UN Should Do More for Gaza

On February 12, 2009, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon announced that a UN Board of Inquiry had begun its work “to review and investigate a number of specific incidents that occurred in the Gaza Strip between 27 December 2008 and 19 January 2009 and in which death or injuries occurred at, and/or damage was done to, United Nations premises or in the course of United Nations operations.”

While the UN has legitimate reason to be concerned about attacks on UN sites–including the Israeli attack on a UN school, the UN should expand its investigation to examine a broader range of possible war crimes, not just those directed at UN facilities or staff.

In other news, the fighting eslcalated again, with fresh Israel attacks on tunnels in Gaza that Israel says Palestinians use to smuggle weapons. Palestinians insist that the tunnels are the only way to permit food and supplies to enter, given the harsh blockades by Israel even on humanitarian assistance into Gaza. The BBC also reports that Israel “claimed” 425 acres of West Bank land, a possible indication of pro-settler policies by the new Israeli government.

The BBC reports:

…a leading Israeli newspaper says the Israeli civil administration in the West Bank has designated an area of 172 hectares (425 acres) as state land.

Haaretz says the decision could pave the way for some 2,500 new settlement homes to be built.

However, several steps of government approval are required for building work to begin, which the newspaper says means construction is still a long way off.

Israeli has pledged to freeze settlement activity on occupied land, but it has continued to expand existing settlements, built in defiance of international law since 1967.

Right-wing parties which fared well in Israeli elections on 10 February are strong supporters of the settlement movement, which is seen as a major obstacle to the two-state solution supported by the US.

Gaza crossings remain restricted despite dire need

Almost two weeks ago Donatella Rovera, AI researcher posted an entry ‘Task of reconstruction will be truly immense’ during her mission to southern Israel and the Gaza Strip.

This 20 year veteran stated how she and her team were “shocked” and “horrified” at the scale of destruction found and that although prepared for devastation, what they “found was even worse than we had first realized”.

United Nation’s satellite imagery taken of northern Gaza shows widespread and intense damage to buildings, infrastructure and impact craters. Although over 1500 buildings, roads and structures have been damaged, UNOSAT notes that other structures may be damaged or unstable as well, and that estimates of damage are probably an under-estimate because of the difficulty in assessing damage to dense urban areas.

To date, the US has provided nearly $60 million in humanitarian aid like water, food, medicine and plastic sheeting. The cost of damage has been assessed to be more than 2-3 billion dollars

According to the UN Office of Humanitarian Affairs, crossings continue to be closed intermittently and imports greatly restricted. Exports are still not allowed.

The following audio clip offers a dire insight into the difficulties into getting humanitarian aid into the Gaza Strip after the ceasefire:

A little over a week ago and two weeks after the ceasefire (and audio above), the European Union approached Israeli officials concerned that they “have not witnessed much improvement of the overall restrictions.”

Amnesty International along with other organizations including the United Nations continue to request that all the crossings into the Gaza Strip be opened to allow unhindered access for humanitarian aid and workers. Thousands remain homeless, requiring basic essentials such as food, water, mattresses, blankets and medicine. The grand task of trying to re-build can also not take place when simple reconstruction materials like concrete and plastic are not being allowed in.

Proper monitoring procedures can be put into place to guarantee aid is not going to Hamas authorities, but are properly being utilized. The bottle necks of aid at the crossings are unnecessary and continuing to hurt the victims of the attacks on Gaza from Dec. 27 – Jan. 18th. UNRWA has already shown their ability in guaranteeing the proper carrying out of its function when they stopped aid distribution after Hamas confiscated UNRWA supplies. The supplies were returned and guarantees were made by Hamas that no other confiscations would take place and UNRWA re-started their operations

No more excuses. Open the crossings now.

The Crisis Continues

As Israeli's vote, Palestinians rebuild; tents serve as a temporary shelter while humanitarian supplies filter into Gaza.

As Israelis vote, Palestinians rebuild; Tents serve as temporary shelter while humanitarian supplies filter into Gaza.

