Amnesty slams critics of war crimes report

Amnesty International has defended its report of the Gaza conflict in the face of fierce criticism from the IDF and NGO Monitor.
Although the report, Operation Cast Lead: 22 Days of Death and Destruction, says both sides committed war crimes, it focuses overwhelmingly on the actions of the Israeli army.

Amnesty’s Jeremy Croft said the charity “absolutely refuted” NGO Monitor’s attempt to “rubbish” the document, and said that since February, the IDF had refused requests to discuss the findings.
He admitted it was “inevitable” that both sides in the conflict would criticise the publication of the report.

The IDF called it “a warped version of military law that does not conform to the norms of any democracy fighting terror”, while NGO Monitor accused Amnesty of blaming Israel “almost exclusively” and using unverifiable testimony from eyewitnesses.

In the 117-page report, Amnesty claimed the IDF “killed hundreds of unarmed Palestinian civilians” by bombing homes while they slept, striking children in bedrooms and attacking ambulances on emergency calls. But Professor Gerald Steinberg, NGO Monitor executive director, said it was “further evidence of [Amnesty’s] obsessive attempts to condemn and isolate Israel”.

He said Amnesty’s call to isolate Israel through boycott action was part of a “pernicious and immoral campaign…inconsistent with the legitimate and impartial pursuit of universal human rights.
“The lack of expertise and the façade of research are reflected in the effort to erase evidence of the massive use of human shields by Hamas, and its aggression.”

Mr Croft, Amnesty International UK head of policy, said: “NGO Monitor has a track record of trying to rubbish human rights reports on Israel-Palestine, and we absolutely refute their latest attempt to do this.
“It is absolutely wrong of NGO Monitor to claim that our report excuses Palestinian violations. It most assuredly does not.

“Indeed, we emphatically condemned Palestinian rocket attacks as violations of international humanitarian law, denouncing them in no uncertain terms as ‘war crimes’.

“If NGO Monitor has any precise information about any of the many cases documented in our report, then it should of course bring it forward.”
Following the report’s publication last week, the IDF defended its actions and hit back at Amnesty’s findings.

A spokesman said: “We launched Operation Cast Lead after a long period of missile and mortar shells on hundreds of thousands of Israeli citizens. Those firing used the civilian population of the Gaza Strip as human shields.”

He said the IDF had used “advanced technological methods” to minimise risk to civilians, while Hamas had actively attacked from populated
areas.

“In many cases, the IDF warned the local population in advance before attacking. Our attacks were aimed only at military targets. The IDF acted according to international law while Hamas broke those laws.”
Mr Croft was unrepentant on the charity’s role in the region. He said: “We believe that the lives and livelihoods of ordinary Israelis and Palestinians depend on their human rights being recognised and staunchly defended.

“We will go on campaigning for human rights in the state of Israel, and Gaza and the West Bank.”

Last updated: 3:13pm, July 9 2009