Verdict Expected in Death of Rachel Corrie

Rachel Corrie protests in Gaza

Rachel Corrie just hours prior to her being crushed in Rafah, Gaza Strip, March 16, 2003 trying to protect a home from demolition. Photo courtesy Rachel Corrie Foundation

UPDATE: The Haifa District Court in Israel has returned a verdict maintaining that the Israeli military is not responsible for ‘damages caused’ because the D9 Caterpillar bulldozer was engaged in a combat operation in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on March 16, 2003.  See Amnesty International’s USA statement on this verdict: ‘Rachel Corrie Verdict Highlights Impunity for Israeli Military’.

By Edith Garwood, country specialist on Israel/Occupied Palestinian Territories/Palestinian Authority for Amnesty International USA

Tomorrow, August 28th, the family of Rachel Corrie will receive a verdict in the civil lawsuit they filed against the State of Israel for the killing of Rachel. Will that verdict deliver justice following the death of their daughter, who was killed in Gaza? Or will the verdict maintain impunity for the Israeli military?

In 2003, Rachel was killed while taking non-violent action to stop an Israeli military bulldozer from destroying a Palestinian family’s home in the Gaza Strip. During the demolition, the Israeli bulldozer ran the young American woman over.

The Corrie family’s suit charges Israel with responsibility for Rachel’s killing and failure to conduct a full and credible investigation in the case. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

What a NY Times Column Gets Wrong About Israeli Settlements

Ma'ale Adumim settlement

Construction continued on the Ma'ale Adumim settlement in 2010 despite an official Israeli "freeze".

An opinion piece written last week by Dani Dayan, a leader of an association of Israeli settlers, has sparked controversy over whether – as Dayan claims – Israeli settlers have a moral right to live in Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT).  What has been missing so far from the discussion is the human rights perspective on the issue that Amnesty International considers most important.

Dayan insists in his column that Israel’s Settlers Are Here to Stay” and argues that instead of trying to find a two-state solution, American diplomats should accept the status quo and “maintain the current reality on the ground.”

His argument, however, leaves out one significant fact — the establishment of settlements in the OPT violates international humanitarian law and also constitutes a serious violation of the prohibition on discrimination. The presence of settlements has led to mass violations of human rights of the local Palestinian population including, but not limited to, policies involving access to water, restrictions on movement, land confiscation and home demolitions. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Hamas Must End the Death Penalty

Trapped between a crushing Israeli blockade and human rights violations at home, the 1.6 million Palestinian residents of the Gaza Strip face many challenges in their daily lives.  In our 2012 Annual Report, Amnesty International catalogues the list, from a humanitarian crisis created by the Israeli blockade to detention and torture by Hamas security forces.

There are reports that at least one of the four “confessed” to the crime of murder after being tortured.

Meanwhile, Palestinian armed groups have used the Gaza Strip to fire indiscriminate rockets and mortars into southern Israel.  Daniel Viflic, aged 16, died in 2011 after a school bus in which he was travelling was struck by a missile fired from Gaza.

The latest news is that four Gaza Palestinians are facing execution after being given the death penalty by Hamas military and criminal courts.  There are reports that at least one of the four “confessed” to the crime of murder after being tortured.  The family of Na’el Jamal Qandil Doghmosh has stated that when they saw him after two months in prison, his nails had been torn out and there were burns and bruises on his body.

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Israel: Say No to Detention Without Charge or Trial

Khader AdnanAs Palestinian hunger striker Khader Adnan verged dangerously on the border between life and death, much of the world turned its collective gaze toward Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory.

Adnan, who was arrested at his home in the occupied West Bank in the middle of the night, had been sustaining a 66 day hunger strike in protest of his treatment by the Israel Security Agency (ISA) and his detention without charge or trial.

Onlookers breathed a collective sigh of relief when Adnan’s lawyer reached an agreement with Israeli authorities on February 21st, prompting the dying man to halt his strike. The state has reportedly agreed not to extend Khader Adnan’s four-month “administrative detention” unless “significant” new evidence emerges, and has said that it will count the days he served in detention before the order was issued on January 10.