The crisis in Gaza continues as the Israeli elections wrap up.  Of the two front runners, Tzipi Livni of Kadima and Benjamin Netanyahu of Likud, Livni appears to have a small lead as of this evening.  The question remains, who will address the humanitarian crisis in Gaza with the most diligence?  Palestinian Fatah leaders worry about a Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, or Bibi, on the Israeli right, who they say would bolster Hamas in response to his appointment.  Then there’s Tzipi Livni, who has campaigned on a platform for peace, although she was an architect of the recent conflict.  She leans towards negotiations for a Palestinian state, where Bibi would not.  But the unknown of the election may be Avigdor Lieberman whose nationalist policies ban Arab journalists from his press conferences.  Lieberman may be the controversial candidate but Livni and Netanyahu are the two to watch in the next few days.  Israel’s elections are parliamentary offering 33 parties and proportional representation.  Voters select their party of choice and cast one vote; however, the Prime Minister is nominated by the President, based on the parties elected.

“Palestinian commentators explained that after being disappointed by governments led by all three major Israeli parties – Labor, Kadima and Likud – the public has stopped hoping. Regardless of who heads it, every government has continued building in the settlements and failed to reach a final-status agreement, the pundits said.” – Haaretz.

While election results filter in today and tonight, U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon continues to work with the UN Relief Works Agency in Palestine to investigate possible targeting of UN civilian facilities committed by Israeli forces.  The elections and the UN investigation, however, have missed a vital human rights concern.

In a recent Media Briefing, Amnesty International reported the maiming, killings, abductions and disappearances of Hamas’ political opponents in Gaza.  At least 20 people have been killed since the start of the Israeli offensive in December.  Individuals targeted were former prisoners, Fatah affiliated politicians, and those who “collaborated with Israel.”

The testimonies and medical evidence of these attacks are irrefutable:

“Jamal al-Ghandour, in his mid-50s, was shot dead in his bed in al-Shifa hospital at about 4pm on 28 December by unmasked gunmen wearing plain clothes in front of relatives and other witnesses. Also present were uniformed members of Hamas security forces, who took no action to prevent the killing or to apprehend the perpetrators. Jamal al-Ghandour was receiving treatment for injuries he had sustained that morning in the Israeli bombardment of Gaza’s Central Prison, where he had been detained with his son since January 2008; both were accused of “collaborating” with the Israeli army.” – Amnesty International

Victims are hesitant to come forward under the Hamas de-facto administration.  Amnesty International is gravely concerned that administration in the Gaza Strip – instead of taking steps to stop and prevent deliberate killings and other grave abuses being perpetrated by its forces and militias – is not only disregarding such abuses but is justifying and even facilitating and encouraging them.

On February 2, 2009, Tahar al-Nanu spoke to a press conference:

“The government differentiates between abuses [of the law] and the actions taken by the resistance to protect itself from collaborators in times of war… There will be no mercy for the collaborators who have stabbed our people in the back.”

Unfortunately, al-Nanu provided a green light to target anyone based on any allegations of “collaboration” with the Israeli army, without giving those targeted a possibility to defend themselves against such accusations.

While Israel works out their new administration and the UN investigates attacks on UN facilities, there must be an impartial commission to investigate these human rights abuses and Hamas must be held accountable to fair trial standards and to witnesses and victims.  One step towards an investigation into these abuses would be for the UN to heed Amnesty International’s call for their inquiry into the conflict to include evidence of violations by all sides, not solely against UN facilities.

Written by Ally Krupar.  Edited by Zahir Janmohamed.

Al Jazeera Video on AI Mission

In a moving story on Al Jazeera English, Amnesty International researcher Donatella Rovera walks through a bombed out home in Gaza and discusses how AI has found evidence that Israel fired into civilian areas.

Amnesty International has called upon the US to investigate possible war crimes committed by Israel and Hamas.

In other news, the UN has halted aid after it learned that supplies were seized by Hamas.  Meanwhile Arab TV stations have reported that a Lebanese ship carrying aid was fired upon by Israel. The Guardian reports:

A Lebanese boat said to be carrying ­humanitarian aid but which Israel claims is carrying activists, has been intercepted by the Israeli navy on its way to the Gaza Strip.

Reporters from the Arab TV stations al-Jadeed and al-Jazeera, who were on the vessel, said the Israelis fired at the ship before boarding it and beating the crew. The journalists said they were unable to show pictures of the incident as the Israeli force smashed their broadcast equipment.

At the moment, an estimated 80% of Palestinians in Gaza depend on UN assistance for food.

