6 May 2002

Seven Human Rights Organizations Petition Supreme Court to Stop Israeli Army's Use of Palestinian Civilians as Human Shields

Yesterday, 5 May 2002, seven human rights organizations submitted a petition to the Supreme Court, asking that the Court order the Israeli army to stop using Palestinian civilians as human shields, as hostages, and for other military purposes. The petition was filed by Adalah, the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI), LAW - The Palestinian Society for the Protection of Human Rights and the Environment, Physicians for Human Rights - Israel, B'Tselem, The Public Committee Against Torture in Israel, and HaMoked: Center for the Defence of the Individual. The petitioners named as respondents Yitzhak Eitan, Commander of the Israeli Army in the West Bank; Shaul Mofaz, Chief of Staff of the Israeli Army; Benjamin Ben-Eliezer, Minister of Defense; and Ariel Sharon, Prime Minister of Israel.

The petitioners also asked the Court for an immediate injunction to stop the Israeli army's abusive practices. Immediately after the request was filed, the Court ordered the respondents to reply to the motion for injunction by 7 May 2002.

In the petition, written by Adalah Staff Attorney Marwan Dalal, the human rights organizations provided extensive documentary evidence of the Israeli army's practices of using Palestinian civilians as human shields, as hostages, and for other military purposes. Adalah drew on reports produced by a variety of domestic and international human rights organizations, in particular the Human Rights Watch reports "Jenin: IDF Military Operations" (3 May 2002) and "In a Dark Hour: The Use of Civilians During IDF Arrest Operations" (18 April 2002); and Amnesty International's "The Heavy Price of Israeli Incursions" (12 April 2002) and "Preliminary findings of Amnesty International Delegates' Visit to Jenin" (22 April 2002).

The following are examples of the Israeli army abuses documented in the petition:

  • Artas Village, 29 January 2002: The Israeli army entered the village between 1:00 and 2:00 a.m. Israeli soldiers took Ahmad al-Yas 'Aysh, 37, and his brother Hamdi from their house and held them hostage. They demanded that Ahmad return to the house and bring out his brother Omar. When Ahmad failed to do so, the soldiers shot him in the thigh. They then forced Hamdi 'Aysh to go to the house and fetch Omar, threatening to shoot him as well if he failed to comply.

  • Jenin refugee camp, 4 April 2002: Israeli soldiers entered the home of Faisal Abu Sariya, 42, a teacher, at 4:00 a.m. For two days, the soldiers forced him to march in front of them as they moved about the camp. Mr. Abu Sariya was forced to knock on doors and enter homes even before the soldiers' dogs were sent in to sniff for explosives. Only when the dogs came out, would the soldiers enter.

  • Jenin refugee camp, 5 April 2002: Israeli soldiers broke into the home of the Qataish family at around 4:30 p.m. The soldiers took Muhammad Qataish, 24, and his brother Khaled outside, formed lines behind them, and forced the brothers to walk in front of them as they moved around the camp. The first soldier in the line balanced his M16 on Khaled's shoulder as they walked.

  • Jenin refugee camp, 6 April 2002: Kamal Tawalbi, 43, and his fourteen-year-old son, were used as human shields by Israeli soldiers. For three hours, the soldiers forced the father and son to stand in front of them on a balcony, facing the soldiers, while they exchanged gunfire with Palestinian fighters. The soldiers used the shoulders of Mr. Tawalbi and his son to support their rifles.

  • Jenin refugee camp, 6 April 2002: Twice on the same day, soldiers forced Lutfiya Abu Zeid, 65, to serve as a human shield. On the first occasion, she was made to open doors of houses in advance of the soldiers; on the second, soldiers took her by the shoulder, held her in front of them, and forced her onto a rooftop. She was left in plain view as a battle raged around her.

  • Nablus, Old city, 7 April 2002: Israeli soldiers entered the home of Nabil Nadim Nur a-Din, 43, at around 11:00 a.m. and conducted a search. They then ordered him to go outside and clear the road for them. Mr. Nur a-Din refused, as he could hear an exchange of fire taking place outside. He told the soldiers: "Even if you shoot me, I will not go out to the street." In response, one of the soldiers then shot him in the knee. The soldiers subsequently ordered Mr. Nur a-Din's son, Ahmad to clear the road. Ahmad left the house with the soldiers, but was later able to escape.

In the petition, Adalah argued that the army's use of Palestinian civilians as human shields, as hostages, and for other military purposes, is inhuman treatment and violates the right to life, physical integrity and dignity. Further, these actions constitute grave breaches of the Geneva Convention (IV) Relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War (1949). Specifically, Adalah argued that the army's actions violate Articles 27, 28, 31, 32, 33, 34, 51, 147 of the Geneva Convention (IV), as well as regulations 45, 46, and 50 of the Hague Regulations (1907).

As an occupying power, the Israeli army has a duty to uphold the rights of the civilian Palestinian population as "protected persons" under the Geneva Convention (IV). Grave breaches of the Geneva Convention (IV) constitute war crimes.

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