The Guardian August 14, 2002


Sharon threatens Israeli peace activists

by Hans Lebrecht

In an attempt to intimidate opposition to the occupation of the West Bank 
and Gaza Strip, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon asked Attorney General 
Elyakim Rubinstein to investigate whether activists of the Israeli peace 
organisation, Gush Shalom, have broken any laws by monitoring the actions 
of Israeli army officers in the occupied territories.

A statement issued by Gush Shalom points out that its leadership fully 
supports the group of its activists who have collected material and 
affidavits from army personnel, as well as from Israeli and Palestinian 
civilians, about possible war crimes and violations of human rights by 
Israeli officers and men in the occupied territories.

The statement outlines their objectives, saying, "The only reason for this 
is our profound worry about the image of our Israeli state and its armed 
forces in the international arena and what is done in the occupied 
territories allegedly on behalf of us and our country."

According to press reports, Sharon said in an August 4 cabinet meeting, 
that it was "inconceivable" that a political organisation is trying to 
deter army personnel from carrying out their duties by threatening them 
with legal actions at an international court of justice.

According to the Israeli media, Gush Shalom has sent letters to several 
high-ranking commanding officers of division and regimental level serving 
in the occupied territories, among them some colonels, lieutenant generals 
and at least one brigadier general.

In these letters, Gush Shalom warns that by some of their actions as 
commanding officers they may find themselves in violation of principles of 
international law and the 1949 Fourth Geneva Convention about the treatment 
of a population of a militarily occupied country.

The letters warn that they may be indicted in the future in a criminal 
court for war crimes.

The Gush Shalom statement stresses that, if and when such cases would be 
tried, they might come before an Israeli Court of Justice. However, if that 
is not possible, it may be brought before an international court or war 
crime tribunal.

The statement also replies to false reports, handed out to the media by 
official government spokespersons, alleging that the Gush was about to hand 
over incriminating material against Israeli army officers and possible war 
crimes to an international court.

Gush wants to present evidence of violations of international law and human 
rights and about war crimes to the Israeli authorities and juridical 
courts.

Gush Shalom stresses, if, however, the Israeli justice authorities do not 
respond, the matter would be taken to an international court.

Currently, Gush Shalom activists and Yesh-Gvul, the movement of reserve 
officers and men who refuse to serve in the occupied territories, 
distribute leaflets and brochures to soldiers.

The materials explain laws and legal orders, which guarantee impunity for 
not executing orders received by their superior, which contradict Israeli 
or international law, or are violating human rights and dignity.

* * *
Hans Lebrecht lives in Israel and can be reached at pww@pww.org People's Weekly World paper of Communist Party USA

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