Researching Allegations of War Crimes in Israel and Gaza

Following the outbreak of the recent conflict in Gaza and southern Israel on December 27, 2008 and then Israel’s ground invasion of Gaza on January 3, Amnesty International delegates traveled to the region on January 8. There, they began to research allegations of war crimes and others serious violations of international law by Israel, Hamas and other Palestinian armed groups.

This video is about the preliminary findings of our fact-finding team in Gaza.

Faulty Intelligence, Wanton Recklessness, or a Combination of the Two

(As originally posted to Livewire)

1 February 2009: A 13-year-old girl who was asleep in her bed; three primary school-age boys who were carrying sugar canes; two young women on their way to a shelter in search of safety; a 13-year-old boy on his bicycle; eight secondary school students who were waiting for the school bus to take them home; an entire family sitting outside their home – these are among the many victims of missiles fired from Israeli UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles), commonly known as drones.

Here in Gaza people call the drones “zannana”, an onomatopoeic description reflecting the buzzing sound that they emit as they fly overhead. Their main function is surveillance, but, in recent years, Israeli forces have also used them to fire missiles, often to assassinate “wanted” Palestinians.

An Israeli journalist told us that the military censor does not permit Israeli media to publish any reference to strikes by drones. These missiles seem to be very precise, with a relatively small but concentrated radius. Yet, they have killed or injured hundreds of civilians, including many children, though the reason for this – whether due to faulty intelligence, wanton recklessness, or a combination of the two – is unclear.

In many of the cases we investigated, we found a consistent pattern: each missile is packed with tiny metal cubes that increase its lethal effect. These are blasted with extreme force, penetrating through metal doors and steel pylons and embedding deep into concrete walls.

Today, we visited the place where a missile fired from a drone killed two women and three children from the same family on the morning of 15 January. It was in a Bedouin village on the outskirts of Beit Lahiya, in north Gaza. Those killed were three children, their mother and their grandmother.

The family’s home had been destroyed some 10 days earlier by the blast from a powerful air strike that apparently targeted a nearby tunnel. After this, the family had gone to stay with relatives across the road. The two women and three children were killed by the missile when they returned to the remains of their home to retrieve some of their possessions.

Earlier, we investigated several other cases in the Khan Yunis area, in the south of the Gaza Strip. There, the latest drone attack had occurred on 29 January, despite the 11-day-old ceasefire, in the centre of Khan Yunis.

The target, it seems, were two suspected Palestinian militants who were riding a motorcycle. They were hit and injured, but so too were 16 civilians, almost all of them children, as might have been predicted considering the location and time of the missile strike.

It was launched at a point opposite the hospital, only a few metres distant from the entrance to a UN primary school and directly in front of a row of food stalls. The attack was launched at 11.30am, just as children were leaving school at the end of the morning lessons.

On 2 January, three boys from the al-Astal family – eight-year-old Abderrabbo, his brother Mohammed, aged 11, and Abd-al-Sattar al-Astal, also just 11 – were killed by a missile fired from a drone while collecting sugar cane in al-Qarara, north-east of Khan Yunis. At the scene, we again found metal posts peppered with the signature square holes from the shrapnel blasted from the drone missile.

Another characteristic of these missiles is a small hole that penetrates deep into the ground, leaving few remains. We asked to borrow a shovel from local farmers in order to dig down and try to recover any remains from the missile. At this, some village youths stepped up enthusiastically and began to dig into the sandy ground.

Some six feet down, they recovered small parts of the circuit board and other shards of the missile. We urged the children’s family to hold on to these and keep them safe, as possible evidence to be considered in any future investigation.

Originally posted to Livewire by Donatella Rovera, Middle East & North Africa Researcher at the International Secretariat of Amnesty International in London

UN Pledges $613 Million in Aid for Gaza

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon appealed in an interview at the World Economic Forum for the international community to contribute aid for food, water, sanitation, shelter, infrastructure support, and health care for Gaza:

“As you know, I recently visited Gaza. The civilian population has suffered greatly during three weeks of military operations. More than a third of the 6,600 dead and injured were children and women. As a father of three, I was especially troubled by their suffering and the psychological trauma so many families went through.

