Jonathan Fryer

Writer, Lecturer, Broadcaster and Liberal Democrat Politician

Posts Tagged ‘crimes against humanity’

Israel Is Stupid to Rubbish Richard Goldstone

Posted by jonathanfryer on Friday, 18th September, 2009

Richard GoldstoneThe Israeli government has blown a giant raspberry at the UN report into the hostilities in and around Gaza earlier this year, in which an estimated 1,400 Palestinians and 13 Israelis died. The 575-page document was put together by a small team headed by the eminent South African judge Richard Goldstone. The Israeli authorities refused to allow the team into Israel or the occupied West Bank to carry out their work, but the investigators did go to Gaza and interviewed Israelis in Geneva (the UN’s European headquarters). Israel’s excuse for not cooperating with the investigation was that it was commissioned by the UN Human Rights Council which, Tel Aviv says, is biased against it. To mark the appearance of the report, Israeli embassies round the world put out a strong press release rubbishing it (and Judge Goldstone).

Gilad ShalitThey should not have done. The report bends over backwards to be impartial. It slams Gaza’s Hamas rulers — rightly — for the rocket attacks on Israel which did not distinguish between military and vivilian targets, caused terror among Israeli citizens and therefore ‘would constitute war crimes and may amount to crimes against humanity.’ Similarly, the report rebukes Gaza’s security forces for carrying out extraditional executions and the arbitrary arrest, detention and ill-treatment of political opponents. It also calls for the release of the Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, who has been in captivity for over three years and who should, the report argues, be released on humanitarian grounds.

Gaza conflictAlas, the Israeli government has chosen instead to smart at the stern reproaches the report gives over Israel’s conduct of the Gaza offensive, which it describes as a ‘deliberately disproportionate attack, designed to punish, humiliate and terrorise a civilian population.’ It says that Israeli troops used Palestinians as human shields — a war crime — and that Israeli forces committed ‘grave breaches of the fourth Geneva Convention, which gave rise to ‘individual criminal responsiblity.’ In other words, individual soldiers could find themselves the subject of prosecuton. Moreover, the Golstone team opined, Israels’ blockade of Gaza in the years before the hostilities amounted to intentional collective punishment. And Israeli actions depriving Gazans of their means of subsistence, employment, housing and water, as wellas denying their freedom of movement, ‘could lead a competent court to find that the crime of persecution, a crime against humanity, had been committed.’

These are grave charges, but justified ones. The question now is whether the international community — including Britain and other EU member states — is prepared not just to acknowledge this but to enforce the loigcal consequences — in other words the arrest of certain individuals when they are travelling, and/or appropriate sanctions. In the meantnime, the Israeli propaganda machine is doing everything it can to denigrate Judge Goldstone, a man of immense integrity and experience. The irony is that Richard Goldstone is Jewish and has always considered himself to be a friend of Israel. But this is Israeli government, like its predecessor, has an uncany knack of alienating its friends.

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Mugabe Must Be Ousted and Put on Trial

Posted by jonathanfryer on Sunday, 7th December, 2008

robert-mugabe  The Archbishop of York, John Sentamu, is right to call on the international community to force out Robert Mugabe, the butcher of Zimbabwe, and being of African origin himself, Archbishop Sentamu cannot be accused by Harare’s propagandists of being part of a British neo-colonial conspiracy. Some other notable African churchmen have added their voices of condemnation — not least former Archbishop Desmond Tutu in South Africa — marching into moral areas where most politicians fear to tread. Just how many people need to die of cholera, on top of the hundreds of thousands of dispossessed and hungry, before the international community will take effective action on Zimbabwe?

Gordon Brown said somewhat limply over the weekend that ‘the world must tell Robert Mugabe that enough is enough’. A good sentiment, certainly, but does 10 Downing Street really think that Mugabe will listen? Of course not. He has run rings around foreign politicians, including the so-called regional mediator, former South African President Thabo Mbeki, as well as the legitimate Zimbabwean opposition. And each day that pases witnesses more deaths and more refugees.

As Nick Clegg rightly told the Daily Mail yesterday, ‘the world has sat idly by whilst Robert Mugabe has brutalised his own people for too long. Economic recession in the West has led the world to avert its gaze from the suffering in Zimbabwe.’ Moreover, Nick said that it is vital that Mugabe should be indicted by the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity, and that the United Nations should now declare that the use of military force by the international community would be justified in order to protect the Zimbabwean people. New Labour long ago gave up on the late Robin Cook’s concept of an ‘ethical foreign policy’, but the LibDems should shout this line on Zimbabwe from the rooftops, winning respect not only in the UK and the wider world, but especially amongst the suffering masses of Zimbabwe as well.

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