Gaza

Human Rights Must Have ‘Real’ Meaning in a Civilized Society !

2009-10-07:  As previously discussed … but deserving much repetition … the 2006 United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) became an International Legal Instrument, i.e. entered into force, on 3rd May 2008.

This UN Convention simply aims to ensure that persons with disabilities are able to access human rights on the same basis as everyone else in society.  And rights are no more than an elaboration of the responsible basic needs of all human beings.

It is worth recalling that the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights was directly born out of the large-scale death, human misery and environmental destruction of the Second World War in Europe, North Africa, the Middle-East … and throughout Asia and the Pacific.

Human Rights must have – do have – ‘real’ meaning in a civilized society !

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Israel signed the UN Disability Rights Convention on 30th March 2007.  At the time of writing, it has not yet signed the Convention’s Optional Protocol.  Israel has definitely not ratified the Convention or the Optional Protocol.

[To be fair, Ireland is in exactly the same position as Israel.  Why am I not surprised ?!?]

With regard to Situations of Risk, e.g. a fire emergency in a building … or Humanitarian Emergencies, e.g. the Gaza Conflict from December 2008 to January 2009 … the language of Article 11 in the UN Convention is very clear and straightforward:

States Parties shall take, in accordance with their obligations under international law, including international humanitarian law and international human rights law, all necessary measures to ensure the protection and safety of persons with disabilities in situations of risk, including situations of armed conflict, humanitarian emergencies and the occurrence of natural disasters.”

On 3rd April 2009, the President of the UN 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 President appointed Justice Richard Goldstone, former judge of the Constitutional Court of South Africa and former Prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda, to head the Mission.  The other three appointed members were:

  • Professor Christine Chinkin, Professor of International Law at the London School of Economics and Political Science, who was a member of the high-level fact finding mission to Beit Hanoun (2008) ;
  • Ms. Hina Jilani, Advocate of the Supreme Court of Pakistan and former Special Representative of the Secretary-General on the situation of human rights defenders, who was a member of the International Commission of Inquiry on Darfur (2004) ;   and
  • Colonel Desmond Travers, a former Officer in Ireland’s Defence Forces and member of the Board of Directors of the Institute for International Criminal Investigations.

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The Report of the Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict was presented to the Human Rights Council, in Geneva (Switzerland), on 29th September 2009.

The following is a short extract from that Report

Section A – XVII  The Impact of the Blockade and of the Military Operations on the People of Gaza and their Human Rights

Persons with Disabilities (Paragraphs 1283-1291)

1283   Information provided to the Mission showed that many of those who were injured during the Israeli military operations sustained permanent disabilities owing to the severity of their injuries and/or the lack of adequate and timely medical attention and rehabilitation.  Gaza hospitals reportedly had to discharge patients too early so as to handle incoming emergencies.  Other cases resulted in amputations or disfigurement.  About 30 per cent of patients were expected to have long-term disabilities.

1284   WHO reported that by mid-April 2009 the number of people with different types of permanent disability (e.g. brain injuries, amputations, spinal injuries, hearing deficiencies, mental health problems) as a result of the military operations was not yet known.  It reported speculations that there might be some 1000 amputees; but information provided by the WHO office in Gaza and based on estimates by Handicap International indicated that around 200 persons underwent amputations.

1285   While the exact number of people who will suffer permanent disabilities is still unknown, the Mission understands that many persons who sustained traumatic injuries during the conflict still face the risk of permanent disability owing to complications and inadequate follow-up and physical rehabilitation.

1286   The Mission also heard moving accounts of families with disabled relatives whose disability had slowed their evacuation from a dangerous area or who lived with a constant fear that, in an emergency, their families would have to leave them behind because it would be too difficult to evacuate them.

1287   One testimony concerned a person whose electric wheelchair was lost after his house was targeted and destroyed.  Since the residents were given very short notice of the impending attack, the wheelchair could not be salvaged and the person had to be taken to safety on a plastic chair carried by four people.

1288   The Mission also heard a testimony concerning a pregnant woman who was instructed by an Israeli soldier to evacuate her home with her children, but to leave behind a mentally disabled child, which she refused to do.

1289   Even in the relative safety of shelters, people with disabilities continued to be exposed to additional hardship, as these shelters were not equipped for their special needs.  The Mission heard of the case of a person with a hearing disability who was sheltering in an UNRWA school, but was unable to communicate in sign language or understand what was happening and experienced sheer fear.

1290   Frequent disruptions in the power supply had a severe impact on the medical equipment needed by many people with disabilities.  People using wheelchairs had to face additional hurdles when streets started piling up with the rubble from destroyed buildings and infrastructure.

1291   In addition, programmes for people with disabilities had to be closed down during the military operations and rehabilitation services stopped (for instance, organizations providing assistance were unable to access stocks of wheelchairs and other aids).  Many social, educational, medical and psychological programmes have not yet fully resumed.

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Tommy Tiernan – A Storm in an Espresso Coffee Cup ?

