acres of expropriated Palestinian land, between Jerusalem and Bethlehem. The UN Assembly again found Israel had violated international law.

Although the Palestinians are entitled to a return of the occupied territories and to an independent state, Israel continues to resist. The Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) agreed back in 1985 already to recognize Israel’s right to exist, if they would only accept Res. 242, which requires a withdrawal to the pre-1967 borders. For years however, neither Israel nor the U.S. would even negotiate. The two sides did not sit down together until 1991, when the PLO and Israel agreed to some things in Oslo, but failed to address refugees, settlements, security, and borders. They subsequently signed a Wye Memorandum in 1994, but did not resolve issues as to refugees, Jerusalem, and a Palestinian State.

Over the years, Queen Noor called President Carter one of the most knowledgeable and balanced voices on the region’s search for peace, but said the U.S. as a whole has a fundamental lack of understanding of the Middle East, and is unpopular in the Arab world, because of an unflinching support for Israel. Americans are blind, because the U.S. media only broadcasts the Israeli perspective. The Israeli Lobby exerts tremendous power in the U.S., which explains why Congress passes resolutions favorable to Israel. While the U.S. pays lip service to UN resolutions demanding an end to the settlements, they do nothing about it. While almost all UN members routinely vote against Israel, the U.S. is usually one of the only two votes in opposition.

It is time to recognize a Palestinian State. Nothing new is required as the UN could enforce UN Res. 181, which in 1947 partitioned British-ruled Palestine into Jewish and Arab states.

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09/19/2011

Palestinian State: Listen To Jimmy Carter

Since the question of a Palestinian State is heading to the UN this week, now is a good time to review the contents of former President Jimmy Carter’s book, Palestine Peace, Not Apartheid, (2006), which is the source of the information in this article.

The Turkish Ottoman Empire controlled Palestine for 402 years, from 1516 through 1918. Only 30,000 Jews lived there as of 1880. In WWI, former British Prime Minister Balfour issued the Balfour Declaration (1917), promising Palestine for the Jews, if Turkey surrendered. Following Turkey’s defeat, the League of Nations gave Britain a mandate in 1922 to govern Palestine, a territory that spanned from the Mediterranean to the Jordan River. As Jews from Europe moved into Palestine, their numbers grew to 150,000 by 1930, and increased another 608,000 by 1945.

Following WWII, the United Nations partitioned Palestine into separate Arab and Jewish areas in 1947, over Palestinian objection. The Arabs received only 45% of the territory, as the Jews were given 55%. Jerusalem was internationalized. Jewish groups, such as Irgun, then intensified their terrorist acts against the British, forcing them to withdraw from Palestine in 1948.

Once Britain had vacated Palestine, Israel declared independence, triggering an Arab-Israeli War (1948), in which 420 Palestinian villages were destroyed, and 700,000 Palestinians were driven out of their homes. Under a 1949 Armistice, new borders, accepted by the UN, increased Israel to 77% of what was formerly Palestine.

In 1967, Israel started another Arab-Israel War, by launching pre-emptive strikes against Jordan, Egypt, Syria, and Iraq. As Israel occupied Gaza, the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and other areas, they forced even more Palestinians from their homes. UN Res. 242 (1967) labeled Israel’s taking of land by force a violation of international law, and ordered a withdrawal from the occupied territories. UN Res. 465 later instructed Israel to dismantle all settlements erected in the occupied areas, since 1967. When the right-wing Likud Party came to power in Israel in 1980, the construction of settlements on Arab lands simply escalated.

Although Israel finally withdrew from Gaza in 2005, to this day, they tightly control it, by denying any access by land, sea, or air.

Israel also built a Wall through the West Bank which surrounds Bethlehem and other Palestinians cities, and separates Arabs from each other. The demolition of Palestinian homes in the process violated international law, as the 4th Geneva Convention forbids an occupying power from deporting civilians. The International Court of Justice ruled in 2004 the Wall was illegal, and ordered Israel to remove it, but Israel ignored the judges, and instead declared the Wall in 2006 to be the new Israeli-West Bank border.

The U.S. must resolve the Palestinian question, since it is a major source of anti-Americanism. Although official U.S. policy labels Israeli settlements in Palestine illegal, Israel’s friends in the media keep Americans unaware of the situation. Few Americans know that the U.S. stands alone in supporting Israel, and that the U.S. is widely condemned for supplying weapons. Carter correctly said the U.S. has squandered international prestige and goodwill, and intensified global anti-American terrorism, by unofficially condoning Israeli confiscation of Palestinian territories.