Help is indeed needed urgently: food, clean water, shelter, medicine, restoration of basic services. Everywhere I went, I saw the evidence of critical humanitarian needs. The population were already vulnerable because of so many months of severely restricted supplies. That is why the Humanitarian Flash Appeal for Gaza that we are announcing today is so timely and so important. With the help of this $ 613 million appeal, the United Nations and other aid agencies can jump into action to help the 1.4 million civilians in the Gaza Strip to recover.”

The emphasis on psychological trauma is particularly interesting, especially considering the civilian devastation, destruction of schools and the 2,267 children who were injured or killed in the conflict.  Psychological trauma in post conflict situations does not solely affect children. Men in Gaza also face long term psychological trauma following the violence and lack of opportunity.

In the light of the World Economic Forum and the global economic crisis, perhaps the largest long term threat to human rights and humanitarian aid is economic:

“The systemic and perpetual economic hindrances imposed upon the Palestinian economy by the Israeli occupation are viewed by most experts to be the primary impediment to allowing the Palestinian economy to reach its full potential. The World Bank has identified three principal “paralytic effects” of Israeli policies on the Palestinian economy: access to economies of scale, access to natural resources and access to an investment horizon. It also cited physical impediments — road blocks, closures, earth mounds and the ongoing construction of the wall on West Bank land […] — as a ‘paralysis confronting the Palestinian economy’.”

The paralysis, as UN humanitarian chief John Holmes suggests, is on the border:

“Unless all of them [border crossings] are effectively opened, we’re never going to be able to get enough supplies to Gaza.”

A Day in Southern Israel

Rocket remants collected at Sderot police station. 28 January 2009, (c) AI

Rocket remants collected at Sderot police station. 28 Jan. 2009, (c) AI

28 January 2009: We read in the news that a home-made rocket was fired from Gaza to southern Israel by Palestinian fighers this morning, but it didn’t fall near any people. We saw yesterday at Sderot and Ashkelon police stations what these rockets—among them Qassems, Grads, Quds—look like: they are very crude, rusty 60, 90, or 120mm pipes about 1.5 meters long with fins welded onto them. They can hold about five kilograms of explosives as well as shrapnel in the form of nails, bolts, or round metal sheets which rip into pieces on impact. They have a range of up to 20 km, but cannot be aimed accurately. Anybody with some basic chemicals and scrap metal can make them. One can readily get a sense of why these rockets are inherently indiscriminate.

People in southern Israel have been rehearsing how to protect themselves from rocket attacks since the first one was launched in 2001. If there is a siren and an alarm warning, they have 10 to 20 seconds to take shelter or lie on the ground.

Today we travelled to visit cooperative farming and industrial communities, known here as kibbutzes, which lie in the proximity of the Gaza border, in the Sha’ar Hanegev region of southern Israel. As we got closer to the Gaza Strip, we saw evidence of increased Israeli military presence. Trucks transporting tanks and bulldozers used the main road, until we came to a military base facing the entrance to kibbutz Nahal Oz, one of the communities on our itinerary. Nearby is one of the crossings for the transport of fuel into Gaza. Two workers were killed at the Nahal Oz fuel crossing on 9 April 2008 when it came under mortar attack. A little further south is the Karni crossing for commercial goods. In a parking lot off the main road a number of commercial trucks were waiting, perhaps carrying aid or goods which are not allowed in when the crossings are closed, as they were yesterday.

Kibbutz Nahal Oz is a close-knit community of 320 people.  Although they are closest to Gaza and they were the first to come under mortar fire, nobody was injured and none of the houses sustained damage in recent attacks because all the mortar shells and rockets fired in their direction from Gaza fell in open spaces. Some window panes were shattered, but this might have been due to the sonic booms caused by the Israeli fighter planes flying over Gaza.

Mortar attacks are different from the rocket attacks because they are aimed horizontally, which means that there is no time to sound the alarm siren: they can strike without warning. The head of the regional administration, Alon Shuster, told us, “It is amazing how much one can do to protect oneself in 15 seconds. With the mortar shells, one cannot take those measures.” For this reason, the administration of Nahal Oz organized the temporary evacuation of families with small children, comprising about two thirds of the community, during the three week long conflict. For those who stayed during the three-week crisis in Gaza, they organized cultural events in the protected communal room in order to keep up the morale.

