Army urged to review inadequate cluster bomb rules

Amnesty International on Thursday called the Winograd Committee final report "deeply flawed."

cluster bombs in lebanon (photo credit: AP)
cluster bombs in lebanon
(photo credit: AP)
The Winograd Committee charged that the army's rules for using cluster bombs were unclear and called on it to review them with the aim of reducing civilian casualties from bomblets that explode after the end of hostilities. According to the committee, the rules did not address situations in which Lebanese villagers abandoned their homes during the fighting and the army fired cluster bombs at Hizbullah fighters who had taken up positions in the village and fired Katyushas at Israel. The Winograd Committee did not address other war crimes allegations filed by local and international human rights organizations, especially regarding the army's alleged failure to distinguish between civilians and combatants on the Lebanese side. In November 2006, The Association for Civil Rights in Israel had called on the committee to investigate alleged violations of international humanitarian law, including the use of cluster bombs and the "gross violations" of the principle of distinguishing between civilian and military targets. In response to the Winograd Committee's final report, ACRI said "it is not enough that the committee recommended examining the constraints on the use of cluster bombs in order to change the rules." The organization called for "criminal investigations against all those involved in the firing of cluster bombs in built-up areas which caused the deaths of innocent civilians." Amnesty International on Thursday called the Winograd Committee final report "deeply flawed" and said it disregarded Israeli "war crimes." According to the Winograd Committee, "the facts regarding the use of cluster bombs demonstrated the faults in operational discipline, supervision and control and the lack of clarity of the commands and guidelines just as we had found in other aspects of the war. It is vital that the army learns the lessons that should be apparent from the use of cluster bombs during the war. There was an ongoing [lack of] clarity regarding the rules and a lack of operational discipline and of commands that caused incidents which deviated from the explicit guidelines regarding the use of this type of weaponry. This was neither noticed nor prevented [by the military command] during the lengthy war." Regarding other charges that Israel had violated international law during the fighting, the committee wrote that it would only make "general statements" and called for an "authoritative examination" in cases where facts offered prima facie evidence of violations of international law. Amnesty International criticized the committee's refusal to examine these incidents itself. "This was yet another missed opportunity to address the policies and decisions behind the grave violations of international humanitarian law, including war crimes, committed by Israeli forces," said Malcolm Smart, Amnesty's Middle East and North Africa program director. "The indiscriminate killings of many Lebanese civilians not involved in the hostilities and the deliberate and wanton destruction of civilian properties and infrastructure on a massive scale were given no more than token consideration by the commission." Amnesty called on Israel to provide the UN with the cluster bomb strike data and coordinates of fired bombs, establish an "independent and impartial" investigation into evidence that the IDF committed "serious violations of international human rights and humanitarian law, including war crimes," and ensure that those responsible were "brought to justice." The human rights organization also wants Israel to revise its interpretation of the rules and principles relating to military objective and advantage, as well as proportionality, to ensure its interpretation is "fully consistent with international humanitarian law" and that the Israeli military "fully complies with the duty to take precautionary measures when carrying out attacks, as well as in defense, and does not carry out attacks as a form of collective punishment." The organization also called on Hizbullah, who, it said, also committed war crimes during the 2006 war, to renounce its "unlawful policy of reprisal rocket attacks against the civilian population of Israel and [to] ensure that its fighters comply fully with the need to take precautionary measures in attacks and in defense, including the need to distinguish themselves from noncombatants to the maximum extent possible."