(WASHINGTON, D.C., 1/15/2009) – A prominent national Islamic civil rights and advocacy group today called on the Bush administration to request that the United Nations immediately refer Israeli war crimes in the Gaza Strip to the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague.
The Washington-based Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) issued that call after Israel today bombed not only the U.N. headquarters in Gaza, but also targeted several hospitals and an international media center.
SEE: Israeli Strikes Hit Gaza Hospitals and UN Aid Headquarters
Witnesses said the U.N. compound was hit by Israeli white phosphorus shells. Under the rules of war, white phosphorus can only be used in open spaces away from civilian populations.
SEE: Gaza Building Apparently Hit by Phosphorus – UN
SEE ALSO: Israel Uses White Phosphorous Against Palestinian Civilians (CNN)
CAIR also reiterated its call for immediate action by the Bush administration to safely evacuate American citizens and their families trapped under Israeli bombardment in Gaza.
An alumnus of George Washington University in Washington, D.C., is quoted in today’s Hatchet student newspaper saying that he is frustrated with the American government’s evacuation efforts. “The government is late on the evacuation,” said Kamal El-Kafarna. “We’re in the third week of war here, and the embassy in Jerusalem just started working on it.”
SEE: Alumnus Unable to Vacate Gaza
SEE ALSO: Video: CAIR Seeks Sponsors for Gaza Evacuees (NBC4)
CAIR said Israeli officials are concerned about possible war crimes trials and are already making plans to counter future charges brought before the ICC, a permanent court that tries persons accused of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes. Israel’s actions in Gaza could come before the ICC only with a referral from the U.N. Security Council.
SEE: International Criminal Court
SEE ALSO: Hague Court Must Investigate Gaza War Crimes – Group (Reuters)
Yesterday’s Jerusalem Post reported: “Defense Minister Ehud Barak has ordered the IDF to set up a team of intelligence and legal experts that will collect evidence related to IDF operations in the Gaza Strip, that could be used to defend military commanders against future lawsuits.”
SEE: IDF Legal Team Gathering Gaza Evidence
International scrutiny of reported violations of international law, which have resulted in the deaths of more than 1000 Palestinians, is limited by Israel’s refusal to allow journalists to enter Gaza. Thousands of Palestinian civilians have been injured in Israeli attacks.
In its attacks, Israel has denied access to wounded civilians and has targeted homes, schools, mosques, universities, medical personnel, United Nations facilities, hospitals, and a church.
“Because the world community views our nation as complicit in Israel’s war crimes, it is imperative that the outgoing Bush administration ask the United Nations to help bring those responsible for the Israeli atrocities to justice,” said CAIR Executive Director Nihad Awad.
Awad noted that Bolivian President Evo Morales announced yesterday that he was severing diplomatic ties with Israel and will ask the ICC to bring genocide charges against top Israeli officials. Morales called for Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and his cabinet to face criminal charges.
Nine Israeli human rights groups warned on Wednesday that Israel is violating international law in Gaza. The coalition’s press release stated: “Since the beginning of the campaign in Gaza on December 27, a heavy suspicion has arisen of grave violations of international humanitarian law by military forces. After the end of the hostilities, the time will come for the investigation of this matter, and accountability will be demanded of those responsible for the violations.”
SEE: An Israeli Call for Urgent Humanitarian Action in Gaza
The United Nations’ most senior human rights official said Israel may have committed war crimes in Gaza. U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay called for “credible, independent and transparent” investigations into possible violations of humanitarian law. Pillay said a particular Israeli attack that killed 30 Palestinians in one house “appears to have all the elements of war crimes.”
SEE: UN Human Rights Chief Accuses Israel of War Crimes
Richard Falk, the U.N. special rapporteur for human rights in the Palestinian territories, told the BBC: “Israel is committing a shocking series of atrocities by using modern weaponry against a defenseless population – attacking a population that has been enduring a severe blockade for many months.”
SEE: Gaza Air Campaign ‘a First Stage’ (BBC)
Even before the most recent Israeli attacks began, he asked for “the International Criminal Court to investigate the situation, and determine whether the Israeli civilian leaders and military commanders responsible for the Gaza siege should be indicted and prosecuted for violations of international criminal law.”
CAIR, America’s largest Islamic civil liberties group, has 35 offices and chapters nationwide and in Canada. Its mission is to enhance the understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding.
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CONTACT: CAIR National Communications Director Ibrahim Hooper, 202-488-8787 or 202-744-7726, E-Mail: firstname.lastname@example.org; CAIR Communications Coordinator Amina Rubin, 202-488-8787, E-Mail: email@example.com