MANIPUR HUMAN RIGHTS DEFENDERS’ STATEMENT ON GAZA: A SITUATION OF WAR EXISTS
A STATEMENT ON GAZA: A SITUATION OF WAR EXISTS
28 July 2014
Human rights defender and civil society organisations in Manipur are highly concerned with the ongoing situation of war in the Gaza Strip, and view it as one of the most horrendous humanitarian disasters and crisis of serious human rights violations of this century. We are extremely concerned that Israel, a full member state of the UN, and Palestine, a non-member observer state of the UN since 2012 are both directly involved in the crisis. The heart-wrenching pictures of mutilated and wounded infants and young children bears witness to the abject failure of the conflicting parties as well as the international community to conclude this tragedy and affront to humanity. Considering this escalating brutally violent situation that has seen no sign of ending till today, it has become necessary for us to express our united position.
Within the last five years, since 2009, the Palestinian region known as the Gaza Strip has experienced at least three major incursions by the defence forces of Israeli state that resulted in untold human suffering to the local population in the most shocking dimensions. The present one, and third of the offensives, of bombardment and assault of Gaza from land, air and sea by the Israeli Defence Force (IDF), using a wide variety of sophisticated modern weapons against a basically exposed civilian population, has now gone on for as many as twenty days. Israel’s Operation Protective Edge is a naked attempt to obliterate civil society in the Gaza Strip.
Health institutions, hospitals, mosques and even schools in Gaza have been deliberately targeted in this the latest outbreak of war, and the death toll has crossed 1000, of which more than 80 per cent are claimed to be civilians and includes more than 200 children. There are more than five thousand injured, at least half of them are children and UN claims that there are now 167,000 internally displaced persons in Gaza. The patent abrogation of international humanitarian and human rights norms is glaring in the images depicting the brutality of the deepening crisis in the Middle East.
On the other hand, at least 35 personnel of the IDF have been killed, many of them attributed to reported friendly fire, and rocket attacks on Israeli civilian targets by Hamas have been continuous. Civilian casualties in Israel have been relatively very low, only three, contrasting with the very high toll among the Palestinians. Dozens have been reportedly injured in the rocket attacks. There is no recorded internal displacement in Israel.
“Disproportionate” must be the qualifying descriptor of this violent confrontation by the Israeli state. Internationally accepted position of every country’s right to self-defence definitely does not include any right or privilege to commit a genocidal and merciless campaign of state terror upon an unarmed and defenceless civilian population in what is perhaps rightly called the world’s largest and most shameful open prison.
In 1994, after 27 years of occupation, granted the right of self-governance to Gaza through the Palestinian Authority. Prior to this, Gaza had been subject to military occupation, most recently by Israel (1967–94) and by Egypt (1958–67), and earlier by Syria when Gaza had been part of the Ottoman Empire. Since 2007, the Gaza Strip has been de-facto governed by Hamas, a Palestinian group claiming to be the representatives of the Palestinian National Authority and the Palestinian people. In 2012, the United Nations General Assembly “accorded Palestine non-Member Observer State status in the United Nations”. Gaza forms a part of the Palestinian territory defined in the Oslo Agreements and UNSC Resolution 1860.
The wars that have involved the Gaza Strip wrought havoc amongst its population. The physical and psychosocial health consequences constitute a major burden in Gaza. The widespread use of torture and other forms of cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment in this region has led to courageous initiatives from the medical fraternity to rehabilitate the survivor victims. Many years of effort painstakingly built up over the two decades is being ruthlessly and rapidly destroyed. It will take many years to gain some small ground again to rehabilitate the victims of this latest flare-up of armed conflict.
In 2009, the UN’s Human Rights Council established the United Nations Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict with the mandate “to investigate all violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law that might have been committed at any time in the context of the military operations that were conducted in Gaza during the period from 27 December 2008 and 18 January 2009, whether before, during or after.” The report of this mission, known as the Goldstone Report, is perhaps the most prominent, comprehensive and fair human rights report on the Gaza till date. Yet, many of the important recommendations made to both the Israeli state and the Palestinian Authority have never been implemented.
The Human Rights Council, last Wednesday, adopted yet another resolution to establish an independent commission of inquiry to investigate violations of human rights since mid-June in the Gaza Strip, and it also condemned Israel for potential infractions of international law. While we welcome this resolution that marks the concern among the international community of nations, we remain with scepticism whether such steps will ever be a positive and constructive impetus towards a just solution to the Israel-Palestine question.
The United Nations Security Council Resolution 242 (S/RES/242), which was adopted unanimously by the UN Security Council on November 22, 1967, in the aftermath of the Six-Day War has yet to be implemented. In fact, this resolution has been assigned to the growing heap of adopted resolutions by the United Nations that are rejected or ignored by the parties to the conflict. Adopted under Chapter VI of the UN Charter, the preamble to this resolution refers to the “inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by war and the need to work for a just and lasting peace in the Middle East in which every State in the area can live in security.”
It’s Operative Paragraph One “Affirms that the fulfillment of Charter principles requires the establishment of a just and lasting peace in the Middle East which should include the application of both the following principles:
- Withdrawal of Israel armed forces from territories occupied in the recent conflict;
- Termination of all claims or states of belligerency and respect for and acknowledgment of the sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence of every State in the area and their right to live in peace within secure and recognized boundaries free from threats or acts of force.”
