Bill Goodman / Center for Constitutional Rights – 2006-07-27 23:30:34
Stop US Complicity in Attacks on Civilians in Middle East
In its 40-year history, the Center for Constitutional Rights has been a leading advocate of human rights and international law in the US and abroad. In the current conflict taking place in Lebanon, Palestine, and Israel, the absolute prohibition on attacks against civilians under international law is being violated by all parties.
US law, specifically the Arms Export Control Act (AECA), requires that weapons provided by the US be used for a nation‚s internal security or legitimate self-defense, and prohibits sales or deliveries if a nation fails to comply.
Israel is using US supplied weapons to attack civilians and civilian infrastructure, not for purposes authorized under US law. The current conflict has already killed hundreds of civilians and wounded more than 1,000 — nearly a third of whom are children — as well as destroyed billions of dollars worth of civilian infrastructure.
Rather than stopping the supply of weapons to Israel, as required by law, the United States Government is reportedly rushing additional weapons to Israel — an unlawful act that will render the US complicit in the death of innocent people.
Today we sent an official letter to President Bush and Secretary of State Rice calling on them to comply with the AECA and stop delivering weapons to Israel. Now we need your help to ensure Congress holds the Administration accountable. Please take action today!
Bill Goodman is the Legal Director of the Center for Constitutional Rights
CCR CONDEMNS HUMANITARIAN LAW VIOLATIONS IN THE CURRENT MIDDLE EAST CONFLICT & CALLS ON BUSH TO STOP ARMING ISRAEL IN VIOLATION OF AMERICAN LAW
CCR Condemns Attacks on Civilians and Calls on All Parties to Abide by International Law
On July 27, 2006 the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) called for all parties to respect international humanitarian law in the current Middle East conflict and urged President Bush to halt the supply of weapons to Israel in violation of the Arms Export Control Act (AECA).
In a letter to President Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, CCR noted that defense articles provided to Israel are not being used for internal security or self defense purposes, as required by the AECA, and demanded that the President comply with his legal obligation to immediately cease all sales and deliveries of weapons to Israel. (The entire letter is below.)
CCR also released the following statement regarding the conflict and international law violations:
In its 40 year history CCR has been a leading advocate of international law, including humanitarian law, or the “laws of war”. The bedrock principle of humanitarian law is the obligation to distinguish between civilian and military objectives in the conduct of armed conflict. That principle is being shamelessly violated by all parties to the current conflict, including Israel, Hezbollah, and other groups.
However, any objective assessment of the facts on the ground must lead to the conclusion that Israel’s conduct cannot be equated in any way with that of its enemies but is vastly superior in its catastrophic consequences.
In waging war against the civilian population of Lebanon and its infrastructure, Israel is violating not only the principle of distinction between military and civilian targets, but also the principle of necessity, which forbids action greater than that required to achieve a military objective, the principle of proportionality, which forbids action disproportionate to the antecedent provocation, as well as the prohibition of collective punishment.
The media report hundreds of civilian casualties, many of whom are women and children. Entire neighborhoods have been reduced to rubble. Five hundred thousand persons have been made homeless or fled whatever homes may still be standing. These are war crimes, for which those responsible should be held to account.
The Prime Minister of Lebanon, who has distanced himself from the actions of Hezbollah, says his country is being torn to shreds and is appealing to the international community to put an end to the slaughter and destruction. The failure of the United States to respond to this appeal, on the ground that “a cease fire would solve nothing”, is unconscionable and makes the United States an accessory to the daily massacres in Gaza and Lebanon.
CCR does believe that until a just and equitable solution to the problems dividing Israel from its Palestinian and other Arab neighbors is reached, violence will be endemic to the region. But this does not justify the United States in effect giving Israel a green light to continue its assault on Gaza and Lebanon, while piously deploring “civilian casualties”.
CCR is currently handling two cases involving previous violations of humanitarian law by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF). Last year CCR brought a case on behalf of the victims of the 1996 shelling of the UN compound in Qana, in the south of Lebanon, which killed over 100 civilians and wounded hundreds more. Approximately 800 displaced civilians had sought shelter there from the shelling of their villages by the IDF. (Belhas v. Ya’alon, DDC, 05 Civ. 02167).