2009-09-29:  I don’t have any time for anti-Semitism … but is the current controversy – weeks after the actual event (!) – about Mr. Tommy Tiernan’s remarks during a public Hot Press interview at the Electric Picnic, with Mr. Olaf Tyaransen, just a storm in an Espresso Coffee Cup ?

For a moment … let us taste a different grim, brutal reality …

” At 11.30am on 27 December 2008,  without warning, Israeli forces began a devastating bombing campaign on the Gaza Strip codenamed Operation ‘Cast Lead’.  Its stated aim was to end rocket attacks into Israel by armed groups affiliated with Hamas and other Palestinian factions.  By 18 January 2009, when unilateral ceasefires were announced by both Israel and Hamas, some 1,400 Palestinians had been killed, including some 300 children and hundreds of other unarmed civilians, and large areas of Gaza had been razed to the ground, leaving many thousands homeless and the already dire economy in ruins.

Much of the destruction was wanton and resulted from direct attacks on civilian objects as well as indiscriminate attacks that failed to distinguish between legitimate military targets and civilian objects.  Such attacks violated fundamental provisions of international humanitarian law, notably the prohibition on direct attacks on civilians and civilian objects (the principle of distinction), the prohibition on indiscriminate or disproportionate attacks, and the prohibition on collective punishment.

Hundreds of civilians were killed in attacks carried out using high-precision weapons – air-delivered bombs and missiles, and tank shells.  Others, including women and children, were shot at short range when posing no threat to the lives of the Israeli soldiers.  Aerial bombardments launched from Israeli F-16 combat aircraft targeted and destroyed civilian homes without warning, killing and injuring scores of their inhabitants, often while they slept.  Children playing on the roofs of their homes or in the street and other civilians going about their daily business, as well as medical staff attending the wounded were killed in broad daylight by Hellfire and other highly accurate missiles launched from helicopters and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), or drones, and by precision projectiles fired from tanks.

Disturbing questions remain unanswered as to why such high-precision weapons, whose operators can see even small details of their targets and which can accurately strike even fast moving vehicles, killed so many children and other civilians.”

          … Those were the first paragraphs from the Introduction to an Amnesty International Report … “Israel/Gaza: Operation ‘Cast Lead’ – 22 Days of Death and Destruction’ “, published just a little earlier this year (2009), back in July.

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The Full Recommendations of the Report read as follows …

Given the evidence of serious and extensive violations of international law by all parties to the conflict during Operation ‘Cast Lead’, and the lack of any meaningful measures towards accountability by either Israeli or Palestinian authorities, there is still a need for a full, independent and impartial investigation and for appropriate measures to bring perpetrators to justice and provide reparation to the victims.

Amnesty International calls on the international community to take the following actions:

  • It should provide full support to the international independent fact-finding mission established by the UN Human Rights Council, led by Justice Richard Goldstone, which has taken on as its mandate to investigate violations of international law by all parties and is due to report in the coming months.  The report of the mission’s findings should include recommendations aimed at ending and preventing further violations and at ensuring justice, truth and full reparations for the victims, including restitution, rehabilitation, compensation, satisfaction and guarantees of non-repetition.

In order to allow the mission to perform its tasks effectively, it must be provided with sufficient resources to accomplish all its tasks effectively and promptly; obtain access to all relevant documents, other evidence and persons; and be in a position to protect from reprisals all persons who provide information.

  • It should impose immediately a comprehensive UN Security Council arms embargo on Israel, Hamas and other Palestinian armed groups until effective mechanisms are in place to ensure that weapons or munitions and other military equipment will not be used to commit serious violations of international human rights law and humanitarian law.
  • It should act immediately at the level of individual states to suspend all transfers of military equipment, assistance and munitions, as well as those which may be diverted, to Israel, Hamas and other Palestinian armed groups until there is no longer a substantial risk that such equipment will be used for serious violations of international human rights and humanitarian law.  The suspension should include all indirect exports via other countries, the transfer of military components and technologies and any brokering, financial or logistical activities that would facilitate such transfers.
  •  Also at the level of individual states, it should start criminal investigations in national courts, exercising universal jurisdiction, wherever there is sufficient evidence of war crimes or other crimes under international law, and seek to arrest alleged perpetrators and bring them to justice in proceedings that fully respect international fair trial standards.

Amnesty International calls on the Israeli authorities to:

  • Ensure national, impartial and thorough investigations, in accordance with international standards, of the evidence indicating that its forces committed serious violations of international human rights and humanitarian law during the conflict, including war crimes, and wherever there is sufficient admissible evidence, prosecute any alleged perpetrator in proceedings that fully respect international fair trial standards ;
  • revise its interpretation of the rules and principles relating to the concepts of military objective, military advantage and proportionality, to ensure that these concepts are fully consistent with international humanitarian law ;
  • ensure that the Israeli military comply fully with the duty to take precautionary measures when carrying out attacks, as well as in defence, and do not carry out attacks as a form of collective punishment ;
  • publicly commit not to use artillery and white phosphorus weapons in densely populated areas ;
  • provide full reparations for the consequences of its unlawful acts and omissions ;
  • immediately end the blockade of the Gaza Strip, which is collectively punishing the entire population of Gaza, in breach of Israel’s obligations under international humanitarian and human rights law ;
  • co-operate fully with the international independent fact-finding mission established by the UN Human Rights Council, led by Richard Goldstone; and with other international investigations into violations of international law by all the parties to the conflict ;
  • ratify Additional Protocol I of the Geneva Conventions without reservations and make a declaration under Article 90 accepting the competence of the International Humanitarian Fact-Finding Commission ;
  • ratify the Rome Statute of the ICC, without making a declaration under Article 124 – which would exclude for seven years the jurisdiction of the Court over war crimes – and making a declaration pursuant to Article 12(3) that its jurisdiction encompasses the Operation ‘Cast Lead’.