In this position, human rights defender and civil society organisations in Manipur reiterate that we are aware that the situation of human rights within both the Palestinian Territories and Israel (including the occupied territories) is inadequate. Israel is seen as a transgressor while the Palestinians are perceived as the wronged. However, the situation in Palestinian Territories may be considered as one of declining civil liberties for its citizens, due to the many reliable reports of shooting deaths of civilians by Palestinian security personnel; the summary trials and executions of alleged collaborators by the Palestinian Authority; extrajudicial killings of suspected collaborators by militias; and the apparent official encouragement of Palestinian youths to confront Israeli soldiers, thus placing them directly in harm’s way. Discrimination of non-Jewish populations in Israel is also widely reported. The practices of political imprisonment and administrative detention are very high in Israel according to reliable sources. Accusations of alleged use of civilian or non-combatant human shields to achieve “military objectives”, a war crime, have been raised on both parties to the conflict.
Militarisation and flawed financial aid in this region with the support of arms supplies from many known and unknown sources has been one of the major hurdles to reach lasting peace. Munitions from foreign suppliers are used by both parties to the conflict to target civilians. There must a concerted resolve and action place a strong embargo on all arms and weapons supplies to both warring parties. This is, in our view, one of the key components of any immediate and long-term initiative towards real peace in the region. The vision of peace in this region must be informed by the committed understanding that demilitarisation is the only answer to the insecurities and perceived threats to Israel or the Palestinians.
We cannot ignore the regional geopolitical strategies employed by the Israeli state, which consistently transgresses every norm and decent value of the community of nations in the world. This constitutes the roots of the stubborn conflict and intransigent nature of both warring parties. Western companies’ continued investment in companies and projects that finance illegal settlements and the oppressive occupation of the Palestinian people continue to perpetuate a deeply unjust expansionism of an obviously hegemonic state. 17 EU countries recently issued warnings to their citizens against doing business or investing in illegal Israeli settlements. It is now a fact that tax-payers’ money from USA and European countries have been used by their irresponsible governments, corporations and financial institutions to finance Israel’s military and unlawful settlements. Such flawed aid and supplies underwrites the true economic costs of Israel’s belligerent role in the region.
The human rights defenders and organizations of Manipur fully recognize the Right to Self Determination of all peoples, and:
Express heart-felt condolences to all those families and communities that have lost so many lives in such a brutal and violent manner over the last days. The civil society in the Gaza Strip is being literally obliterated, and the loss is not just a loss to all humankind but also our failure;
Call upon the Government of Israel, Hamas and other armed militant Palestinian organisations in the Gaza Strip, and the Palestinian National Authority to immediately end all forms of aggression and offensive action against the citizens of the Gaza Strip and Israel;
Further call upon them to end violations of human rights and humanitarian law in the Gaza Strip, and the resolutions of the UN Security Council and Human Rights Council on the situation of Palestine including Gaza;
Call upon the peoples of Israel and Palestinian Territories to abide by norms of human decency, non-discriminations and any form of racism or racial discrimination; any form of apartheid and anti-Semitism is rejected;
Call upon the United Nations to immediately impose an overdue comprehensive arms embargo on Israel, Hamas and Palestinian armed groups;
Commends the government of India for its support to UN Human Rights Council resolution made during an emergency session on 23rd July 2014 in Geneva that condemned in the strongest terms the “widespread, systematic and gross violations of international human rights and fundamental freedoms” arising from the Israeli military operations since 13 June, called for an immediate ceasefire and decided to launch an independent inquiry into purported violations of international humanitarian and human rights laws in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem;
Further urge the government of India to end military and defence relations with the government of Israel including the purchase of military hardware from Israel and step up humanitarian assistance to the Palestinian territories, especially the Gaza Strip;
Also call upon private and public corporations and financial institutions such as ABP, Hewlett-Packard, Veolia, Barclays, Caterpillar, and G4S, among others, to withdraw immediately from continued investment in companies and projects that finance illegal settlements and the oppressive occupation of the Palestinian people.
All Manipur Nupi Manbi Association (AMANA)
Centre of Network and Empowerment (CoNE)
Centre for Organisation Research & Education (CORE)
Centre for Research & Advocacy (CRA Manipur)
Citizens Concern for Dams and Development (CCDD)
Civil Liberties and Human Rights Organisation (CLAHRO)
Civil Liberties Protection Forum (CLPF)
Committee on Human Rights, Manipur (COHR)
Ethno-Heritage Council (HERICOUN)
Extra-judicial Execution Victim Families’ Association Manipur (EEVFAM)
Families of the Involuntarily Disappeared’s Association Manipur (FIDAM)
Federation of Regional Indigenous Societies (FREINDS)
Forum for Indigenous Perspective and Action (FIPA)
Human Rights Alert (HRA)
Human Rights Initiative (HRI)
Human Rights Law Network Manipur (HRLN-M)
Human to Humane Transcultural Centre for Torture and Trauma (H2H)
Just Peace Foundation (JPF)
Manipur Alliance for Child Rights (MACR)
Movement for Peoples’ Right to Information Manipur (M-PRIM)
North East Dialogue Forum (NEDF)
Threatened Indigenous Peoples Society (TIPS)
United Peoples Front (UPF)