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Record Number of Palestinians Displaced by Unlawful Demolitions

israel palestianian home demolitions

There has been a sharp rise in demolitions of Palestinian homes in 2011 © Amnesty International

Amnesty International, one member of a 20 member strong coalition of major international humanitarian and human rights organizations that work in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT), issued a joint press release yesterday announcing that there has been a record number of unlawful demolitions by the Israeli authorities in the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem, over the past year, displacing a record number of Palestinian families from their homes and calling on the Middle East Quartet to change their failing approach.

The Middle East Quartet, made up of representatives from the United States, Russia, the United Nations and European Union, is currently meeting in Jerusalem in an attempt to restart negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

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Israel's Actions in East Jerusalem May Constitute a War Crime

On Tuesday, Israel did not even try to hide the fact that their plans to accelerate the construction of 2,000 housing units in East Jerusalem – an area considered as ‘occupied’ by the international community thus making the construction illegal – was in response to and part of a series of punishments to be meted out against the Palestinian Authority for their successful pursuit for full membership to the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and pursuit for full recognition for the State of Palestine by the United Nations body itself.

What is significant as well, but I’m afraid being over-looked, is that the announcement also came just two days after the well-respected organization, the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD), submitted a major and precedent-setting report to three of the UN’s Special Rapporteurs claiming that Israel’s actions in East Jerusalem violate international law and may constitute a war crime and asking for an investigation into these practices.

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Palestinian Statehood Bid at UN and Its Implications

As you may have heard, Palestinian authorities have embarked on a major diplomatic effort to secure wider recognition of a Palestinian state and an upgraded status at the United Nations.  Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas recently submitted an application for full UN membership to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

Palestine currently has the status of an observer entity at the UN General Assembly, where it is represented by the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO).  An application for full membership is currently being considered by the UN Security Council Committee on Admission of New Members.  The UN Committee will issue its analysis of the historic Palestinian bid for statehood around mid-October.

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Gilad Shalit Marks Five Years Held In Secret By Hamas

Gilad Shalit is an Israeli soldier held by the Hamas in Gaza as a bargaining chip to pressure Israel for the release of some of the thousands of Palestinians detained in Israel. © Private

Corporal Gilad Shalit was only 19 years old when he was captured on June 25th 2006 by armed Palestinian groups, including Hamas’s military wing.

He is 24 years old now.  On June 25th, it will be over five years since Aviva and Noam Shalit, Gilad’s parents, have been able to touch their son or speak to him directly – even by mail.  It has been nearly two years since they’ve even seen him on video or received any other proof of life.

“As the days go by, we begin to despair of the day when we will see our son again. I know neither where he is held nor how he fares … or whether he is even alive.”  (Noam Shalit, Gilad Shalit’s father, addressing the UN Fact-Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict, July 6, 2009)

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The Crisis in Gaza and the Rafah Crossing: How Much Has Changed?

When Egypt opened the Rafah crossing into Gaza, much of the coverage fell into two camps: One raising warnings that the opening would ease transit for armed groups and lead to a rise in terrorism, the other praising it as changing the humanitarian crisis.

gaza children

More than half of Gaza's population are children.

A month later, what evidence we have seen is that the former hasn’t occurred but hopes for the later was overstated.  The humanitarian crisis in Gaza hasn’t changed significantly at all.

This shouldn’t be surprising.  The Rafah opening is the only opening between Gaza and Egypt.  It was never designed to carry commercial and humanitarian traffic, and the ability to bring commercial items, food and other goods through the single crossing is extremely limited.

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Obama Speech: Will The Real Action Be For Civil Society?

President ObamaWatching President Obama deliver a major speech today on the Middle East is a reminder that even major speeches go only so far: It’s what follows them that really counts.

Certainly there was something to like about some of the rhetoric: Obama specifically pointed to the government of Bahrain, a US ally, and told it to embrace political change and to release political prisoners. “You can’t have dialogue when parts of peaceful opposition are in jail,” he said.

Likewise, his call for peace negotiations between Israel and Palestine based on 1967 borders could shake up failed negotiations.

But the rhetoric on human rights and democracy was strong two years ago when the president spoke in Cairo.  To many human rights activists in the region, the Obama Administration has spent the past two years failing to live up to that rhetoric in the region and being behind the curve of the Arab Spring.

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