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Ed Webb

Blood Law - By David Rieff | Foreign Policy - 1 views

  • The International Committee of the Red Cross is the legally recognized custodian of the laws of war and thus, among its other prerogatives, the arbiter of the semantics of both interstate and internal conflict.
  • At least in theory, an ICRC finding has important legal implications for both sides in the fighting, whereas the declarations of other actors are more expressions of opinion than fact.
  • all sides are clear that their conflict is one for control of the Syrian state, which is about as good a definition of civil war as it is possible to come by.
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  • The debate over when and under what conditions it is legitimate for outside actors to intervene militarily in the internal affairs of countries deemed to be abusing their own populations -- a global argument that, for better or worse, culminated in the adoption of the doctrine of the so-called Responsibility to Protect (R2P) --- has revolved around legally binding definitions as much, if not more, than about moral sentiments
  • the designation of the conflict as a civil war broadens the categories under which both sides can be prosecuted for war crimes under international humanitarian law, since while prosecutions for crimes against humanity can take place whatever the nature of the conflict, the broader category of war crimes can be applied only when a state of war has been found to exist.
  • technically the ICRC's judgment applies to regime and insurgency alike, but in practice its weight is likely to fall most heavily on the government side, not least because the opposition has a "friend in court" in the United States, France, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar.
  • As the Libyan case shows, the International Criminal Court is far more likely to prosecute those its powerful members oppose (or, indeed, have overthrown) than those they have supported diplomatically, economically, and militarily. And anyone who does not think the law is as much shaped by political pressure as statute -- whether it is the U.S. Supreme Court judgment on the Affordable Care Act, the German Constitutional Court's current consideration of the legality of Germany's participation in various European financial bailout mechanisms, or the decisions at The Hague of whom to indict and to whom to give a pass -- has probably not been paying attention. With the exception of Russia and Iran, the major world powers as well as important elements of the U.N. Secretariat have either explicitly or implicitly come out for the rebels, and designating what is now taking place (whether or not the ICRC intended to do so) as "civil war" establishes a moral and institutional equivalence between the government and the insurgents that serves to partly legitimize the rebellion and delegitimize the Assad regime.
  • history is not a morality play
Ed Webb

The IDF's Unlawful Attack on Al Jalaa Tower - 2 views

  • On May 15, 2021, early in the afternoon, the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) informed residents of the Al Jalaa tower that it planned to destroy their building. The building had 11 floors, around 60 residential apartments, and offices for doctors, lawyers, and journalists including Al Jazeera and the Associated Press. Residents grabbed what belongings they could carry and ran down the stairs. Children and the elderly took turns using the single working elevator. An hour later, the IDF levelled the building and crushed everything inside. The now-former residents joined more than 77,000 Gazans displaced from their homes amidst ongoing airstrikes and the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Initially, the IDF claimed that the building “contained military assets belonging to the intelligence offices of the Hamas terror organization.” Later, the IDF tweeted that Hamas members took “items” out of the building before it was destroyed. The IDF said it was “willing to pay that price to not harm any civilians.” Officials who were involved in the decision reportedly now “completely regret” it. Hamas operatives simply moved their computers out, leaving only empty offices behind.
  • Given the sheer scale of destruction, suffering, and death, any starting point for legal analysis may seem arbitrary. But the IDF, a former IDF legal adviser, and one leading scholar publicly defended the legality of the airstrike on Al Jalaa tower. Their legal claims call for a response. The IDF also destroyed four other residential towers, and hundreds of other residential units across Gaza. Examining the attack on Al Jalaa tower may shed light on these other attacks as well.
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  • the tower was not a military objective (a “lawful target”) at the time of the airstrike. The expected harm to civilians and civilian objects was also excessive (or “disproportionate”) in relation to the military advantage anticipated from destroying any equipment Hamas may have left behind
  • International law prohibits attacks on civilian objects. Civilian objects are all objects which are not military objectives. Military objectives are limited to those objects which by their nature, location, purpose or use make an effective contribution to military action and whose total or partial destruction, capture or neutralization, in the circumstances ruling at the time, offers a definite military advantage. According to the IDF and subsequent reports, Hamas members left with their equipment before the airstrike. They were not using the building or any part of it when it was destroyed. No one suggests that the tower made any effective contribution to military action by its nature or location.
  • If attacking forces are allowed to level any building their adversary might intend to use in the future, then the principle of distinction will lose much of its meaning and legal effect in urban warfare.
  • Based on IDF statements as well as video of the attack, it appears that the attack was directed at the building’s base, not at particular offices or their contents. Since the building was a civilian object at the time of the attack, it was unlawful to make the building as such the object of attack
  • The expected harm to civilians and civilian objects was excessive in relation to the concrete and direct military advantage anticipated. The IDF and its defenders do not argue otherwise. They do not deny that the destruction of dozens of civilian homes and offices would be excessive in relation to the destruction of whatever military equipment may have been left in the building. They argue that the civilian homes and offices were not civilian objects at all.
  • the IDF’s reported position that, if members of an armed group use any part of a civilian building for military activities, then the entire building—including all the civilian apartments inside—becomes a military objective. Since the proportionality rule only protects civilian objects, the IDF argues that expected damage to civilian apartments inside such a building carries no weight in determining the proportionality of an attack. This view is grotesque.
  • To my knowledge, no one thinks it is morally acceptable to destroy dozens of civilian apartments to obtain a minor or uncertain military advantage by destroying military equipment that the adversary has abandoned but may retrieve. The IDF may think it has found a loophole in the law. It hasn’t. But it is worth remembering that basic moral principles have no loopholes.
  • No part of Al Jalaa tower, let alone all of it, was a military objective at the time of the attack
  • The IDF emphasized that it notified the civilian residents that it planned to attack. The IDF may have thought that the tower, or part of it, was a military objective at the time of the notification and therefore it must remain a military objective at the time of the attack. This inference is obviously invalid. Attacking forces do not acquire a legal right to carry out an attack at one moment in time, which they then retain even if circumstances change. The law of armed conflict applies at all times, but never more than at the moment an attack is carried out.
  • It was an unlawful attack. One of many, and not the worst, I suspect.
Ed Webb