Amnesty International calls on the Hamas de facto administration to:

  • publicly renounce its policy of unlawful rocket attacks against civilian population centres in Israel ;
  • ensure that no armed group operating in the areas under its de facto control carries out rocket attacks against Israeli civilians or commits other violations of international humanitarian law ;
  • ensure that Hamas’ fighters comply fully with the need to take precautionary measures in attacks and in defence, including the need to distinguish themselves from non-combatants to the maximum extent feasible ;
  • undertake to hold accountable those responsible for the rocket attacks, according to internationally recognized fair trial standards and without recourse to the death penalty ;
  • co-operate fully with the international independent fact-finding mission established by the UN Human Rights Council, led by Richard Goldstone; and with other international investigations into violations of international law by all the parties to the conflict.

What are the views of Mr. Alan Shatter, T.D. … and the Jewish Representative Council of Ireland … concerning the use by the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF), authorized by the Elected Government of Israel (a polity scarred by the Holocaust) … of measures and methods equivalent to those used by the German army and authorized by the Nazi Regime of Germany, in Europe, during the 1930’s & 1940’s ?

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The current controversies about Iran’s Nuclear & Missile Programmes …

Israel, alone in the Middle-East, has possessed for many years aggressive nuclear capabilities which are undeclared and not subject to international controls.  These extensive capabilities have constituted a permanent threat to peace and security in the region … and an arms race was inevitable.

Israel has ignored countless Resolutions of the United Nations General Assembly and Security Council … as well as the General Conference of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).  It refuses to accede to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons … and it stubbornly refuses to place all of its nuclear installations under IAEA safeguards.  Why is that ?

And when will Israel understand that its geographical location is outside Europe … in the Middle-East ?   Is it not time that it behaved in a neighbourly manner … with its own close neighbours ?

We demand an Independent Palestine NOW !

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Israel a Criminal State ? Guantánamo Bay an Illegal Occupation ?

2009-01-01:  Sustainable Human & Social Development is much more than an academic theory.  It is a necessary concept for our troubled times … in our global community.  Intricate, open, dynamic and still evolving … it is very much intended for practical implementation.

 

A robust understanding of this social catalyst is critically underpinned by human and social rights.  Specifically, initial reference is made to the following International Legal Instruments:

         1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UN OHCHR) ;

         2001 Universal Declaration on Cultural Diversity (UNESCO) ;

         2006 Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UN).

 

Sustainable Design is the ethical response, in built and wrought form, to Sustainable Human & Social Development.  As our understanding of ‘sustainability’ develops, so too must ‘design’ (spatial planning, architectural/engineering/industrial design, and e-design).

 

At a macro-level … issues causing untold social, environmental, economic, institutional, political and legal damage, destruction and harm:

 

We see on our television screens and hear from our radios that the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) are again committing criminal acts in Gaza.  These acts are authorized by the Government of Israel.  The country’s population continues to vote these Governments into power.

 

The USA’s treatment of prisoners in Guantánamo Bay was, and still is, degrading, inhumane and criminal.  Beyond that, however … the annexation of the bay area remains, to this day, an international act of piracy (refer to the 1901 Platt Amendment and later ‘treaties’ with Cuba procured by the threat or use of force).

 

The USA and British fundamentalist western crusade against the regime and peoples of Iraq was a cynical act of barbarism and a crime against humanity.  We look forward to the day when George W Bush and Tony Blair will be brought before the International Criminal Court (ICC).

 

At a micro-level … every designer can act, and make his/her positive contribution:

 

Accessibility of buildings for people with disabilities, to take just one example, is now a legitimate social right which must be protected and nurtured, i.e. properly resourced, by all States Parties to the 2006 UN Disability Rights Convention.  People must be able to independently approach, enter, use, egress (under normal conditions) and evacuate (in a fire emergency) any building in our built environment.

 

Two Immediate Requirements for Sustainability Implementation:

  1. A radical overhaul of the Education and Training of any person connected, directly or indirectly, with the design, construction, operation, management, servicing or maintenance of our Human Environment.
  2. The widespread introduction of Sustainability Impact Assessment (SIA) at all levels of our Public and Private Institutions.  SIA is a continual evaluation and optimization process – informing initial decision-making, or design, and shaping activity/product/service realization, useful life and termination, or final disposal – of the interrelated positive and negative social, environmental, economic, institutional, political and legal impacts on balanced and equitable implementation of Sustainable Human & Social Development.

 

 

Happy New Year !

 

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