Intl Law Experts Condemn "Collective Punishment" of Gaza's Civilian Population

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Intl Law Experts Condemn "Collective Punishment" of Gaza's Civilian Population

Joint Declaration signed by nearly 150 legal scholars and human rights experts say no justification exists for mass killing of innocent people who have no means of escape

Since July 7, Israel has pounded the Gaza Strip with fierce aerial and artillery bombardments. (Photo: AA)

Nearly 150 legal scholars and experts on international humanitarian law have signed a joint resolution calling for an immediate end to the "collective punishment" of the Palestinian people living in Gaza who have now faced more than three weeks of bombardment by Israeli military forces under the guise of "self defense."

The resolution—made public on Monday and still accepting signatories—asks the "international community" to intervene on behalf of those living in Gaza and directly challenges the Israeli government's continued assertion that its attack on Gaza—often referred to as the world's largest "open air prison"—is justified under international law.

The opening paragraph of the document states:

As international and criminal law scholars, human rights defenders, legal experts and individuals who firmly believe in the rule of law and in the necessity for its respect in times of peace and more so in times of war, we feel the intellectual and moral duty to denounce the grave violations, mystification and disrespect of the most basic principles of the laws of armed conflict and of the fundamental human rights of the entire Palestinian population committed during the ongoing Israeli offensive on the Gaza Strip. We also condemn the launch of rockets from the Gaza Strip, as every indiscriminate attack against civilians, regardless of the identity of the perpetrators, is not only illegal under international law but also morally intolerable. However, as also implicitly noted by the UN Human Rights Council in its Resolution of the 23th July 2014, the two parties to the conflict cannot be considered equal, and their actions – once again – appear to be of incomparable magnitude.

Among the numerous and well-known signatories are John Dugard and Richard Falk, both of whom previously served the United Nations as special rapporteurs on the human rights situation in the occupied Palestinian territories. Others who signed include legal scholars from scores of institutions in Europe, the Middle East, and around the world. Numerous lawyers and scholars from the U.S. were represented as well, including several staff attorneys for the New York-based Center for Constitutional Rights and professors from a number of high-profile U.S. law schools.

As part of its call to action, the resolution states:

We call upon the United Nations, the Arab League, the European Union, individual States, in particular the United States of America, and the international community in its entirety and with its collective power to take action in the spirit of the utmost urgency to put an end to the escalation of violence against the civilian population of the Gaza Strip, and to activate procedures to hold accountable all those responsible for violations of international law, including political leaders and military commanders. In particular:

All regional and international actors should support the immediate conclusion of a durable, comprehensive, and mutually agreed ceasefire agreement, which must secure the rapid facilitation and access of humanitarian aid and the opening of borders to and from Gaza

As of Tuesday, various media reports put the total death toll since Israel's so-called Operation Protective Edge began on July 8 betwen 1,100 and 1,200 Palestinians, a large majority of whom are believed to be civilian with no ties to militant activity, including an estimated 200 children under the age of sixteen. As of Tuesday, an estimated 56 people had been killed on the Israeli side, including 53 IDF soldiers, two civilians, and one foreign national from Thailand.

Read the full statement and list of signatories of the here.

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