Amnesty International called on the global community to stop war crimes by halting arms shipments to countries such as Iraq, Syria and Israel, which could use them to commit “mass atrocities.”
“Huge arms shipments were delivered to Iraq, Israel, Russia, South Sudan, and Syria in 2014 despite the very high likelihood that these weapons would be used against civilian populations trapped in conflict,” said Anna Neistat, senior director for research at Amnesty.
“When ISIS took control of large parts of Iraq, it found large arsenals, ripe for the picking.
The irresponsible flow of weapons to human rights abusers must stop now,” she said.
Amnesty issued this call in its annual report, “The State of the World’s Human Rights,” which examined human rights abuses in 160 countries. It charged that the international community had failed to respond to the growing threat of armed conflict in which millions of civilians were harmed.
The Foreign Ministry took issue with the report, because it focused on the IDF’s actions against Palestinians, particularly in Gaza, without the context of Israel’s response to thousands of Hamas rockets fired at its civilians.
The report “totally ignores the tens of thousand of Israeli subjected to the terror of rockets deliberately fired into civilian neighborhoods,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Paul Hirschson said, adding, “One cannot really take such a report with much seriousness.”
According to the 414-page report, Israel was one of 18 countries – along with Syria, Iraq, and Libya – where war crimes were committed by the government or armed groups, said Amnesty researcher Marek Marczynski.
Armed groups committed abuses in at least 35 countries in 2014, more than 1 in 5 of the countries that Amnesty investigated, the report said.
“2014 was a catastrophic year for millions caught up in violence.
The global response to conflict and abuses by states and armed groups has been shameful and ineffective. As people suffered an escalation in barbarous attacks and repression, the international community has been found wanting,” said Amnesty secretary-general Salil Shetty.
“The United Nations was established 70 years ago to ensure that we would never again see the horrors witnessed in the Second World War. We are now seeing violence on a mass scale and an enormous refugee crisis caused by that violence. There has been a singular failure to find workable solutions to the most pressing needs of our time,” Shetty said.
Amnesty had harsh words for the Syrian crisis, which in 2014, it said, “surpassed other such crises to become the world’s worst in terms of refugee flows and internally displaced people.
In the past four years, according to the rights group, more than 200,000 people have died in Syria. Many of them were civilians who were killed by government forces. Around 4 million people from Syria are refugees in other countries More than 7.6 million are displaced inside Syria, Amnesty said.
The group also condemned Islamic State, whose fighters “committed widespread war crimes, including ethnic cleansing of religious and ethnic minorities.”
Between January and October of last year, Islamic State-related violence caused the deaths of some 10,000 civilians and forcibly displaced almost 2 million people, Amnesty said.
The report gave the impression that Israel’s actions were akin to the other atrocities that occurred in the Middle East, by listing it with countries such as Syria and Iraq.
Amnesty mentioned briefly that Hamas had committed war crimes for indiscriminately firing rockets at Israel. But in its five page section on Israel and the territories it rarely referenced the actions of Hamas or the Palestinian Authority.
It focused almost exclusively on Israeli actions, particularly during the conflict with Hamas in the summer of 2014.
“The July assault on Gaza by Israeli forces caused the loss of 2,000 Palestinian lives. The great majority of those, 1,500, were civilians,” Amnesty said.
It added that Israel’s policy during that conflict was “marked by callous indifference and involved war crimes.“ The international community can and should do more to prevent war crimes, Amnesty said. It urged states to ratify and adhere to the Arms Trade Treaty, which prohibits the sale of arms to those who would use them for mass atrocities.
The London-based organization also called on the US, China, Russia, France and the UK to renounce their UN Security Council veto power to block resolutions against countries accused of war crimes.
“This could be a game-changer for the international community and the tools it has at its disposal to help protect civilian lives,” Shetty said.
“By renouncing their veto rights the five permanent members of the Security Council would give the UN more scope to take action to protect civilians when lives are at grave risk and send a powerful signal to perpetrators that the world will not sit idly by while mass atrocities take place,” said Shetty.
The watchdog group NGO Monitor charged that Amnesty’s call to halt arms shipments to Israel denies the right of the Jewish State to self-defense.
The report did not mention the munitions that were brought to Israel to save the lives of its citizens, such as the Iron Dome anti-missile system, NGO Monitor said.
Nor did Amnesty condemn Hamas for its illegal and systematic placement of weapons in hospitals, mosques, and homes in Gaza, NGO Monitor charged.
“Unfortunately, many Amnesty officials and ‘researchers’ are so deeply involved in promoting the narrative of Palestinian victimhood and Israeli guilt, and remain blind to the requirements of universal human rights,” NGO Monitor said.