Select Committee on Foreign Affairs Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Memorandum from Amnesty International UK


  1.  Amnesty International has serious concerns about the ongoing crisis in the Middle East. The IDF has been showing total disrespect for international humanitarian and human rights law, whilst Palestinian armed groups continue to deliberately target Israeli civilians.

  2.  An Amnesty International delegation comprising Javier Zuniga, Director of Regional Strategy in the International Secretariat, Kathleen Cavanaugh, Professor of Law from Galway University, Ireland and Derrick Pounder, Professor of Forensic Medicine from Dundee University in Scotland has been in Jenin from 15 to 20 April. They were initially refused access to the refugee camp and hospital. They subsequently described the situation as one of "devastation".

  3.  The Amnesty International delegation is satisfied from its initial findings that there is a case to answer. Abuses of human rights and breaches of international humanitarian law have clearly taken place. It is now essential to determine the scale of these abuses.


  4.   Humanitarian Assistance: Amnesty International's delegation, which was eventually given limited access to Jenin, has called for immediate international humanitarian assistance to be sent to the area. Humanitarian organisations were denied access to the area for 13 days. The delegation are concerned that there is a real possibility that people are still alive under the rubble of their former homes and that there has been no evidence of concerted efforts to search for and rescue survivors. UN Security Resolution 1405, adopted on 19 April, calls for the lifting of restrictions imposed on humanitarian organisations.

  5.   Impartial investigations: According to the principles of international law, when deaths have occurred in disputed circumstances there must be an impartial investigation with the co-operation of all sides. Late on 19 April, the Security Council endorsed the Secretary General's initiative to develop a fact-finding team to develop accurate information regarding recent events in the Jenin refugee camp.

  6.  It is essential that the fact-finding team be adequately resourced. It must comprise of persons known for their impartiality and integrity, with proven expertise in the conduct of criminal and forensic investigations. It should include experts in the use of forensics, ballistics, human rights and humanitarian law. The team should also include people who have proven expertise in the protection and support of victims and witnesses, including women and children. The team should report publicly as soon as possible.

  7.   International observers: The need for an international observer mission to be sent to the Middle East has been acknowledged at the highest levels, including by UN Secretary General Kofi Annan. Whilst in Texas earlier this month, the Prime Minister said there was a need for `. . . external assistance to get security back on the agenda in a realistic way'.

  8.  The international observer mission must include persons with relevant expertise and training would help monitor the compliance of both parties with international human rights and humanitarian law. Their presence at points of friction, such as IDF checkpoints and areas where Jewish settlements lie in close proximity to Palestinian towns, and through their reporting would enhance protection of both Palestinians and Israeli civilians. They would also serve as a deterrent to unlawful behaviour and help combat the lack of accountability and impunity that characterises the situation today.

  9.  The occurrence of abuses of human rights frequently involves claims and counter-claims concerning specific incidents. Israeli settlers have killed and attacked Palestinians. Palestinians have shot deliberately at cars with Israeli number plates travelling along the roads of the Occupied Territories and set off bombs in shopping centres and restaurants. Israelis have become fearful in crowded streets and cafes and on the roads of the Occupied Territories. Palestinians have become fearful in houses or streets, when walking or driving, especially at the checkpoints where for no apparent reason they may be killed. Given the lack of past investigations and in the present atmosphere of distrust and mutual accusation, it is imperative to gather information that is accurate and impartial. This information could be used to press the authorities to initiate prompt imparital and transparent investigations into allegations of abuse and bring to justice those responsible.

  10.  The mandate for any international observer mission should be clear and transparent and require the monitors to report to the authorities responsible and to the public. They should have access to the decision-makers on each side and have unrestricted access to all areas including, places of detention, and to those areas which have been declared or effectively become "no-go".


  11.  The European Union is Israel's major trading partner. In 2000, EU-Israel trade represented 32 per cent ($7.6 billion) of Israeli exports (not including the trade in precious stones) and 41 per cent ($11.8 billion) of total Israeli imports. The main instrument to promote EU-Israel relations is the Association Agreement. Human rights are an essential element of this agreement. As long ago as November 2001, the EU noted that "violence has reached levels not seen for years" and expressed concern "with human rights and other international law violations . . . such as the practice of extra-judicial killings of Palestinians carried out by Israeli security forces"[3]. The situation has clearly deteriorated since then and the European Union needs to account for the human rights clause in the agreement.


  12.  Israel is a small market for UK strategic exports. In 2000 the UK licensed £12.5 million worth of arms and security exports. The UK mainly sells components which are used in other weapons systems and platforms. In the past the UK Government has relied on assurances from the Israeli authorities that UK-supplied equipment is not being used to commit human rights violations. As a form of end-use monitoring, this is insufficient.

  13.  It was recently discovered that UK-supplied Centurion tanks were being used in the Occupied Territories. The tanks has been modified into armoured personnel carriers. The Israeli Foreign Ministry gave assurances on 29 November 2000 about the operational need and the use of the armoured personnel carriers in the Occupied Territories. They did not accept that the use of the UK-supplied tanks was a breach of the assurances given and they did not commit to stop using the armoured personnel carriers in the occupied territories. In light of this, the Government decided to continue to assess export licence applications for the proposed export of controlled goods to Israel on a case-by-case basis against the consolidated EU and national arms export licensing criteria. In so doing they will no longer take the Israeli assurances given on 29 November 2000 into account.

  14.  Given the widespread allegations of human rights and humanitarian law violations, the impossibility of independent verification and the variety of equipment currently deployed in the West Bank, there is a clear risk that UK and EU arms transfers may breach national and European criteria.

Amnesty International UK

April 2002

3   Second Meeting of the Association Council EU-Israel, Brussels 20 November 2001. Document number 1427/01 (Presse 433). Back

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