The U.S. has various forms of leverage over Israel to make them compromise. The U.S.: 1) supplies their weapons; 2) allows Israel to control economic aid to Palestine; and 3) has used the UN veto over 40 times to block resolutions critical of Israel.

Israel argues the Palestinians refuse to recognize their right to exist, but the truth is Arab states acknowledge a permanent Israel, and most Palestinians accept the reality they will never be erased from the map. The Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) said in 1988 they would accept UN Resolutions recognizing Israel within the pre-1967 borders, and they again in a 1993 letter unequivocally recognized that Israel had a right to exist.

Israel must now comply with international law, stop colonizing Palestine, dismantle settlements, and recognize a Palestinian state. Although Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu promised never to exchange land for peace, Israel’s borders must return to those used from 1949 through 1967, and the Jewish state must once share the City of Jerusalem with the Palestinians.

05/30/2011

Bosnia War Crime Trials Must Proceed

The Bosnian War (1992-95), a conflict that has never been easy to explain, is finally moving towards closure, with the arrest in Serbia of Bosnian-Serb military leader Ratko Mladic.

When the former Yugoslavia dissolved into six countries, namely: Slovenia, Macedonia, Croatia, Bosnia, Montenegro, and Serbia, some provinces did so in peace, but Bosnia had troubles, because their religions and ethnicities were a Balkanized mix of Bosnian-Muslim, Catholic-Croat, and Orthodox-Serb.

When the Bosnian-Muslims and Bosnian-Croats united to form a Federation, the Bosnian-Serbs set up their own Republika Srpska (RS). This triggered a Civil War (1992-95), during which the Bosnian-Serbs, forcefully removed Bosnian-Croats and Muslims from their homes, in what became known as an ethnic cleansing.

The UN failed to act militarily, because the issue was seen by China and Russia as an internal Yugoslavian affair. The Security Council did however set up the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia to prosecute war crimes (1993).

After the Bosnian-Serbs attacked Sarajevo (1994), and under the lead of Ratko Mladic, slaughtered 8,000 defenseless Muslim men and boys in Srebrenica (1995), President Bill Clinton and other NATO country leaders finally used air power to stop the Serbs.

The Dayton Peace Accords (1995) recognized both the Bosnian Muslim-Croat Federation, and the Bosnian-Serb Republic (RS). The Federation now occupies 51% of Bosnia, while the RS Republic controls the other 49%, each with their own laws.

Since the war ended 16 years ago, the remaining task has been to bring justice to the victims, or their families, by prosecuting and convicting those who committed war crimes. Those commanders who ordered or allowed torture or murder, are individually responsible for breaching the rights of prisoners and civilians, under the Hague and Geneva Conventions.

Although it took 16 years to capture Mladic, there is no Statute of Limitations as to murder. After his extradition to the Netherlands, the judge must give him a few months to prepare for trial, but after that, the court must proceed promptly, as justice delayed is justice denied, and thus far, there has been no justice as to Mladic.

05/24/2011

Arab-Israeli 1967 War In Review

The 1967 Arab-Israeli War started as Israel launched a surprise attack against Egypt, Syria, and Jordan. Israel swept through the Gaza Strip and Sinai Peninsula, and on to the Suez Canal, where they broke a blockade by Egypt, in the Gulf of Aqaba, and at the Port of Elath. Following the war, Israel occupied the Sinai (Egypt), the Golan Heights (Syria), East Jerusalem, and the West Bank (Jordan). Up to 250,000 Palestinians became refugees.

Israel was censured by the UN Assembly (99-0, 20 abstentions). The UN Security Council found the taking of land by force illegal, and ordered a “withdrawal of Israeli armed forces from territories occupied in the recent conflict” (Res. 242, 1967). The U.S. also asked Israel to withdraw, and barred the use of U.S. economic aid in the occupied areas. The Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) was founded by Yasir Arafat to resist Israel.

Israel ignored the UN, the U.S., the PLO, and international law, and started re-settling Jewish families in Arab Jerusalem, known as the Old City. The UN warned against changing the legal status of Jerusalem by conquest (Res. 252, 1968). They reminded Israel it is illegal under international law to expropriate land, or forcibly remove civilians (Res. 298, 1971). In a 14-0 vote, the Security Council directed Israel to return occupied East Jerusalem (1971).

Israel instead defiantly proceeded with 44 new settlements in the occupied territories, all started since 1967. 15 were in the Golan Heights, 15 in the West Bank, and 14 in Sinai and Gaza (1972).

