Civilian Protection in War: A Blatant Disregard of the Laws of War in the Arab Region

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The Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies delivers its second oral statement at the United Nations Human Rights Council:

Civilian Protection in War:
A Blatant Disregard of the Laws of War in the Arab Region

The International Community and the League of Arab States Must Abandon Double Standards Applied to Palestinian, Sudanese, Iraqi and Yemeni Causes

In its second oral intervention at the Human Rights Council, the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS) denounced the increasing disrespect for the basic principles of International Humanitarian Law (IHL) in the Arab region in light of the concerted attitude of double standards and political selectivity characterizing the international community towards violations suffered by civilians, whether under military occupation or under the belligerent armed conflicts and disputes taking place within a number of Arab countries.

CIHRS emphasized that the international community has failed to exert sufficient pressure on Israel to stop the war crimes and crimes against humanity being perpetrated in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPTs) or to end the Israeli occupation of Palestine. CIHRS accused the United States (US) and countries of the European Union (EU) of continuously taking political and economic measures to immunize Israel from legitimate criticism and render all attempts to enact binding decision that would commit Israel to stop its perpetration of war crimes, meaningless.

This was addressed in CIHRS&#146s intervention during the tenth session of the Human Rights Council (HRC) of the United Nations held in Geneva from March 2 – 27.

CIHRS noted that the double standards applied with respect to violations of IHL figured prominently in the attitudes of the US, EU and the League of Arab States (LAS) with regards to violations being perpetrated in the OPTs and the Darfur region. While the US Administration and European Union member states have exercised diplomatic pressure and imposed sanctions on the Sudanese regime, they have failed to adopt similar measures necessary to exert pressure on Israel. Although the LAS called for putting pressure on Israel, they refuse to take a similar stance against the Sudanese Government. In this context, CIHRS confirmed that adopting an attitude of double standards and political selectivity would allow for further disregard of IHL by the various parties that flagrantly violate the basic laws of war in the Arab region, which aggravates the suffering of the civilian population who end up paying the heaviest price for this disregard.

CIHRS highlighted that the brutal Israeli attacks launched on the Gaza Strip reflect its flagrant disregard for humanitarian standards. The attacks resulted in the deaths of 1300 people, 900 of whom were civilians and approximately half of whom were children. CIHRS added that Hamas militias, in turn, did not take the necessary measures to safeguard civilians during the rocket attacks they launched on some Israeli villages. In fact, during their latest aggression on Gaza, these militias committed flagrant violations that resulted in the death of some 32 Palestinians, amongst whom were extrajudicial prisoners and political detainees affiliated with the Fatah movement.

CIHRS added that in spite of the increased attention to the atrocities committed with respect to the citizens of Darfur, Sudanese government forces continue to launch indiscriminate attacks on dozens of villages, worsening humanitarian conditions and leading to the displacement of close to 90,000 citizens in recent months alone. 

CIHRS indicated that the war in the Sa’dah region of Yemen did not receive adequate attention from the international community, in spite of the fact that over the period of close to four years thousands of civilians were killed and more than 130,000 others displaced, who suffered great losses as a result of the war and the restrictions imposed by the Yemeni government on humanitarian relief organizations that severely hinder their operation in the region.

CIHRS furthermore condemned the Security Bilateral Force Agreement of 2008 concluded between the US and Iraq as an agreement that sanctions impunity. In fact, the agreement denies Iraqi courts jurisdiction over members of  US Forces and  civilians  in several circumstances, and gives the US the ability to override  Iraq’s primary right to jurisdiction in particular cases. CIHRS indicated that the ongoing confrontations between government forces and armed groups, as well as between Sunni and Shiite militias is a fundamental challenge that stands in the way of promoting human rights in Iraq. In this context, CIHRS noticed that despite the relative decline in level of violence, more than 2000 Iraqis were killed during the confrontations that took place during the past six months.

CIHRS stressed in its intervention that the international community should direct sufficient attention toward ensuring the full and unconditional protection of civilians caught in the middle of the various region-wide conflicts. It urged the members of the HRC to adopt the following recommendations:

1) To take all the operational measures necessary to enforce the UN Human Rights Council resolution, which prescribes that a fact-finding mission be sent to the OPTs to evaluate the serious violations associated with the barbaric aggression launched on the Gaza Strip, as well as to explore the relevant measures necessary to ensure accountability for all war crimes committed.

2) To call upon the Security Council to refrain from employing Article 16 of the Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC) that might hinder trial procedures related to prosecuting war crimes in Darfur. Additionally, it invites the League of Arab States to support and guarantee the independence of the ICC.

3) To call upon the US, Iraqi government and UN to ensure that humanitarian needs are met and to repatriate the over 1.5 million Iraqi displaced persons.

4) To call upon the US, EU and the League of Arab States to abandon the attitude of political selectivity and double standards and commit to the full respect and implementation of the norms of international humanitarian and human rights law.

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