Looking through the web pages of AI’s Finnish branch, I was reminded that Amnesty International is still standing behind the claims contained in their original report “Out of all proportion – civilians bear the brunt of the war”. Some of the claims trumpeted in the AI report are of special interest, due to the recent reporting by free lance journalist, Michael Totten, “The Siege of Ain Ebel” (in the region of southern Lebanon).
One of the assertions made in the Amnesty report is that there was/is no clear evidence to back the Israeli claims that:
1.) Civilians were not being allowed to leave areas targeted for bombing, but rather being forced at gunpoint to remain in harms way
2.) That civilians were indeed being used as human shields
According to Michael Totten who is currently in the area, what he’s found in a day’s travel, backs up the Israeli claims very convincingly. Totten, while walking in the Christian village of Ain Ebel:
“He told me that 18 days after the start of the war a large group of civilians decided it was time to leave Ain Ebel and flee to the north. They were no longer willing to stay while Israel fired back at Hezbollah’s rocket launchers. It was too dangerous, and Hezbollah insisted on staying and endangering those who lived there.
So they fled the area in a convoy of civilian vehicles. It was safer, they figured, to travel in a group than alone. On their way out of the village, Hezbollah fighters stood on the side of the road and opened fire with machine guns on the fleeing civilians. I was shocked, and I asked Alan to confirm this. Was it really true? Hezbollah opened fire on Lebanese civilians with machine guns? Alan confirmed this was true. “Why?” I had an idea, but I wanted a local person to say it.
Because, Alan said, Hezbollah wanted to use the civilians of Ain Ebel as “human shields.” I did not use the phrase “human shields.” These were Alan’s own words. Fortunately, Hezbollah didn’t kill anybody when they opened fire. One person was shot in the hand, and another was shot in the shoulder. This was enough, though, to do the job. The civilians turned around and went back to the village under Israeli bombardment.”
Not only does this validate the Israeli version, but it also throws the credibility of the international human rights agency, AI into question. Why is it that in one day, one man with a pen and paper can gather enough damaging evidence against the Hezbollah, while AI’s staff of “experts” cannot find the same corroborating evidence at all? One has to ask, did they even try to seek out these people, or like a drunk, they looked for the keys under the nearest lamppost?
AI’s interpretations of the Geneva Conventions articles are way off base, reading into its many clauses things that are simply not there. For an example;
“Amnesty International was told that if Israeli soldiers saw a man fire a rocket and then enter a house, the soldiers would be allowed to attack the house without asking further questions. Amnesty International believes such a response would be disproportionate. The mere fact that a combatant enters a house does not automatically make lawful an attack on the house: attacking it in order to kill one combatant without trying to establish whether civilians are in the house violates the prohibition on disproportionate attacks.”
But let’s back up a bit, Article 28 of the Fourth Geneva Convention clearly states: “The presence of a protected person may not be used to render certain points or areas immune from military operations.” No matter how regrettable it is, the fact that there is a civilian in a house at the time an active combatant commandeers it, does not automatically place it off limits for an attack. The AI is guilty of trying to re-interpret the GC to suit its own ideological purposes. The guilty party here is the active combatant who commandeered the house in the first place, firing rockets from the vicinity of a residential area, then seeking refuge from a neighboring house without any care if there is anyone still inside.
The AI report continues:
“However, the village of Bint Jbeil was not “empty of citizens”. On 31 July and 1 August, when journalists and the ICRC were able to visit Bint Jbeil during a two-day suspension of air strikes by Israeli forces, the media showed bodies as well as survivors being pulled from the rubble of their houses. Three journalists told Amnesty International that they had come across a distressed woman digging with her bare hands and pleading with them to help her find her sister under the rubble. They helped her and eventually found two elderly women, one of them disabled and bedridden, and their elderly brother still alive. The three, all in their seventies, had been trapped under the rubble of their home in the centre of Bint Jbeil for over a week”
Again, as regrettable as that is, Article 51/7 clearly states:
“The presence or movements of the civilian population or individual civilians shall not be used to render certain points or areas immune from military operations, in particular in attempts to shield military objectives from attacks or to shield, favor or impede military operations. The Parties to the conflict shall not direct the movement of the civilian population or individual civilians in order to attempt to shield military objectives from attacks or to shield military operations.”
Article 58 also clearly states that:
“Parties to the conflict shall, to the maximum extent feasible: (a) … endeavor to remove the civilian population, individual civilians and civilian objects under their control from the vicinity of military objectives; (b) Avoid locating military objectives within or near densely populated areas; (c) Take the other necessary precautions to protect the civilian population, individual civilians and civilian objects under their control against the dangers resulting from military operations.”
Israel made it clear to all of its citizens living in the northern area that was coming under fire from the “totally indiscriminate” rocket fire (filled with ball bearings and other kinds of shrapnel to induce maximum physical damage), to evacuate. Israel does not locate its arsenals within the vicinity of its civilian population, nor does it plan its command centers near them as well.
Hezbollah not only stored weapons and ammunition within its public centers, it embarked on a policy of building additions to private housing to store rocket launchers and other kinds of military relevant weaponry, proving beyond a shadow of a doubt that Hezbollah was in gross violation of Article 57 and 58, and that it alone is deserving of condemnation from the international community.
There then is the claim by Amnesty International of ambulances being targeted, but as many have shown, the claim is baseless, and calls into question as to whether or not AI (or HRW) actually did any “serious” investigating of the incidents, or did they just rely on Hezbollah or on other intimidated non-Hezbollah witnesses say-so. The HRW report that the AI relies heavily upon, contains many ambiguous assertions and never clearly states what “expertise” the people doing their investigations actually have.
The credibility of their “expertice had been earlier called into question, in the Gaza beach incident (that was wrongly reported as a naval shelling) in which a family was killed by unexploded ordinance. The “experts” from HRW/AI were as quick to blame Israel for the tragedy as was the Hamas in cleaning up the shrapnel evidence from the beach (and from the victims heading to Israeli hospitals) as video footage showed. The human rights organization HRW was forced to rescind its original accusations against Israel and admit that it had been wrong.
All of this calls into question these human rights organizations’ credibility and reliability as an independent observer, especially when it’s an incident involving Israel. *L* KGS