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Wednesday, March 31, 2004
NGO Responses to Abuse of Palestinian Children in Terror & to Targeting Killing of Hamas Leader

Reactions of Human Rights NGOs to the Targeting Killing of Hamas Leader
Yassin and the Abuse of Palestinian Children as Human Weapons

Special Edition: www.ngo-monitor.org
31 March 2004

On 22 March 2004, the IDF launched the targeted killing of Hamas terrorist
leader Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, who was responsible for inspiring Palestinian
suicide bombers and directly involved in the murder of hundreds of Israeli
civilians during the past three years. On 15 and 24 March, two incidents
occurred involving the use of Palestinian children by terrorist groups -
the first when an 11 year-old boy was sent to transport explosives across
an Israeli checkpoint, and the second when a 16 year-old would-be suicide
bomber was apprehended at the same checkpoint. The comparison of the
responses from major human rights NGOs, including Amnesty, the EU-funded
EMHRN, PCHR, PHR-I and others to these events illustrates their political
and ideological biases.

1) The Abuse of Children in Palestinian Terror Attacks
The use of children in the conflict is a clear violation of the most basic
of human rights, yet most major human rights NGOs, including Human Rights
Watch ( www.hrw.org ), EMHRN, Oxfam, etc. responded to the abuse of
Palestinian children for terror with deafening silence. Even those
organizations dedicated specifically to the protection of children, such
as Save the Children ( www.savethechildren.org ), did not condemn these
violations.

Of the major international human rights organizations, only Amnesty
International issued a press release on 24 March
( news.amnesty.org/mav/index/ENGMDE150302004 ) claiming that the
organization "has repeatedly condemned suicide bombings and other attacks
against civilians by Palestinian armed groups as crimes against humanity.
Using children to carry out or assist in armed attacks of any kind is an
abomination. We call on the Palestinian leadership to publicly denounce
these practices." The statement continued: "Palestinian armed groups,
including Hamas, Islamic Jihad and al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, must put an
immediate end to the use or involvement of any kind of children in armed
activity."

Local human rights organizations B'Tselem and Physicians for Human Rights
- Israel (PHR-I) did, however, issue press releases. B'Tselem, in a press
release issued on 16 March stated that "using a child to transport
explosives is in and of itself a war crime. The intentional harming of
civilians must cease. Children must be kept out of the cycle of violence
(italics added)."
( www.betselem.org.il/English/Press_Releases/2004/040316.asp ) PHR-I
also issued a detailed statement jointly with two Palestinian NGOs -- the
Gaza Community Mental Health Program (GCMHP) and Defence for Children
International / Palestine Section (DCI / PS).
www.phr.org.il/Phr/Pages/PhrArticle_Unit.asp?Cat=11&art=657
However, while condemning the use of a Palestinian child to carry
explosives, these highly politicized groups also condemned "the Israeli
Occupation for using him in their propaganda". This statement is further
evidence of the deeply politicized nature of PHR-I's claims to focus on
universal human rights, as documented at
ngo-monitor.org/editions/v1n01/v1n01-1.htm . After the second
incident, PHR-I issued a press statement on 24 March
( www.phr.org.il/Phr/Pages/PhrArticle_Unit.asp?Cat=11&art=662 )
stating that the organization viewed "the use of children in the armed
conflict as illegal and immoral, and condemns such actions." It also
expressed "total condemnation of Palestinian militant actions that inflict
harm on Israeli citizens, of whom many are children."

2) One-sided Condemnations of targeted killing of Hamas leader
Immediately after this event, Amnesty issued a press release
( web.amnesty.org/library/Index/ENGMDE150292004?open&of=ENG-ISR )
condemning what it termed "the extrajudicial execution" of Hamas leader
Sheikh Ahmed Yassin. It stated: "Once again Israel has chosen to violate
international law instead of using alternative lawful means. Sheikh
Yassin could have been arrested and prosecuted." Amnesty's very narrow
and unrealistic interpretation of international law failed to take into
account the likely loss of both Israeli and Palestinian lives in the event
of such a military operation in the Gaza Strip. While calling on Israel
to put an end to its "policy of assassinations", Amnesty also demanded
that "Hamas and other Palestinian armed groups .immediately stop targeting
Israeli civilians in indiscriminate suicide bombings and other attacks."
In sharp contrast, Hanan Ashrawi's Palestinian Initiative for the
Promotion of Global Dialogue and Democracy (MIFTAH) continued its
exploitation of human rights norms in order to demonize Israel.
( ngo-monitor.org/editions/v1n02/v1n02-1.htm ) Ignoring Yassin's vows
to destroy Israel, MIFTAH cynically condemned "Israel's cold blooded
murder" as a "calculated measure aimed at a quadriplegic wheelchair-bound
elderly man" and "an assault on all Palestinians".

www.miftah.org/Display.cfm?DocId=3367&CategoryId=2
Similarly, the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR), which ignored
the violation of the human rights of Palestinian children, condemned
Israel's "illegal and excessive use of force" in a press release issued on
22 March ( www.pchrgaza.org/files/PressR/English/2004/44-2004.htm )
which termed the killing of Yassin as "an act of state terrorism". PCHR,
whose political agenda was analyzed in the NGO Monitor (Palestinian
Affiliates of ICJ (Vol. 1, No.6)) receives funding from sources that
include the Ford Foundation, NOVIB Holland, Open Society Fund, USA,
Christian Aid, UK, CAW Social Justice Fund, Canada, Dan Church Aid,
Denmark, Grassroots International, USA (covered in NGO Monitor #3), the
European Commission, the Royal Danish Representative Office,
Representative Office of Norway and Ireland Aid. In both press
statements, MIFTAH and PCHR repeat the standard PLO demand for
"international intervention", while ignoring Palestinian responsibility
for the ongoing terrorism that continues to destroy the aspirations of
Israelis and Palestinians alike.

The Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Network, which is funded primarily by
the European Union, also highlighted the death of Yassin with links on its
website ( www.euromedrights.net/nyheder/news.html ) to the statement
from Amnesty International as well as one from the World Organization
Against Torture (OMCT), which joined "the members of its network and other
partner NGOs in Palestine - notably Al-Haq, the Palestinian Centre for
Human Rights (PCHR) and the Palestinian Human Rights Monitoring Group
(PHRMG)" in condemning the Israeli action against Yassin. EMHRN did not
offer links to any statements regarding the use of Palestinian children
for acts of terror and violence.

In summary, the reactions of these human rights NGOs to these events
demonstrates the continuing failure to address gross violations of human
rights committed by Palestinians against their own people. Palestinian
NGOs, including those supported by Europe, focused on condemning Israeli
actions against the leader of a terrorist organization, and remained
silent on the exploitation of Palestinian children for terrorism. This
behavior further highlights the systematic erosion of human rights norms
in the pursuit of the anti-Israel political agendas of these NGOs.

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