Red Cross's Peter Maurer: Geneva Conventions are being violated | Aid | Al Jazeera - 0 views

  • Peter Maurer, the president of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), says his organisation's budget has doubled in the past few years as it deals with the scale of conflict and displacement in the world today.
  • the Geneva Conventions are violated by a lot of parties in today's conflicts
  • "While the pattern of implementation of the Geneva Conventions in a context like Yemen is of course a big challenge - and we see violations continuing - we also see big efforts from all the belligerents to engage with us and to improve."
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  • Maurer says large-scale violence is also afflicting people in Africa's Sahel and Lake Chad basin regions - but with far less international attention.
  • there is long-standing developmental reasons which contribute to the fragility of this context. There is climate change-induced migration and population displacements which comes on top of a very war-torn and violent situation
  • Europeans only look through the eyes of migrants coming to them, and maybe insufficiently look at the complexity of the origin of fragility and population displacements in the Sahel and the Lake Chad
  • Eight out of 10 places in the world which are top priorities to ICRC to respond to war [are] at the same time the most fragile in terms of climate change

Red Cross postpones aid convoys after Aleppo attack - 0 views

    GENEVA Aid convoys for four Syrian towns will be postponed as staff reassess security after a deadly attack on relief trucks and intensified violence, a senior official from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said on Tuesday.
Ed Webb

Palestinian schools in Jerusalem strike over Israel-imposed books | Israel-Palestine co... - 0 views

  • Palestinian schools in occupied East Jerusalem are observing a general strike in protest at attempts by Israel’s Jerusalem municipality to censor and edit Palestinian textbooks, as well as introduce an Israeli curriculum in classrooms.
  • “What is worrying the parents is that they are being cornered between distorted Palestinian curriculums and Israeli curriculums,”
  • “There is an Israelisation of Palestinian education going on,”
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  • “Now, they are adding their own content like ‘Yossi is Mohammad’s neighbour’, about settlements, about co-existence,” said al-Shamali. “They have played with textbooks for Arabic, religion, history and any national references”.
  • In July, Israeli authorities revoked the permanent licenses of six Palestinian schools in Jerusalem, claiming that their textbooks incited against the Israeli state and army. They were given permission to operate for a year if the curriculum was edited. The eastern half of Jerusalem was militarily occupied by Israel in 1967 and illegally annexed. Some 350,000 Palestinians currently live in occupied East Jerusalem, with 220,000 Israeli living in illegal settlements among them.
  • The annexation of East Jerusalem is not recognised by any country in the world, apart from the United States, as it violates international law that outlines that an occupying power does not have sovereignty in the territory it occupies.
  • In 2009, the Jerusalem municipality adopted a master plan intended “to guide and outline the city’s development in the next decades”. The vision, as stated in the plan, is to create a Jewish demographic majority, with Israeli Jews making up 70 percent of the city, and Palestinians only making up 30 percent. This was later amended to a 60:40 ratio.
Ed Webb

Turkey, Romania work to defuse sea mines possibly floating from Ukraine - The Washingto... - 0 views

  • Turkey and Romania have scrambled in recent days to neutralize potentially explosive mines amid concerns that the weapons may be drifting across the Black Sea from Ukraine’s shores toward neighboring countries.
  • Turkey’s government had said previously that it was in contact with both Moscow and Kyiv about the weapons, but did not specify which side, if either, was responsible for the mines
  • Russia’s intelligence service, the FSB, claimed on March 19 that poor weather had caused more than 400 naval mines to become disconnected from the cables that were anchoring them, and warned that the mines were “drifting freely in the western part of the Black Sea,” which includes the territorial waters of Ukraine, Romania, Bulgaria and Turkey.
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  • Ukraine at the time dismissed the assertion as untrue and politically motivated. “This is complete disinformation from the Russian side,” Viktor Vyshnov, deputy head of Ukraine’s Maritime Administration, told Reuters. “This was done to justify the closure of these districts of the Black Sea under so-called ‘danger of mines.’ ”
  • A 1907 international treaty prohibits countries from laying unanchored mines designed to damage ships unless they can be controlled or are “constructed as to become harmless one hour at most after the person who laid them ceases to control them.”
  • Meanwhile, Turkey said Monday that it had neutralized a mine detected off the coast of Igneada, a town in the country’s northwest near the border with Bulgaria, while on Saturday another mine, which was thought to have drifted from the Black Sea, forced a temporary closure of the Bosporus, the key waterway that runs through Istanbul.
  • fears that the conflict between Russia and Ukraine could threaten traffic in the Bosporus, a choke point for global energy supplies and commerce.
  • On Saturday, Turkey’s defense minister, Hulusi Akar, described the mine as “old” and said Turkey had been in touch with the Kremlin and with Kyiv about its appearance in the Bosporus.
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