Things changed in 1972 following a bombing raid, when the U.S. vetoed a Security Council Resolution censuring Israel. Since then, the U.S. vetoed another 40 odd resolutions critical of Israel. This explains why the Arabs and Muslims dislike U.S. foreign policy.

The Arabs tried to take back the occupied territories in the 1973 Arab-Israeli War, but failed, mainly because Israel had superior firepower, supplied by the U.S. The UN nevertheless continued to demand an Israeli withdrawal (Res. 344, 1973).

In 1978, Israeli Prime Minister Begin proved a withdrawal to the 1967 borders could be accomplished. During the Egyptian-Israeli peace process, Egyptian leader Sadat insisted on an Israel withdraw from the occupied Sinai. After Prime Minister Begin, Sadat, and President Carter, signed the Egyptian-Israeli Peace Treaty (1979), Israeli soldiers and civilians withdrew, and peace has existed along the Sinai border ever since.

But the Gaza Strip, the West Bank, Golan Heights, and Jerusalem, remained occupied. The UN criticized settlements in the occupied areas, saying they violated the rights of civilians, under the Geneva Convention (Res. 446, 452, 1979, Res. 465, 1980).

When Israeli law was imposed upon Syrians in the occupied Golan Heights, the UN declared the act null and void, citing the Geneva Convention (Res 497, 1981).

In 1985, Arafat said the PLO would accept the Jewish state’s right to exist, if Israel would withdraw to the 1967 borders. The UN again called for a withdrawal, but Israel refused (Res. 592, 1986).

The UN deplored the killing of Palestinians in Jerusalem, and other occupied areas, in violation of the Geneva Convention (Res. 605, 1987). They also ordered Israel to stop deporting Palestinians (Res. 636, 641, ’89; Res. 694, ’91; Res. 726, 799, ‘92).

Another break came in 1994, when Israeli Prime Minister Rabin proved peace was possible, as he and President Clinton reached a agreement with Jordan (1994). After Rabin was assassinated by an Israeli extremist (1995), Benjamin Netanyahu and his right-wing Likud Party came to power, and the peace process stalled, as Netanyahu lifted a ban on new settlements (1996).

Israel later built a Wall in and around occupied Jerusalem, which the International Court of Justice said was a de facto annexation, in violation civilian rights, under the Geneva Conventions. (2004).

When Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005, it appeared that more progress was being made, but peace didn’t really have a chance, since Israel closed off all land, sea, or air access to the Gaza Strip, and denied Palestinians of a right to exist with their own leaders.

When President Obama suggested a withdrawal to the 1967 border in the West Bank, Netanyahu rudely lectured him, saying the 1967 line is indefensible. The truth is the current border is indefensible, as it has led to nothing but conflict for 44 years. Netanyahu’s fear-based approach will never work. Once the Palestinians no longer have a reason to be angry about an illegal occupation, only then may Israel enjoy peace and security. Since Netanyahu is unwilling to use the 1967 line, it’s time for a new Israeli leader, preferably one who listens more, and lectures less.

05/10/2011

Torture: What The Law Says About It

The Geneva Convention, relative to the Treatment of Prisoners-of-War, (as amended 1949) was ratified by every member of the UN, including Afghanistan, Iraq, and the U.S. Those who have prisoners must, as a matter of international law, obey it. Since the treaty cannot be described any better than through its own terms, the following is a series of quotes from the Geneva Convention:

HUMANE TREATMENT: “Prisoners-of-war must at all times be humanely treated. Any unlawful act or omission…causing death or seriously endangering the health of a prisoner-of-war, in its custody, is prohibited, and will be regarded as a serious breach.…Prisoners-of-war must at all times be protected particularly against acts of violence” (Art. 13).

NO TORTURE: “No physical or mental torture, nor any other form of coercion, may be inflicted upon prisoners-of-war to secure from them information of any kind” (Art. 17).

INTERROGATION LIMITS: “Every prisoner-of-war, when questioned… is bound to give only his surname, first names and rank, date of birth, and army, regimental, personal or serial number (Art. 17). “Prisoners-of-war, who refuse to answer, may not be threatened, insulted, or exposed to any unpleasant or disadvantageous treatment, of any kind” (Art. 17).

NO DARK CELLS: “Corporal punishments, imprisonment in premises without daylight and in general, any form of torture or cruelty are forbidden.” (Art. 87).

NO CLOSE CONFINES: Prisoners-of-war may not be held in close confinement except…during…circumstances which make such confinement necessary” (Art. 21).

NO ISOLATION: Prisoners shall not be separated from prisoners-of-war belonging to the armed forces with which they were serving at the time of their capture” (Art. 22).

