Tuesday, January 04, 2011

OPT: Israeli Occupation Forces committed grave violations of International Humanitarian Law provisions

Source: Palestine Red Crescent Society (PRCS)

Israeli Occupation Forces pursued throughout last year their grave violations of International Humanitarian Law provisions against PRCS medical crews. These violations constitute an integral part of Israeli policies against Palestinians which aim,inter alia, at creating dire living and health conditions as well as at limiting the role played by PRCS and its humanitarian services.

In 2010, PRCS recorded around 161 violations against its crews and medical teams. Most incidents (159) included blocking access to those in need, preventing their transport to specialized medical centers or delays on checkpoints for periods ranging from 30 minutes to 2 hours. Most incidents (142) took place on checkpoints leading to Jerusalem while the remainder took place on other checkpoints which encircle the West Bank.

PRCS also monitored several attacks against its teams and ambulances. An infamous incident took place while PRCS EMTs were attempting to provide assistance to a journalist injured on 18 June during the weekly Ni'ilin demonstration against the Wall of Separation and Annexation. Israeli soldiers beat one volunteer EMT, arrested two others and confiscated their medical equipment.

On 18 August, a PRCS EMT on his way to Al Maqassed hospital to rescue the life of a critically ill patient was beaten and verbally abused by an Israeli border policeman at the "Tunnel" checkpoint between the occupied cities of Jerusalem and Bethlehem.

Moreover, in another incident, tear gas bombs were directly fired at a PRCS ambulance while its crew was inside it. The EMTs were unable to fulfill their humanitarian duty after inhaling the tear gas. In yet another incident, soldiers hit a PRCS ambulance with their rifle butts and threw several stun grenades underneath it in an attempt to sabotage the vehicle. On 3 other occasions PRCS crews were subject to discriminatory verbal abuse, with soldiers threatening to beat them and to arrest them.

PRCS affirms that such practices constitute a crying violation of IHL provisions which legally apply to the Palestinian Territory as it is occupied land. It also underlines that medical missions are one of the main categories protected by IHL.

In this regard, article 20 of the 4th Geneva Convention guarantees the respect and protection of the personnel engaged in the search for, removal and transporting of and caring for wounded and sick civilians while article 63 affirms that National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies shall be able to pursue their activities subject to temporary and exceptional measures imposed for urgent reasons of security by the Occupying Power.

Article 12 of the 1st Additional Protocol to the Geneva Convention (1977) stipulates that "Medical units shall be respected and protected at all times and shall not be the object of attack". Article 15 stipulates that "the Occupying Power shall afford civilian medical personnel in occupied territories every assistance to enable them to perform, to the best of their ability, their humanitarian functions" while article 16 stipulates that "under no circumstances shall any person be punished for carrying out medical activities compatible with medical ethics, regardless of the person benefiting therefrom.". Furthermore, article 85 of the 1st Additional protocol considers such practices against medical crews, services or vehicles as serious violations that could be prosecuted internationally.

As such, PRCS urges Israeli occupation authorities to put an end to these acts and policies which contradict IHL provisions. It also calls upon states parties to the Geneva conventions to shoulder their legal responsibilities and to take all necessary actions to force Israel, the occupying power, to respect international law.

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