Amnesty blasts Mideast human rights violations

LONDON (AFP) — Amnesty International said on Wednesday in its annual report that Iraq continued its descent into civil war in 2006 and that both Israel and Hizbollah committed war crimes during their 34-day conflict.

Irene Khan, the organisation’s secretary general, said in her foreword to the report that a “misguided military adventure in Iraq has taken a heavy toll on human rights and international law”. The insurgency in Iraq has become a “brutal and bloody sectarian conflict”, she said. “The Iraqi police forces, heavily infiltrated by sectarian militia, are feeding violations rather than restraining them.

“The Iraqi justice system is woefully inadequate, as former president Saddam Hussein’s flawed trial and grotesque execution confirmed.” The Amnesty report’s overview of the Middle East in 2006 said Iraq “continued its inexorable descent into civil war as longstanding political, ethnic and religious faultlines were increasingly exposed amid unrelenting sectarian violence”. It said that in the Lebanon war “both Israeli forces and Hizbollah combatants showed a wanton disregard for civilians and committed gross violations of human rights and international humanitarian law, including war crimes”. Khan said that in the aftermath of the July-August war between Israel and the Shiite Hizbollah movement sectarian divisions in Lebanon have further deepened, with a lack of accountability for current and past abuses “a source of grievance that is being exploited by all sides”. With the Beirut government under pressure to concede more space to Hizbollah, “there is a real risk that the country could plunge into sectarian violence once again,” she said.

Khan said that in the Palestinian territories “a predominantly young Palestinian population is being radicalised”. “No truce will survive and no political process will succeed in the Middle East if impunity is not addressed, and human rights and security of people are not prioritised,” she said.

The report said conditions for Palestinians living under Israeli occupation “continued to go from bad to worse” as Israel expanded settlements in the West Bank and pushed ahead with construction of its separation barrier.

Restriction on the movement of Palestinians and withholding customs duties owing to the Palestinian Authority were also to blame for deteriorating conditions, it said.

On Iran, Amnesty noted the growing tensions over Tehran’s nuclear programme and the sanctions imposed by the United Nations, and also said “the human rights situation deteriorated, with civil society facing increasing restrictions on fundamental freedoms of expression and association”.

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