The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Louise Arbour, said that Israel’s military policies in Lebanon may amount to war crimes. She formulated her statement also to include the targeting of Israeli civilians as a war crime:
“The scale of killings in the region, and their predictability, could engage the personal criminal responsibility of those involved, particularly those in a position of command and control,” said Louise Arbour, the high commissioner for human rights.
Ms. Arbour is a former justice of Canada’s Supreme Court who, as chief prosecutor for the International Criminal Tribunals for Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia, indicted the former Yugoslav president Slobodan Milosevic.
“International humanitarian law is clear on the supreme obligations to protect civilians during hostilities,’’ she said. That same obligation exists, she added, in international criminal law, which defines war crimes and crimes against humanity.
“Indiscriminate shelling of cities constitutes a foreseeable and unacceptable targeting of civilians,” she said in a statement released by her Geneva office. “Similarly, the bombardment of sites with alleged innocent civilians is unjustifiable.”
Israelis historically scorn statements like this because they usually (at least in the eyes of many Israelis) single out Israel for blame. But it should be noted that Arbour carefully calibrated her statement to include attacks by Palestinian and Hezbollah militants against Israelis.
The International Red Cross released a similarly formulated statement yesterday:
The Swiss-based International Red Cross, the recognized guardian of the Geneva Conventions on the conduct of war, said Wednesday that Israel had violated the principle of proportionality provided for in the Conventions and their protocols.
It also noted that Hezbollah was firing rockets into northern Israel. “Hezbollah fighters too are bound by the rules of international humanitarian law, and they must not target civilian areas,” it said.
I have stated a number of times here that I believe that at some point in the future both IDF officers and Arab militant leaders should face international justice for their crimes against humanity. Though Israel might wish otherwise, this issue will not go away, especially as the violence and brutality between Israelis and Arabs seems to grow worse from week to week.