FOOD: Canteens shall be installed in all camps, where prisoners-of-war may procure foodstuffs, soap and tobacco and ordinary articles in daily use” (Art 28).

SHELTER: Prisoners-of-war shall be quartered under conditions as favorable as those for the forces of the detaining power, who are billeted in the same area….The foregoing provisions shall apply in particular to the dormitories of prisoners-of-war, as regards both total surface and minimum cubic space, and the general installations, bedding, and blankets” (Art 25).

MEDICINE: Medical inspections of prisoners-of-war shall be held at least once a month (Art. 31).

RECREATION: The detaining power shall encourage the practice of intellectual educational and recreational pursuits, sports and games amongst prisoners, and shall take measures necessary to ensure the exercise thereof by providing them with adequate premises and necessary equipment” (Art 38).

MAIL: “In the event a prisoner is transferred, prisoners shall be advised of their new postal address, and allowed to inform their next of kin…Mail and parcels addressed to their former camp shall be forwarded to them without delay” (Art. 48). “Every prisoner-of-war shall be enabled to write direct to his family…informing his relatives of his capture, address and state of health (Art. 70). “Prisoners-of-war shall be allowed to send and receive letters and cards…not less than two letters and four cards monthly” (Art. 71). “Prisoners-of-war shall be allowed to receive…parcels or…shipments containing in particular, foodstuffs, clothing, medical supplies and articles of a religious, educational or recreational character” (Art. 72). “The censoring of correspondence addressed to prisoners-of-war, or dispatched by them, shall be done as quickly as possible” (Art. 76).

RED CROSS: There shall be “no obstacle to the humanitarian activities which the…Red Cross…undertake for the protection of prisoners-of-war, and for their relief” (Art. 9).

ACCESS TO PRISONERS: “Representatives or delegates of the protecting powers, shall have permission to go to all places where prisoners-of-war may be, particularly to places of internment, imprisonment and labor, and shall have access to all premises occupied by prisoners-of-war….They hall be able to interview the prisoners and in particular the prisoners representatives, without witnesses, either personally, or through an interpreter” (Art. 126).

04/07/2011

Guantanamo: A Long Prison History

10 years ago, President Bush invaded Afghanistan and opened the Guantanamo Bay Prison. An estimated 800 men were rounded up and shipped to the Cuban enclave. Photos surfaced showing them in orange prison garb with their hands bound, legs shackled, and faces covered with masks. Many were captured based on nothing more than hearsay, often in response to bounties. Some were not involved in any war, but were linked to certain organizations. Most detainees had no history of any hostile act against the U.S.

President Obama pledged in 2008 to close Guantanamo, but the Congress blocked his efforts. He also said in 2009 the detainees would be tried in federal court, but now they appear to be going back to military tribunals. The issue of holding trials in the regular courts, or military tribunals, depends of the status of the prisoners.

The first issue was: are the prisoners civilians or combatants? Civilians are entitled to a trial in a typical criminal court, or an outright release, if there is no evidence against them. Combatants are people who carry arms. They are either lawful or unlawful. Lawful combatants, such as ordinary enemy troops, not accused of any war crimes, may not be put on trial, simply for serving as soldiers. They may be held for the duration of the conflict, but are entitled prisoner-of-war status. Prisoners may be tried in a military tribunal as unlawful combatants, only if they violated one of the Laws of War. If there is doubt as to their classification, they are protected by the Geneva Convention, until their status is determined by a competent judge.

President Bush initially found none of the prisoners were civilians, entitled to a release, or a trial in the regular court system (2002). He declared they were combatants, and more specifically, unlawful combatants, meaning he accused them of war crimes.

Bush issued an Executive Order (2001) ordering all prisoners to be tried by Military Commission, instead of military court-martial or civilian court. He gave the Commission exclusive jurisdiction. He repealed the ordinary rules of law, as he decreed: “It is not practicable to apply in military commissions…the principles of law, and the rules of evidence, generally recognized in the trial of criminal cases in the district courts.” He did not explain why he thought it was necessary to suspend the rights of the accused.

The Defense Dept. issued procedures for the military commissions (2002). The commissioners, prosecutors, and chief defense counsel would be picked by the Dept. Civilian defense lawyers would only be allowed if the Dept. pre-approved. Defense lawyers could be excluded from the hearings, if the Pentagon felt national security was at risk. Hearings were to be conducted in secret and closed to the media. Even the accused could be excluded from the room. He could see only that evidence the military allowed him to see. There would be no right to a speedy trial.  There would be no remedy or appeal: “in any court of the U.S., or any State thereof, or any court of a foreign nation, or any international tribunal.”

