Israel Obstructs UN Fact-Finding Mission to Jenin Refugee Camp - End Israel's Impunity!

On Monday, 22 April, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan announced the names of his team that would set out as fast as possible to "develop accurate information regarding recent events in the Jenin refugee camp" in accordance with UN Security Council Resolution 1405 adopted three days earlier. The Palestinian leadership, although criticizing that the UN Mission lacks the mandate and legal authorities of an independent international commission of inquiry, welcomed the initiative. The Israeli government had no choice but to offer its cooperation, after the United States had refused to veto the UN Mission in the Security Council. However, Israel's right-wing government is internally divided over the question if and how to relate to the UN Fact-Finding team and has engaged in an effort to delay its arrival to the region. Since Monday Israeli spokespersons have raised that the UN team, composed of former Finish president Martti Ahtisaari, former UN High Commissioner on Refugees Sadako Ogata, former head of the International Committee of the Red Cross Cornelio Sommaruga, US General Bill Nash (military advisor) and US police expert Fitzgerald, was selected "without consultation, lacks technical expertise and is not neural." Today Israel, also "concerned that the UN team's activities might not remain limited to the geographic area of Jenin," reportedly suspended its agreement to cooperate with the UN Fact-Finding Mission.

WHAT IS ISRAEL TRYING TO HIDE IN JENIN?

Information about what exactly happened during Israel's brutal military assault, curfew and media black-out in the Jenin refugee camp between 2 - 19 April has remained partial, and systematic professional evidence is scarce. However, an Amnesty International research team declared that it had received credible evidence of serious Israeli violations, such as: failure to give civilians warning on time to evacuate Jenin refugee camp before Apache helicopters launched their first attacks; failure to protect civilians in the refugee camp, who are "protected people" under the Fourth Geneva Convention; allegations of extra-judicial executions; failure, for 13 days, to allow humanitarian assistance to the people who were trapped in the rubble of demolished houses or running out of food and water; denial of medical assistance to the wounded and deliberate targeting of ambulances; excessive use of lethal force and using civilians as "human shields;" ill-treatment, including beatings and degrading treatment, of Palestinian detainees; and, extensive damage to property with no apparent military necessity. Moreover, Amnesty's forensic expert asked: "Where are the bodies and where are the seriously injured?" According to a preliminary census among the scattered population of the Jenin refugee camp, at least 150 persons have remained missing - not yet tracked down in one of Israel's detention centers or dead? In its press conference held in London on 22 April, Amnesty International summarized: "The evidence compiled indicates that serious
breaches of international human rights and humanitarian law were committed, including war crimes, but only an independent international commission of inquiry can establish the full facts and the scale of these violations." (AI press release, MDE 15/058/2002)

END ISRAEL'S IMPUNITY: An Agenda for Investigating Potential War Crimes

War crimes committed by the Israeli military occupation did not start with the excessive use of force employed against the Palestinian uprising since September 2000. The UN Commission on Human Rights, for example, has considered Israel's continued grave breaches of the 1949 Fourth Geneva Convention as rising to the level of war crimes since 1972 and affirmed this view during a Special Session of the Commission in October 2000. War crimes are not geographically limited to the Jenin refugee camp. Massacres, or a large number of Palestinian casualties, are not the sole indicators of war crimes.

Based on the categories defined by the 1949 Fourth Geneva Convention and the 1998 Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, and based on evidence documented by numerous local and international human rights organizations and humanitarian agencies, war crimes committed during Israel's military assaults in the 1967 occupied Palestinian territories in March and April 2002 include:

*Willful killing or killing or wounding a combatant who, having laid down his arms or having no longer means of defence, has surrendered at discretion;
*Extensive destruction and appropriation of property not justified by military necessity and carried out unlawfully and wantonly;
*The use of protected persons as human shields;
*Intentionally launching an attack in the knowledge that such attack will cause incidental loss of life or injury to civilians or damage to civilian objects or widespread, long-term and severe damage to the natural environment which would be clearly excessive in relation to the concrete and direct overall military advantage anticipated; escort in paris
*Attacking or bombarding, by whatever means, towns, villages, dwellings or buildings which are undefended and which are not military objectives;
*Committing outrages upon personal dignity, in particular humiliating and degrading treatment
*Intentionally directing attacks against buildings dedicated to religion, education, art, science or charitable purposes, historic monuments, hospitals and places where the sick and wounded are collected, provided they are not military objectives; and,
*Pillage.

Crimes against humanity may include:

*Imprisonment or other severe deprivation of physical liberty in violation of fundamental rules of international law;

*Persecution - i.e., the intentional and severe deprivation of fundamental rights contrary to international law by reason of the identity of the group or collectivity - against any identifiable group or collectivity on political, racial, national, ethnic, cultural, religious, gender ..., or other grounds that are universally recognized as impermissible under international law;

*The crime of apartheid defined as inhumane acts committed in the context of an institutionalized regime of systematic oppression and domination by one racial group over any other racial group or groups and committed with the intention of maintaining that regime.
(See also: BADIL Special Report, 15 April 2002)

The current UN Fact-Finding Mission set up by the UN Security Council on Friday, 19 April 2002 can represent a step towards establishing the truth, and Israel must not be permitted to obstruct its rapid dispatch to the region. "However, an independent international commission of inquiry should follow without delay. This commission should have the means and the expertise necessary to carry out a serious and thorough investigation. "The report of this investigation must be made public and those found responsible brought to justice." (AI press release, MDE 15/058/2002).