Morale was not so high, however, in the neighboring kibbutz of Kfar Aza. One villager, Jimmy Kadoshim, had been killed in a mortar attack on 9 May 2008. This was deeply traumatic for the small community and many decided to play it safe and leave until the danger ceases. They are slowly returning, but not many trust the fragile ceasefire that has brought them quiet since 18 January 2009.

Head of local administration Buki Bart in kibbutz Sa'ad shows Curt Goering (AI USA) where the rocket that damaged the house behind them came from (repaired sections are visible due to the white plaster.) 28 Jan. 2009, (c)

Head of local administration Buki Bart in kibbutz Sa'ad shows AIUSA staff where the rocket that damaged the house behind them came from (repaired sections are visible due to the white plaster.) 28 Jan. 2009, (c) AI

In another community, the religious kibbutz Sa’ad, two apartments were hit by a home-made rocket on 1 January 2009 just after noon. People were having lunch in the communal dining room but one resident was in one of the apartments that came under attack. She heard the siren and took shelter, but the façade of the house and the windows were badly damaged, with large pieces of shrapnel penetrating the room where she had been standing seconds earlier. Many here call these close calls “miracles” but they can also be attributed to the proper rehearsal of protection measures, the availability of safe rooms, and the low explosive power of the rockets.

Attacks on Ambulance Workers

(As originally Posted to Livewire)

gaza-ambulance-missileTuesday, 27 January: Under the Geneva Conventions, medical personnel searching, collecting, transporting or treating the wounded should be protected and respected in all circumstances. Common Article 3 of the Conventions says that the wounded should be collected and cared for, including combatants who are hors de combat.

These provisions of international law have not been respected during the recent three-week conflict in the Gaza Strip. Emergency medical rescue workers, including doctors, paramedics and ambulance drivers, repeatedly came under fire from Israeli forces while they were carrying out their duties. At least seven were killed and more than 20 were injured while they were transporting or attempting to collect the wounded and the dead.

In one case Arafa Hani Abd-al-Dayam, a paramedic, was killed by flechettes, tiny metal darts packed 5-8,000 to a shell, which should never be used in civilian areas (see yesterday’s post).

On 4 January 2009, an ambulance arrived about 15 minutes after a missile strike in Beit Lahiya that apparently targeted five unarmed young men. It was hit a few minutes later by a tank shell filled with flechettes.

Two paramedics were seriously wounded in the incident. One of them, Arafa Hani Abd-al-Dayam, later died. Examining the wall of the shop beside where the ambulance had been, we found it pierced by hundreds of these darts.

In another case, three paramedics in their mid 20s – Anas Fadhel Na’im, Yaser Kamal Shbeir, and Raf’at Abd al-‘Al – were killed in the early afternoon of 4 January in Gaza City as they walked through a small field on their way to rescue two wounded men in a nearby orchard. A 12-year-old boy, Omar Ahmad al-Barade’e, who was standing near his home indicating to the paramedic the place where the wounded were, was also killed in the same strike.

Label on the remains of a missile that killed three paramedics and a child ©Amnesty International
We went to the scene of the incident with the two ambulance drivers who had accompanied the paramedics and who had witnessed the attack. There we met the child’s distraught mother and we found the remains of the missile that killed the three paramedics and the child. The label reads “guided missile, surface attack” and the USA is mentioned as the weapon’s country of provenance.

After the four were killed in the missile strike, their bodies could not be removed for two days as the ambulances crews who tried to approach the site again came under fire from Israeli forces and could not approach.gaza-missile-label

In yet another case, on 12 January, several ambulances arrived rapidly after a six-storey apartment building had been hit by two missiles. Local residents were already trying to evacuate bodies of wounded and dead from the upper floors.

Dr Issa Abdel Rahim Saleh and a paramedic, Ahmad Abdel Bari Abu Foul, were the first emergency medical workers at the scene and started evacuating the wounded. However, as they climbed down the stairs between the sixth and fifth floor an Israeli tank shell came through a window, slicing through the head and body of Dr Saleh who was standing on the landing.

With several ambulances in the street below, and paramedics plainly visible by their phosphorescent jackets, it must have been clear to the Israeli surveillance drones hovering above the area and the tank crews a few kilometres away in the Jabal Raiss area that there were medics in the house, yet they fired nevertheless.

