Sunday, December 16, 2012

HRW Contradicts Prior Promises

By Hillel Neuer 15th Dec.2012

GENEVA - Minutes after the U.N. voted on Nov. 29 to call “Palestine” a state, the New York-based group Human Rights Watch (HRW) issued a press release urging the Palestinians to use their new status to pursue Israel in the International Criminal Court (ICC).

Yet few noticed that HRW’s lobbying contradicted its own promises that this scenario would never happen.

In 2001, when Americans were debating whether or not to support the ICC, Human Rights Watch published “Myths and Facts About the International Criminal Court.”.

As part of its campaign to get the U.S. to ratify the Rome Statute and join the ICC, Human Rights Watch affirmed that the new court would never be used “to pursue politically motivated cases against Israel.” This concern was nothing but a “myth,” insisted HRW.

This was because “Future actions on Israeli or Palestinian territory will be covered only if the ICC treaty is ratified by Israel or by a broadly recognized Palestinian state.” And as HRW explained, in a Washington Post op-ed, “That will not happen until after a peace agreement, in which case the likelihood of Israeli military action against Palestinians greatly diminishes.”

Fast forward several years. Suddenly, HRW is lobbying for the Palestinian bid to become a U.N. state and an ICC member before a peace agreement — and indeed while the Palestinians have refused to even sit at the negotiating table with Israel.

What happened to HRW’s “that will not happen”promise?

The truth is that over the past several years, HRW has actively lobbied to make happen everything that it assured Americans would never happen.

On September 16, 2009, less than 24 hours after Judge Richard Goldstone released his infamous U.N. report accusing Israel of war crimes (which he retracted some 18 months later), Human Rights Watch published a detailed press release that “supported the fact-finding mission’s call for the Security Council to refer the Gaza conflict to the ICC”; argued that the ICC was “the obvious international tribunal for war crimes committed during the Gaza conflict”; and documented all of the possible ways that Israeli political and military leaders could be hauled before the ICC, including “if the ICC prosecutor acts positively on a declaration by the Palestinian National Authority requesting the court’s authority over crimes committed in Gaza.”

While HRW was sometimes cagey on expressing outright support for the formal ICC request submitted by the PA, there was no mistaking where they stood: “Human Rights Watch called on the ICC prosecutor to make a prompt legal determination on the Palestinian National Authority request, consistent with the ICC’s mandate to end impunity.” The latter phrase could only mean HRW wanted the ICC to decide in the affirmative.

Similarly, in a September 2010 speech to the U.N. Human Rights Council, HRW called on the 47-nation body to “urge the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court to determine in a prompt manner whether he believes the court has jurisdiction over the Gaza conflict. Such a determination will clarify the avenues of international justice available.”

Again, HRW made it clear how they wanted the jurisdiction question to be decided: “The parties... have thus far not shown a willingness to conduct investigations up to international standards, so international prosecutions may be required.” Peace talks, said HRW, “in no way lessen the need for accountability. On the contrary, justice [i.e., ICC prosecution] for serious violations should be part of the discussion.”

On Nov. 6, 2012, Human Rights Watch director Ken Roth tweeted his objection to a New York Times editorial that had opposed the Palestinian U.N. statehood gambit.

According to Roth, the Times ignored the key salutary effect of the upgrade: the possibility of the Palestinians joining the ICC and “deterring both sides’ war crimes.”

Disingenuously, Roth and Human Rights Watch pretend that any international or UN-affiliated process on Israel would be fair and objective.

In fact, the greatest supporter of the Goldstone Report’s call for ICC prosecutions, apart from HRW, was the Hamas terrorist organization. One recalls the “Goldstone” scarves that were popularly sold in Gaza stores, next to posters of Hamas leaders. If Hamas cheered the call for ICC action, how can one logically claim that Hamas would be “deterred” by it?

By actively lobbying for Palestinian statehood prior to a peace agreement, and by urging Palestinians to pursue Israel in the ICC, Human Rights Watch promotes the Hamas agenda and the politicization of international law.

More than that, HRW breaks its word, and undermines the credibility of its organization.

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