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Thursday, January 15, 2009

The list of Hamas war crimes

The Jerusalem Post has an interview with an international law scholar, who said "The fighting tactics and ideology of Hamas are a 'case study par excellence' of a systematic violation of international humanitarian law."

He lists six war crimes that Hamas is doing regularly and systematically:
"First, the deliberate targeting of civilians is in and of itself a war crime," he noted, referring to the Hamas rockets fired at southern towns for eight years.

"A second war crime is when Hamas attacks [from within] civilian areas and civilian structures, whether it be an apartment building, a mosque or a hospital, in order to be immune from a response from Israel," he went on. "Civilians are protected persons, and civilian areas are protected areas. Any use of a civilian infrastructure to launch bombs is itself a war crime."

That Hamas bears legal responsibility for the harm to civilians in areas from which it fires is enshrined throughout international law, he said: "In the general principles of customs binding on nations, in the specific international law of armed conflict [also called] international humanitarian law, in the Fourth Geneva Convention, in decisions of the International Court of Justice and the international criminal tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda - it's all set out there."

Third, he explained, "the misuse and abuse of humanitarian symbols for purposes of launching attacks is called the perfidy principle. For example, using an ambulance to transport fighters or weapons or disguising oneself as a doctor in a hospital, or using a UN logo or flag, are war crimes."

The fourth violation, "of which little has been made, is the prohibition in the Fourth Geneva Convention and international jurisprudence against the direct and public incitement to genocide. The Hamas covenant itself is a standing incitement to genocide. [Similarly,] just before this fighting started, I saw Hamas leaders on television referring to Israel and Jews as the sons of apes and pigs."

The fifth crime relates to the scope of the attack on civilians, which upgrades the violation to a crime against humanity. According to Cotler, "when you deliberately hit civilians not infrequently but in a systematic, widespread attack, that's defined in the treaty of the International Criminal Court and international humanitarian law as a crime against humanity."

The final war crime for which Hamas is responsible is the recruitment of children into armed conflict.
Beyond these six, I think we can add:

* Combatants must wear uniforms and carry their weapons openly during military operations and during preparation for them.

* Wearing the uniforms of the enemy while engaged in combat is also a clear violation of the rules of war.

* Phosphorus payloads in rockets. (It can be used for smoke and illumination, but it cannot be aimed at civilians.)

* Violating rules for treatment of prisoners of war (not allowing Red Cross to visit, for example.)

* Immediate execution of supposed "collaborators" and others without a trial.

These are just during this operation, one additional one is that Hamas regularly tortured prisoners, sometimes to death.

Any others?