Originally posted to Livewire by Donatella Rovera, Middle East & North Africa Researcher at the International Secretariat of Amnesty International in London

A Bloodstained Wall Full of Flechettes

(Originally posted on Livewire)

Monday January 26: The Israeli army’s use of white phosphorus in densely populated civilian areas of Gaza has captured much of the world’s media interest. However, the Israeli forces also used a variety of other weapons against civilian residential built-up areas throughout the Gaza Strip in the three-week conflict that began on 27 December.

Among these are flechettes – tiny metal darts (4cm long, sharply pointed at the front and with four fins at the rear) that are packed into120mm shells. These shells, generally fired from tanks, explode in the air and scatter some 5,000 to 8,000 flechettes in a conical pattern over an area around 300 metres wide and 100 metres long.

Flechettes are an anti-personnel weapon designed to penetrate dense vegetation and to strike a large number of enemy soldiers. They should never be used in built-up civilian areas.

The Israeli Army has used flechettes in Gaza periodically for several years. In most reported cases, their use has resulted in civilians being killed or injured. The last reported case was in April 2008, when Israeli soldiers fired a flechette shell at Reuters cameraman Fadel Shana while he was filming in Gaza, killing him.

He was filming the tank at the time and caught its firing of the flechette shell on camera in the split second before he was killed. Other civilians, including children, were killed and injured by the same flechette shell.

The Israeli Army said later that it had investigated the incident and concluded that its troops’ actions were justified – although the film footage of the incident showed clearly shows that Fadel Shana and others who were killed and injured were posing no threat to the soldiers in the tank when they fired the flechette shell, or to anyone else.

We first heard about the use of flechettes in the conflict that began on 27 December some 10 days ago. The father of one of the victims showed us a flechette that had been taken out of his son’s body.

Then, when we went to a Bedouin village in north Gaza, we saw several flechettes embedded in the walls of houses and residents told us that the street had been littered with them after the attack. Today, we found more hard evidence of their use in two other villages.

In ‘Izbat Beit Hanoun, to the south-west of the town of Beit Hanoun, several flechette shells were fired into the main road, killing two people and injuring several others on the morning of 5 January. Wafa’ Nabil Abu Jarad, a 21-year-old pregnant mother of two, was one of those killed.

Her husband and her mother-in-law told us that the family had just had breakfast and were outside the house drinking tea in the sun. Wafa’ and her husband were standing by the corner of the house when they heard a noise, followed by screams.

They turned to go back into their house, but, at that moment, Wafa’ and several other members of the family were hit by flechettes. Wafa’ was killed outright. Her two-year-old son, who was in the house, was struck by a flechette which became embedded in his right knee.

Wafa’s husband, Mohamed Khalil Abu Jarad, and his father were both injured in the back and other parts of the body. One of the flechettes that hit Mohamed Khalil Abu Jarad is still lodged in his back, close to his spinal cord. It was clearly visible in an X-ray that he showed to us. Doctors have not attempted to remove it as they fear that he could be left paralyzed.

At the other end of the same street, we visited the house of 16-year-old Islam Jaber Abd-al-Dayem, who was hit on the same day by a flechette that struck him in the neck. He was taken to the hospital’s ICU (intensive care unit) but died three days later.

Mizar, his brother, was injured in the same attack and still has a flechette lodged in his back. We found flechettes embedded in the walls of these and several other houses nearby – the tiny darts explode out of their shell with such force that sometimes only the fins at the back are left sticking out when they become embedded in walls.

In the village of al-Mughraqa, a few kilometres south of Gaza City, dozens of houses were destroyed or damaged by Israeli bombardments and shelling. Most residents of the area fled from their homes when the Israeli ground incursion began on 3 January. But some did not, with tragic consequences.

They included Atta Hassan Aref Azzam, who feared that if he left his home it would be destroyed. He decided to stay. He and his family remained inside their house because there was frequent shelling and shooting in the area, only going out to fetch water.

At 8.30 am on 7 January, a shell struck the room in which Atta Azzam was sitting with two of his children, Mohammed, aged 13, and Hassan, aged two and a half, killing all three of them. The six other members of the family who were in the house fled to the nearest school for shelter. When we examined the bloodstained wall by which the three were killed, we saw that it was full of flechettes.

— Originally posted to Livewire by Donatella Rovera, Middle East & North Africa Researcher at the International Secretariat of Amnesty International in London