When the Pentagon filed their first charges (2004), prisoners filed Habeas Corpus petitions in the federal courts challenging Bush’s military system. In Hamdi v Rumsfeld (2004), Bush argued Hamdi was a combatant and could be held indefinitely, without charge. Hamdi said he was an innocent U.S. civilian, effectively serving a life sentence. The Supreme Court ruled the prisoner had a due process right to contest his status as a combatant.

Bush then created a Combatant Status Review Tribunals (2004) to determine if detainees were properly classified. Panels of military officers reviewed each case. They defined combatants as members of the Taliban, al-Qaeda, or other associated forces. After their reviews, they found some prisoners were not in fact combatants, but they continued to hold them anyway (2005).

Meanwhile, Congress passed the Detainee Treatment Act (2005), which attempted to override Hamdi, by denying Guantanamo prisoners Habeas Corpus petitions. That law was challenged in Hamdan v Rumsfeld (2006), along with Commission procedures, and the type of war crimes that could be prosecuted. The Supreme Court held Congress could not outlaw Habeas Corpus petitions. Procedurally, Hamdan did not want to be tried by Bush’s Commission. He instead wanted a trial in a military court-martial, where the Uniform Code of Military Justice would be applied. The Court agreed and ordered the use of courts-martial rules. As to the substantive charges, Hamdan was accused of conspiracy, but no specific act of wrongdoing. He argued conspiracy, by itself, is not a violation of the Laws of War. The Court agreed saying, the offense must violate the Laws of War, and conspiracy, in and of itself, does not appear in the Hague Conventions or the Geneva Conventions. They also said violations of the Laws of War happen during war, and cannot pre-date the conflict. The Court concluded none of the acts Hamden was alleged to have committed violated any of the Laws of War. After the Supreme Court ruling, a Republican-controlled Congress responded by passing the Military Commissions Act (2006), which again suspended Habeas Corpus, and resurrected Commission rules.

It’s time to be done with Guantanamo. Long ago, the Americans were right as they liberated Cuba and Guantanamo from Spain in the Spanish-American War (1898). The U.S. went wrong when they stayed in Cuba, until the Cubans agreed to lease Guantanamo Bay to the U.S. Navy. The U.S. has now had a lease on Guantanamo since 1903, and it’s time to vacate the premises. The U.S. needs to complete the remaining prisoner cases, close the base, bulldoze the buildings, and give Guantanamo back to Cuba.

03/31/2011

Syria and Israel: Solve Golan Heights

Internal politics in Syria is now getting a lot of attention. For the past 40 years, the country has been ruled by the Assad family. Al-Assad was chosen president in 1971 and ruled for 29 years. Bashar Assad, his son, started in 2000 and has served for 11 years.

While change may soon come after 40 years of one-family rule, there is an even more important international issue that has been festering for the past 44 years that must be addressed by Syria and Israel. It is an issue that can and should be solved, soon after there is a change in domestic Syrian politics.

Syria shares a border with Israel. In the 1967 Arab-Israeli War, Israel invaded Syria and occupied the Golan Heights. Thousands of Syrians were driven from their homes and became refugees. The UN condemned the taking of the Golan Heights and called on Israel to return the occupied territories (UN Res. 242).

In the 1973 Arab-Israeli War, Arab troops from as far away as Morocco assembled to open a Syrian Front against Israel in an attempt to retake the Golan Heights. Syria demanded the dismantling of Israeli settlements in the occupied territories. A UN Disengagement Observer Force supervised a ceasefire (1974).

Israel announced in 1981 it was annexing the Golan Heights and that it would impose Israeli law upon the people living there. Their action was declared null and void by the UN, under the Geneva Convention, which protects the rights of civilians, living under the rule of an occupying power.

To this day, the occupation continues and the settlements remain. After 44 years, the problem has not been resolved and it cannot simply be ignored, or swept under the rug. They only way Israel may enjoy a truly lasting peace is to come to terms with Syria.

A peace treaty with Syria can be made. Israel made peace with Egypt in 1978, with the help of Jimmy Carter. During the Clinton Administration in 1994, Israel made peace with Jordan, due to King Hussein’s cooperation. A peace treaty between Syria and Israel was nearly reached in 2000. Soon, the time will come to get it done.

President Obama is the right middle-man to broker the deal. What needs to happen is for Americans, particularly the friends of Israel, to put pressure on Benjamin Netanyahu and his right-wing Likud Party. They need to be told in no uncertain terms to remove the settlements from the Golan Heights, and to give the land back to Syria, so that a lasting peace may be implemented.