The attack on Qana has disturbing parallels with Tuesday’s attack on a UN observation post that killed four UN observers. Israel claimed both attacks were accidental, despite the fact that each UN compound was clearly marked and had been there for many years, and that UN officials had contacted the IDF to tell them to stop shelling the area prior to the fatal attacks.
Another case was brought by CCR on behalf of the victims of the bombing of the Al-Daraj neighborhood in Gaza in 2002, an attack that killed eight children and seven adults, and injured over 150 civilians. (Matar v. Dichter, S.D.N.Y., 05 Civ. 10270).
CCR has a long and effective record of working for human rights and international law around the world, including pioneering the use of the Alien Tort Claims Act of 1789 to represent victims of human rights crimes anywhere in the world.
Text of the Letter to President Bush
July 27, 2006
President George W. Bush
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Washington, DC 20500
Secretary of State
2201 C Street, N.W.
Washington, DC 20520
Re: Supply of Weapons to Israel in Violation of Arms Export Control Act
Dear President Bush and Secretary Rice,
I am writing regarding the weapons our Government is supplying to Israel in violation of the Arms Export Control Act (AECA).
I write on behalf of the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), a non-profit organization that for over 40 years has been dedicated to protecting and advancing the rights guaranteed by the US Constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Defense articles provided to Israel are not being used for internal security or legitimate self-defense, as required by the AECA. The AECA prohibits sales or deliveries to a country that is in substantial violation of these authorized purposes.
Rather than stopping the supply of weapons to Israel, as required by law, the United States Government is reportedly rushing additional weapons to Israel – an act that will result in further loss of innocent lives. CCR demands that you comply with your legal obligation to immediately cease all sales and deliveries of those items to Israel.
As you know, the US provides Israel with billions of dollars in weapons and military aid annually. Israel is using US supplied defense articles to attack civilians and civilian infrastructure, not for its internal security or legitimate self-defense.
It is reported that Israel is attacking civilians using combat aircraft and weapons manufactured in and supplied by the United States, including Boeing F-15s, Lockheed Martin F-16s, AH-64 Apache attack helicopters, Sparrow and Sidewinder missiles, and M-109 self-propelled 155mm artillery.
Israel’s recent military campaign in Lebanon has already killed over 350 civilians and wounded more than 1,000 – nearly a third of whom are children. A major humanitarian crisis has resulted from the displacement of more than 500,000 people from their homes and the destruction of transportation infrastructure, power plants, and food and fuel sources.
Israel is also shelling civilian areas and infrastructure in Gaza, including targeting a university and destroying Gaza’s main electricity plant. At least 100 Palestinians have been killed and more than 500 have been injured since Israel launched military operations in Gaza on June 28th.
Under US and international law, attacks on civilians are prohibited under all circumstances. Moreover, Israel failed to exhaust, or even attempt, alternative means to respond to the capture of its soldiers, and instead is using collective punishment against entire civilian populations.
Upon receiving information that defense articles have not been used for internal security or legitimate self-defense, the President or Secretary of State must promptly report to Congress that a violation may have occurred.
On three occasions, prior Presidents have determined that Israel may have violated its legal obligations to the United States as a result of its use of US supplied weapons in Lebanon. Indeed, after Israel bombarded Lebanon with cluster bombs in 1982, President Reagan banned the sale of such weapons to Israel, a ban that remained in place until 1988.
It has been reported that Israel has recently attacked populated areas in Lebanon with artillery-fired cluster bombs, some of which have been supplied by the US. This Administration must enforce Israel’s compliance with its agreements to ensure that U.S. supplied defense articles are not used for unauthorized purposes.
In light of Israel’s unauthorized use of US weapons, the Center for Constitutional Rights is particularly appalled by recent reports that the Administration is expediting a delivery of satellite and laser-guided bombs to Israel.
Under the AECA, the United States must suspend arms transfers to Israel, not expedite them to be used in the slaughter of more civilians. Israel’s indiscriminate attacks on civilians are prohibited by international humanitarian law, and constitute war crimes.
You should be aware that those parties who knowingly provide substantial assistance to the commission of such war crimes can also be held accountable. The US Government must cease all sales and deliveries of defense articles to Israel.
CCR will continue to monitor these violations, advocate on behalf of civil and human rights, and fight for the consistent application of the fundamental principles of international humanitarian law.
Michael Ratner, President
Bill Goodman, Legal Director
Center for Constitutional Rights