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        General Assembly
7 March 2007


Fourth session
Item 2 of the provisional agenda


Written statement* submitted by ­­­­the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS), a non-governmental organization in special consultative status

The Secretary-General has received the following written statement which is circulated in accordance with Economic and Social Council resolution 1996/31.
[28 February 2007]

* This written statement is issued, unedited, in the language(s) received from the submitting non-governmental organization(s).

Civilian Protection within Armed Conflicts of the Arab Region

The Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies would like to express its concern over the disregard for the protection of civilians demonstrated by governments and armed militias involved in armed conflicts within the Arab region.

1. Parties to conflicts in Iraq, the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPTs) and the Darfur region of Sudan have demonstrated a severe disregard for the civilian protection standards of international law. In all of these conflicts wide-spread human rights abuses, including war crimes and Grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions (1949), are carried out against unarmed civilians on a regular basis by government forces, government supported forces and/or armed militias.


3. According to John Dugard, UN Special Rapporteur to the OPTs, the Israeli occupation has taken on the characteristics of colonialism and Apartheid. During 2006, there was a rise in the number of Palestinian civilians killed and injured by Israeli forces in the OPTs. Furthermore, throughout 2006, in violation of fundamental standards of international humanitarian and human rights law, Israel continued to seize Palestinian land, attacked unarmed Palestinian civilians, failed to distinguish between civilian and military targets, and imposed collective punishment on the Palestinian population through various means, including house demolitions. Also, 5 suicide bombings killing 15 Israeli civilians were carried out by Palestinians in 2006. It is worth noting that during the Israel-Lebanon conflict that erupted in July of 2006, both Israeli forces and Hezbollah militias were guilty of indiscriminate bombing of civilian areas resulting in the death of more than 1000 Lebanese, the vast majority civilians, and 43 civilians in Israel.


The Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies would like to call the attention of the Human Rights Council and UN member states, to the insufficient and highly selective manner in which the international community has carried out their Article 1 obligation to "ensure respect" for the Geneva Conventions and the protection of civilians regarding armed conflicts in Iraq, the Occupied Palestinian Territories and the Darfur region of Sudan.

1. Common Article 1 of the Geneva Conventions (1949) imposes an absolute obligation to “respect and ensure respect" for international humanitarian law "in all circumstances.” This Article not only obligates parties to a conflict and/or occupying powers to conform to international humanitarian law, but also creates an obligation on individual states to "ensure respect" for the Geneva Conventions. Thus, a state party to the Conventions not participating in a conflict must take active measures, within legal bounds, to prevent other state parties to the Convention from violating its provisions. Pursuant to Article 3 common to the Geneva Conventions, the obligation to respect and ensure respect for the Geneva Conventions applies to both international and non-international conflicts. Fundamental human rights standards are protected by the Geneva Conventions and must be respected by parties to a conflict and/or an occupying power.


3. Concerning the wide-spread inhumane and illegal treatment of Palestinian civilians in the OPTs, the international community has failed to apply significant and concerted pressure on the government of Israel to halt such abuses and end the occupation. In particular, the US and the European Union (EU), the strongest allies and largest trading partners of Israel, continue to award Israel with preferential economic and military trading agreements, while providing strong political support for Israel in international fora. Moreover, the US gives over $3 billion of economic and military aid to Israel each year. In light of Israel's illegal behavior in the OPTs, US and EU policies contradict with their obligations to pressure Israel to conform to international humanitarian legal standards.


5. A pronounced double-standard exists among the US, EU and League of Arab States concerning humanitarian law violations and human rights abuses in the OPTs and Darfur. The US and the EU have forcefully applied diplomatic pressure and created the framework for internal sanctions regimes against the government of Sudan, while also supporting the deployment of UN peacekeepers in Darfur. Yet, they fail to apply to same type of mechanisms and pressure towards Israel. Arab League states in turn apply pressure on Israel to halt abuses against Palestinians and have called on the international community to deploy an international protection force within the OPTs, but support the Sudan government and denounce UN deployment in Darfur. These double-standards encourage governments in the region to ignore humanitarian law, undermine all international civilian protection standards and increase the suffering of conflict affected civilians in the Arab region, including in Iraq.

The Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies recommends:

· The Human Rights Council pass a resolution denouncing the deteriorating respect for international humanitarian law in the Arab region, including in Iraq, the OPTs and Darfur; and call on the international community to increase efforts to ensure occupying powers and/or parties involved in conflicts in Iraq, the OPTs and Darfur provide full and unconditional protection to civilians.


· The US, EU and Arab League states reconsider the selective approach in which they have applied their obligation to ensure respect of international humanitarian and human rights law in the Arab region.


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