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B'Tselem: If Israel has nothing to hide, let us into Gaza


Israel is preventing independent human rights monitors from entering Gaza, Human Rights Watch and B’Tselem said Sunday. "Israel continues to obstruct independent investigations into allegations of laws of war violations by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) and Hamas military forces in Gaza," the groups said in a joint statement to Ma'an. After submitting applications for permission to enter via the Erez crossing in January 2009, the groups faced continued delays from the military unit reviewing the applications. In February, the army told Human Rights Watch that it had rejected its application. The Israeli military denied B’Tselem's first request to enter Gaza and has failed to respond to a second...

[52078]



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B'Tselem: If Israel has nothing to hide, let us into Gaza

Ma'an news

Feb 23, 2009

Bethlehem – Ma’an – Israel is preventing independent human rights monitors from entering Gaza, Human Rights Watch and B’Tselem said Sunday.

"Israel continues to obstruct independent investigations into allegations of laws of war violations by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) and Hamas military forces in Gaza," the groups said in a joint statement to Ma'an.

After submitting applications for permission to enter via the Erez crossing in January 2009, the groups faced continued delays from the military unit reviewing the applications. In February, the army told Human Rights Watch that it had rejected its application. The Israeli military denied B’Tselem's first request to enter Gaza and has failed to respond to a second.

"Israel’s refusal to allow human rights groups access to Gaza raises a strong suspicion that there are things it doesn’t want us to see or the world to know about its military operation there," said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. "If Israel has nothing to hide, why is it refusing to allow us in?"

Human Rights Watch requested permission to enter Gaza on 5 January. After weeks of delay, the military rejected the application on 9 February, on the grounds that Human Rights Watch "was not registered with the [Israeli] Ministry of Social Affairs." On all previous occasions, including several times in 2008, Israeli authorities permitted Human Rights Watch staff to enter and leave Gaza via the Erez crossing.

The army never previously suggested such a requirement for access to Gaza, and Human Rights Watch is not aware of any such Israeli law or regulation. The Israeli military has not responded to Human Rights Watch’s requests for clarification, they said.

Israel does not allow Jewish citizens of Israel, other than security forces, to enter Gaza on the grounds that their security would be at risk. B’Tselem, the Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories, on 20 January requested permission from the military to allow the organization’s fieldwork director (a Palestinian citizen of Israel) to enter Gaza. The military refused the request nine days later.

B’Tselem submitted an additional request on 29 January for entry for three staff members and an international consultant. The Israeli military has not responded to this request.

Human Rights Watch and other international human rights groups were able to enter Gaza via Egypt in late January to carry out initial investigations. The international researchers left Gaza just before 5 February, when Egypt had announced it would close the Rafah crossing.

The army had told Human Rights Watch that because its researchers had entered Gaza through Rafah, they would not permit the researchers to exit through Erez.

B’Tselem has not managed to gain access for its Israeli or West Bank staff, or for international consultants. Only the organization’s two field researchers, who are residents of the Gaza Strip, have been able to conduct research on the ground, they said.

"Israel puts itself in the same league as Burma, North Korea, and Syria in keeping out independent human rights monitors," said Jessica Montell, executive director of B’Tselem. "The people of Israel deserve to know the truth about the conduct of our forces in Gaza. It is also in Israel’s best interest that the full picture comes out."

The army prevented journalists from entering Gaza during the 22-day military operation, called "Operation Cast Lead," even after an Israeli Supreme Court ruling on 2 January ordered the state to allow entry to members of the Foreign Press Association.

Since the escalation of fighting in Gaza on 27 December, 2008, both Human Rights Watch and B’Tselem have documented serious violations of international humanitarian law by Israel and Hamas. On 10 January, Human Rights Watch exposed Israel’s unlawful use of white phosphorus in civilian areas, an allegation the army initially denied but now claims to be investigating.

B’Tselem has expressed grave concern over violations of the principles of proportionality and distinction, including the deliberate targeting of civilian installations, such as government ministries and the Palestinian Legislative Council. Both organizations have, for over two decades, documented violations of international human rights and humanitarian law in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories.

Article Six of the Human Rights Defenders Declaration ensures that everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, "to know, seek, obtain, receive, and hold information about all human rights and fundamental freedoms," B’Tselem noted.

In addition, "the apparent blanket denial of access to Gaza by human rights groups violates the right to freedom of movement," B’Tselem said. "Although human rights law permits restrictions on freedom of movement for security reasons, the restrictions must have a clear legal basis, be limited to what is necessary, and be proportionate to the threat."





:: Article nr. 52078 sent on 14-nov-2009 15:58 ECT

www.uruknet.info?p=52078

Link: www.maannews.net/en/index.php?opr=ShowDetails&ID=35999



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