Independent News: Human rights body: suicide bombers guilty of 'war crimes'
Human rights body: suicide bombers guilty of 'war crimes'
By Justin Huggler
01 November 2002
In a searing report published today, Human Rights Watch (HRW) condemns Palestinian suicide bombings and other attacks on
Israeli civilians as crimes against humanity and war crimes, and calls for the prosecution of those responsible,
including the political leadership of militant groups such as Hamas.
In an exhaustive 160-page report, the organisation found no evidence to support Israeli government accusations that
Yasser Arafat and his Palestinian Authority ordered suicide bombings and attacks on civilians. But the report does
accuse Mr Arafat of not doing enough to prevent attacks.
More than 415 civilians have been killed and more than 2,000 injured in attacks by Palestinian militants since the
outbreak of the current intifada, nearly all of which were suicide bombings. In lengthy interviews with witnesses, the
report provides a harrowing picture of the effects of the bombings.
"Everything exploded," Daniel Turjeman, a 26-year-old wounded in the bombing of the packed Café Moment in Jerusalem, a
favourite of young Israelis, on 9 March. He told HRW: "I felt that my arm was not connected to my body. It was barely
connected to my shoulder. The friend who had invited me that evening came looking for me. I also held one eye closed
because it was full of metal. He asked me what was in his eye. I didn't want to tell him that his eye was hanging out,
attached by just a few ligaments."
Olesya Sorokin, whose husband died by her side in a suicide bombing of a shopping mall in Netanya in May last year,
said: "I'm a widow and 26. I have money now, from the Defence Ministry, an apartment, but I want to return everything
and get my husband back."
The Israeli government has accused Yasser Arafat and the Palestinian Authority of being behind the campaign of suicide
bombing. Most suicide attacks were made by four groups: Hamas, Islamic Jihad, the Popular Front for the Liberation of
Palestine (PFLP) and the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades. While the first three are known to oppose Mr Arafat's rule, the
al-Aqsa Brigades have links with his Fatah organisation.
Past prosecutions against senior political leaders for crimes against humanity have depended on establishing their
responsibility through a direct chain of command. In Mr Arafat's case, the report says, there is no conclusive evidence
that any such chain of command exists.
After extensive analysis of documents produced by the Israeli authorities to support their allegations of a link, the
HRW report says the organisation "did not find evidence that Arafat and the PA planned, ordered or carried out suicide
bombing or other attacks on Israeli civilians". HRW did find that some money was passed to militants by senior
Palestinian Authority officials, but found no evidence that Mr Arafat knew where the money was going. But it says he
approved financial help for people he should have known were involved in militant attacks.
The report says: "We found no evidence that the al-Aqsa Brigades took their orders from or sought the endorsement of
Arafat or other senior PA leaders. Rather, the al-Aqsa Brigades appear to operate with a wide degree of local
discretion". But, it says, that "in no way diminishes Arafat and the PA's significant political responsibility.
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