AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL
Public Statement
19 March 2002
  AI Index MDE 15/026/2002 - News Service Nr. 50
     Amnesty International Press
Conference
             American Colony Hotel Jerusalem 19
March 19-03-2002
                    Statement of Curt Goering, Deputy Executive
                    Director, Amnesty International USA

Serious human rights violations committed during Israel's incursion in the O.T


  My colleagues, Elizabeth Hodgkin, a senior Amnesty International researcher,
David Holley, a military advisor, and I have urgently returned to the region to
investigate first-hand the escalating human rights abuses in the context of the
recent Israeli incursions into Palestinian cities and camps. We have been to
Gaza, Bethlehem, Ramallah, and Tulkarem and have met with a wide range of
individuals, institutions, NGO's, IGO's, and the Palestinian Authority.

          Our research coincides with the visits of US Vice-President Dick
Cheney and US Envoy Anthony Zinni. In all the speeches they have made, we are
disturbed that they have not acknowledged the link between human rights, justice
and peace, despite what has been unfolding before their eyes in recent days. If
US officials are serious about their efforts to reduce the level of violence, it
is absolutely vital that they recognize the centrality of human rights to
security and lasting peace. If General Zinni does not put human rights squarely
on the table with both Israelis and Palestinians he may as well pack his bags
now, Without human rights at the heart of a peace process, his efforts will be
doomed to fail, and the downward spiral will degenerate even further out of
control. And once again Israelis and Palestinians will pay the price for this
negligence.

The evidence we have gathered about serious human rights violations committed
during Israel's incursion into these areas is deeply alarming. Dozens of
individuals have been needlessly killed who presented no immediate threat to
life or serious injury. At least six medical personnel, including two doctors,
have been killed, including those who died as a result of direct attacks on
ambulances. Further deaths and substantial unnecessary suffering occurred when
scores of injured were prevented or obstructed by the IDF from receiving
urgently-needed medical attention. At this moment Amnesty International members
around the world are calling on the Israeli Government to instruct the IDF to
respect medical premises, vehicles and personnel.

Other concerns include the use of heavy weapons in crowded residential areas
resulting in large-scale destruction or damage to houses and other objects, the
demolition of homes as collective punishment, a pattern of arbitrary arrests of
over two thousand Palestinians, some of whom were beaten. Scores are still held
in various jails or prisons.

We also collected information about random and arbitrary killings of Israeli
civilians committed by armed Palestinian groups and raised this issue with
senior Palestinian authorities. Amnesty International also raised its concern
about the recent killing of Palestinians suspected of "collaborating" with
Israel.

The statements of Ariel Sharon that Palestinians have to be hit hard, they have
to be beaten have given a green light to Israel's security forces to commit
human rights violations. Indeed, many of the human rights violations we have
must been carried out under orders. Instead of encouraging more violations a
responsible leader should be demanding accountability and making clear that
committing human rights violations are unacceptable and will not be tolerated.

Finally, the US must recognize its own contribution to human rights abuses
raging in this region. We saw the damage caused in Bethlehem University by four
US-made TOW anti-tank missiles, and it is difficult to imagine that the strike
on the university was not intentional. US funding made the new Millennium
Building possible. US funding also made possible its devastation.

The US continues to supply many weapons which are being used to violate human
rights including F-16s and Apache helicopters. There are now many instances
where Israel has used US-supplied weapons to commit human rights violations.
Such use is therefore a violation of US law, namely the Arms Export Control Act,
which prohibits US weapons from being used for non-defensive purposes. It may
also be a violation of the Leahy Amendment, which prohibits military funding to
any country whose security forces are responsible for gross human rights
violations. The US must finally muster the political will to acknowledge its own
role in the escalating violence.

  \ENDS

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  Last updated : March 19