Amnesty Int'l: Neither side has faced up to war crimes

Organization criticizes the "complete absence" of any steps in the two countries or internationally to prosecute those responsible for "war crimes and other grave violations."

A year on from the Second Lebanon War, Amnesty International has condemned Israel, Lebanon and the international community, accusing the UN of being "partisan" and "selective" for failing to prosecute those responsible for "war crimes" during the conflict. The London-based organization criticized the "complete absence" of any steps in the two countries or internationally to prosecute those responsible for "war crimes and other grave violations" committed during last summer's 34-day conflict and called for an investigation and the prosecution of those suspected of "war crimes." The organization slammed the international community for "lacking the political will" to set up an inquiry and the "unwillingness" of all concerned parties to investigate the violations. It called on the UN to establish a comprehensive, impartial and independent inquiry empowered to investigate the "evidence of violations of international law by both Hizbullah and Israel, and to make provision for reparation for the victims." "Without a full, impartial UN led inquiry that includes provision for reparations to the victims, there is a real danger of history repeating itself," said Malcolm Smart, director of Amnesty's Middle East and North Africa program. "The total lack of political will to hold to account those responsible for the indiscriminate killing of civilians, more than one thousand of whom lost their lives, is both a gross betrayal of the victims and a recipe for possible further civilian bloodshed with impunity." Amnesty accused the UN of "partisan politics and selectivity" saying this has left the Lebanese, Israeli and other victims without "recourse to justice." Israel is accused also of making no attempt to investigate violations of international humanitarian law, including "war crimes committed by Israeli forces," or to establish a mechanism to bring to account those responsible for such violations. Amnesty says that Israel's investigation or the war has been limited to military strategy. In Lebanon, no official investigation was carried out, Amnesty said, and an inquiry appointed by the UN Human Rights Council was given a one-sided mandate, focusing only on evidence of violations by Israeli forces. The NGO also called on Israel to impose a moratorium on the use of all cluster weapons and to detail locations of land mines and where they dropped cluster bombs during the latter part of the conflict. "Scores of people have been killed or injured in south Lebanon as a result of cluster bombs, launched by Israeli forces, mostly in the last 72 hours of the conflict after the cease-fire had been agreed but before it took effect," Amnesty said. "The UN Mine Action Coordination Centre has identified 922 sites where unexploded but still potentially lethal remnants of cluster bombs and other ordnance are scattered, and estimates that clearing them will take a year or more. "Amnesty International repeats its call on Israel to hand over maps detailing the areas its forces targeted with cluster bombs. These are vital to assist bomb clearance and avoid further casualties. The Security Council should declare and enforce an arms embargo on both Israel and Hizbullah until effective mechanisms are in place to ensure that weapons will not be used to commit serious violations of international humanitarian law," Smart said. Gerald Steinberg, executive director of NGO Monitor, said: "This reiterates Amnesty's false and biased reports during last year's war, and the highly selective use of the rhetoric human rights, without the substance. Once again, Malcolm Smart fails to hold Hizbullah to account for aggression (the most basic violation of international law and the UN Charter), including the killing of eight Israelis, and the kidnapping of two more, held in violation of all moral and legal norms. "His continued silence on Hizbullah's extensive use of Lebanese human shields to protect the thousands of rockets used to attack Israeli cities merely aids and abets this immoral and illegal practice. "Smart's call for an "impartial UN inquiry" is ludicrous given the farce taking place in the UN Human Rights Council. Amnesty has yet to acknowledge the numerous discrepancies between its publications based on "eyewitness accounts" during the fighting, and the hard evidence from photos and other sources, as detailed by NGO Monitor in December 2006. This is a political document, with no relationship to human rights or moral principle."