Amnesty accuses Israel, Palestinian groups of committing crimes against humanity

OCCUPIED JERUSALEM (AP) — Amnesty International on Wednesday accused Israeli soldiers operating in the West Bank and Gaza of committing war crimes, including unlawful killings, torture, destruction of property, obstruction of medical assistance and targeting of medical personnel.
The London-based human rights group’s report for 2004 also condemned the deliberate targeting of Israeli civilians by Palestinian factions as a crime against humanity.

The report said that over the past year, Israeli forces killed more than 700 Palestinians, including 150 children. “Most were killed unlawfully — in reckless shooting, shelling and air strikes in civilian residential areas; in extrajudicial executions and as a result of excessive use of force,” the report said. “Certain abuses committed by the Israeli army constituted crimes against humanity and war crimes.” It added that Israeli restrictions on Palestinians’ movements caused widespread poverty and unemployment, and that Israel had expanded illegal settlements.

A delegation from Amnesty’s Israel office presented a copy of the report to Israeli President Moshe Katsav. “He listened to our complaints very seriously,” Einat Hurwitz, the head of Amnesty’s local office, told the Associated Press. “He asked Amnesty International to engage in dialogue with Israeli authorities.” Israeli legislator Zehava Gal-On, of the opposition Yahad Party, requested an urgent parliamentary debate on the report, a party official said.

The Israeli military declined to comment. Foreign Ministry Spokesman Mark Regev said the report seemed biased, although ministry officials had not yet read the entire document.

“This accusation of Israeli soldiers in the West Bank being involved in war crimes, that is something we reject,” Regev told AP. “It would appear to be a very one-sided comment.” Bassem Eid, head of the Jerusalem-based Palestinian Human Rights Monitoring Group, said Israeli abuses have been widely documented, not only by Amnesty and other international groups but also by Israeli organisations.

`War on terror exacerbates abuses in Mideast’

LONDON (AFP) — US-led troops have committed gross human rights violations in Iraq, Amnesty International said in a report which also took governments across the Middle East to task for using the “war on terror” to justify abuses against their own citizens.

“The betrayal of human rights by governments was accompanied by increasingly horrific acts of terrorism as armed groups stooped to new levels of brutality,” the London-based group said in its annual report published Wednesday, highlighting a number of televised beheadings last year in Iraq. Amnesty accused both US-led forces and militant groups opposed to the US presence of committing “gross human rights violations” in Iraq, where thousands of civilians have been killed in violence since Saddam Hussein’s ouster.

It said US-led forces carried out unlawful killings and arbitrary detentions, torture and ill-treatment and that despite the scandal over the abuse of inmates in Abu Ghraib prison, such practices were going on elsewhere as the US administration sought to “redefine torture.” Thousands of Iraqi prisoners were detained in 2004 without charge on suspicion of anti-coalition activities and were “held in harsh conditions, including in unacknowledged centres” for months, the group said. Citing the US administration’s failure to conduct a thorough investigation into detainee torture at Abu Ghraib, the group also accused Washington of demonstrating “a huge gap between rhetoric and reality.” Across the Middle East, state security forces responded to armed attacks by those accused of links with Al Qaeda with “arbitrary arrests and detentions” that have become routine, resulting in widespread torture, political imprisonment and illegal executions, Amnesty reported.

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