Human Rights Watch accused Israel of “serious human rights violations” in its
yearly report on human rights abuses released on Sunday.
charged IDF soldiers with using “unnecessary lethal force” in repelling
demonstrators who attempted to infiltrate Israel’s border fences with Syria and
Lebanon on “Naksa Day” (the anniversary of the Six Day War) and “Nakba Day” (the
anniversary of Israeli independence) protests in May and June,
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Human Rights Watch attributed 37 deaths to IDF military
strikes in the Gaza Strip and policing operations in the West Bank.
report decried the continuation of the blockade of the Gaza Strip, accusing
Israel of “hindering the rebuilding of Gaza’s devastated economy.”
West Bank and east Jerusalem, Israel demolished a record number of Palestinian
homes “imposed severe restrictions on Palestinian freedom of movement, continued
to build unlawful settlements, and arbitrarily detained peaceful protesters,
including children,” according to the report.
HRW also slammed
Palestinian groups in Gaza for launching “hundreds of rocket attacks at Israeli
population centers in 2011, killing two civilians and seriously injuring at
least nine others.” It added: “Indiscriminate mortar attacks seriously injured
at least four civilians in Israel.”
The report also mentioned the Eilat
terror attack saying, “Egyptian attackers whom Israel claimed operated in
coordination with armed groups in Gaza crossed the Egyptian border and killed
six Israeli civilians.” Two soldiers were also killed in the multistage terror
The report accused Hamas authorities in Gaza of carrying out
three judicial executions in 2011 after unfair military trials, and allegedly
torturing scores of detainees, some of whom died in custody.
the Palestinian Authority with “arbitrarily” detaining Hamas supporters in the
West Bank who supported the Arab Spring movements and reconciliation between
Fatah and Hamas. It also accused the PA of arresting journalists critical of its
policies and employing torture.
The report also attacked Western
democracies, charging that they should overcome their aversion to Islamist
groups that enjoy popular support in North Africa and the Middle East, but
encouraged those groups to respect basic rights.
HRW Executive Director
Kenneth Roth said in the group’s annual report that the past year’s Arab Spring
pro-democracy uprisings across the region have shown it is vital for the West to
end its policy of backing “an array of Arab autocrats” in exchange for
supporting Western interests.
The West should also be more consistent in
supporting pro-democracy forces in the Arab world and elsewhere, he said in
HRW’s 690-page report on human rights abuses worldwide.
international community must... come to terms with political Islam when it
represents a majority preference,” he said. “Islamist parties are genuinely
popular in much of the Arab world, in part because many Arabs have come to see
political Islam as the antithesis of autocratic rule.”
Islam-inspired governments emerge, the international community should focus on
encouraging, and if need be, pressuring them to respect basic rights – just as
the Christian-labeled parties and governments of Europe are expected to do,” he
said in the introduction to the report.
He added that the international
community “should adopt a more principled approach to the region than in the
past. That would involve, foremost, clearly siding with democratic reformers
even at the expense of abandoning autocratic friends.”
have emerged as major political forces in both Tunisia and
Speaking at a news conference in Cairo to launch the group’s
report, Roth criticized Egypt’s military for trying to “to carve out an
exception to democratic rule for its area of power and interest.”
has been a tendency by [Egypt’s] military recently to feel it has a duty to
suppress any demonstration and that’s wrong. That’s not democracy,” Roth
HRW praised the United States and European Union for their tough
stance on the late Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi’s brutal crackdown on
protesters, which eventually led to a UN Security Council authorization for
military action to protect civilians.
The NATO intervention in Libya’s
civil war led to Gaddafi’s ouster and death at the hands of rebel
After initially hesitating over Syria, Roth said the United
States and EU imposed sanctions on President Bashar Assad’s government for a
crackdown on pro-democratic demonstrators that has killed at least 5,000
civilians, according to UN figures.
“Elsewhere, however, the Western
approach to the region’s uprisings has been more tentative and uncertain,” Roth
HRW said Washington was reluctant to abandon Egypt’s President
Hosni Mubarak, seen as key to maintaining regional stability and peace with
Israel, until his ouster is a foregone conclusion. It then hesitated to press
Egypt’s ruling military council to hand power over to an elected civilian
France was equally reluctant in Tunisia, Roth
“Similarly, Western governments imposed no meaningful consequences
for killing protesters on the government of Yemen’s President Ali Abdullah
Saleh, whom they viewed as a defense against al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula,”
They also failed to take a strong stance against Bahrain, partly
out of “deference to Saudi Arabia,” which dislikes the idea of a democracy near
its shore and worries that Iran is meddling in the Shia-majority nation of
Bahrain, Roth said.
Western democracies “said little when monarchies have
taken anti-democratic actions, such as the adoption of new repressive laws in
Saudi Arabia and the imprisonment of five democracy activists in the United Arab
Emirates,” he said.
The Arab League has also been inconsistent. Even
worse has been the African Union, which he called “shamefully
Roth also criticized Russia and China, which vetoed a
European-drafted UN Security Council resolution on Syria in October that would
have condemned the crackdown on pro-democracy protesters and threatened Damascus
with possible sanctions.
Moscow’s and Beijing’s “partners in
indifference” on Syria were Brazil, India and South Africa, which along with
Russia and China comprise the powerful BRICS emerging-market
Reuters contributed to this report.