Saturday, September 25, 2010

UNHRC tramples on international law to demonize Israel

Even a quick glance at the UNHRC's report on the flotilla shows extraordinary duplicity in describing international law.

We had already posted at length a number of scholarly articles about the legality of Israel's naval blockade of Gaza. The UN Human Rights Council finds that it must completely make up new laws in order to accuse Israel of breaking them.

First, it accurately quotes San Remo to define what a legal blockade is:

51. Under the laws of armed conflict, a blockade is the prohibition of all commerce with a defined enemy coastline. A belligerent who has established a lawful blockade is entitled to enforce that blockade on the high seas.41 A blockade must satisfy a number of legal requirements, including: notification, effective and impartial enforcement and proportionality.42 In particular a blockade is illegal if:
(a) it has the sole purpose of starving the civilian population or denying it other objects essential for its survival; or
(b) the damage to the civilian population is, or may be expected to be, excessive in relation to the concrete and direct military advantage anticipated from the blockade.43

So far, so good. But look what comes next:
52. A blockade may not continue to be enforced where it inflicts disproportionate damage on the civilian population. The usual meaning of “damage to the civilian population” in LOAC refers to deaths, injuries and property damage. Here the damage may be thought of as the destruction of the civilian economy and prevention of reconstruction of past damage. One might also note, insofar as many in Gaza face a shortage of food or the means to buy it, that the ordinary meaning of “starvation” under LOAC is simply to cause hunger.44
The bolded text is simply made up by the UNHRC and has zero to do with international law. There is nothing in international law that says that "destruction of the civilian economy and prevention of reconstruction of past damage" is illegal under the laws of blockade.

Even worse, the footnote that it cites says this:
C. Pilloud and J. Pictet, Commentary on the additional protocols of 8 June 1977 to the Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949 (International Committee of the Red Cross, 1987), p.53 para 2089. See also Oxford English Dictionary definitions: “to deprive of or keep scantily supplied with food” or to “subdue by famine or low diet”.
They quote Pilloud and Pictet as if they say that "starvation" means to "cause hunger." Yet Pilloud and Pictet actually say:

The UNHRC is deliberately misinterpreting its own footnoted material to accuse Israel of starving Gaza with the blockade.

Of course it doesn't mention the tons of food that arrive daily into Gaza via Israel itself, nor the fact that not a single Gazan has yet been documented to have starved to death in the past four years.

Since the UNHRC made up a specialized definition of the legality of a blockade, tailor made for Israel alone, it is no surprise that they conclude:
53. In evaluating the evidence submitted to the Mission, including by the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in the occupied Palestinian territory, confirming the severe humanitarian situation in Gaza, the destruction of the economy and the prevention of reconstruction (as detailed above), the Mission is satisfied that the blockade was inflicting disproportionate damage upon the civilian population in the Gaza strip and as such the interception could not be justified and therefore has to be considered illegal.
The report goes on to the usual lies - claiming Gaza is occupied, saying that the IDF fired live ammunition from the helicopters before the first soldiers descended on the ship, and so forth. But here is a specific example where international law is being deliberately misinterpreted for the singular purpose of finding Israel guilty.

(h/t sshender)