Monday, July 26, 2010

ICRC exempts itself from Israeli law

Samuel Sokol

The International Committee of the Red Cross has decided that its international prestige and good name mean that it is exempt from the laws that govern the people in the nations in which it operates. That, at least, is the impression that the ICRC gave last week in Jerusalem. A spokeswoman for the organization told Jerusalem based correspondent Samuel Sokol that the Red Cross is knowingly sheltering three wanted fugitives from the Israeli police in its East Jerusalem headquarters. Ahmad Atoun, Khaled Abu Arafa, and Muhhamad Totach, all representatives of Hamas’ Change and Reform list in the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC), have camped out in the Sheikh Jarrah building since the June 30 rearrest of Hamas MP and former Al Qassam Brigades leader Muhhamad Abu Tir.

[Sokol’s interview with Abu Tir, held in the Sur Baher home of MP Ahmad Atoun during the short interlude between Abu Tir’s release and rearrest, can be found here.]

Dorothea Krimitsas, an ICRC spokeswoman, stated that the three men requested Red Cross “protection” from Israeli security forces and were informed that “they could remain on ICRC premises, but also that the ICRC could not prevent the Israeli authorities from taking action against them.”
All three are wanted by Israel for illegally residing in Jerusalem after the recent revocation of their blue residency cards. The cards were confiscated following their refusal to renounce their affiliation with Hamas. Without a repudiation of their membership, Israeli authorities warned, the four men face deportation.

Though the four Hamas men announced their readiness to renounce Hamas in order to remain in the capital, none of the men have actually done so.

The ICRC protested the Israeli decision to arrest and deport the PA lawmakers and called upon authorities to “respect [their] obligations under international humanitarian law.”

“Israel, as the occupying power, has an obligation to protect the Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem and cannot lawfully undertake to forcibly transfer them from their homes,” Krimitsas stated. “Under Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, forcible transfers of protected persons are explicitly prohibited regardless of their motive.”

When asked if the ICRC recognizes Israel’s categorization of Hamas as a terror organization, Krimitsas replied that it “is not up to the ICRC . . . to confer a particular status on people or organizations or to recognize their legitimacy, neither does international humanitarian law.” She also explained that the Red Cross differentiates between the militant and political wings of terrorist organizations.

“In a recent study,” she said, “ICRC also interpreted that members of organized armed groups belonging to a party to the conflict lose protection against direct attack for the duration of their membership (i.e., for as long as they assume a continuous combat function).” According to Krimitsas, this “principle of distinction is particularly relevant” and explains why Israel cannot move against Hamas political figures.

Israeli authorities told Sokol that it is unlikely that they will enter the Red Cross building, where the Hamas MPs have set up a protest tent and have begun receiving international parliamentary visitors and representatives of the Israeli far left such as Uri Avnery.

A move by security forces against the East Jerusalem compound would bring international disapproval at a time when Israel is still recovering from the diplomatic firestorm generated by the Mavi Marmara incident, in which nine Turks were killed by Israeli security forces.

By denying Israel’s right to define Hamas as a terror organization and by undermining Israeli efforts to impose the law in its own capital, the Red Cross has perforce taken sides in the conflict and has lost its status as an unbiased third party.
…of course, the PRCS’ use of ambulances for terror operations and the ICRC’s silence over the matter has already put the Red Cross firmly in the Arab camp.

One thing to keep in mind and give this issue some perspective is that this is not the first time that an international organization has come to the aid of Hamas. Remember the deportations of 1991? The United Nations itself accused Israel of transgressing the laws of war when it decided to expel convicted terrorists, men who enjoy absolutely no protection under the Geneva Convention.

Professor Barry Rubin, Director, Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center
The Rubin Report blog
Editor, Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal
Editor Turkish Studies,


googlejail said...

I used to work for the ICRC. The reason they think they can get away with serving as "protectors" of members of a terrorist organization is that wherever they establish a "delegation"(which is International Red Cross parlance for a local or regional office that usually serves as coordination center for all their activities in that country), they try to obtain from the local government a diplomatic or quasi-diplomatic agreement that gives them the same immunities as diplomatic representations receive. This is all the more astonishing when you learn that the "international" in "International Committee of the Red Cross" - which implies an organization like most UN specialized agencies - refers in fact only to the organization's scope of activities, not its legal status. It is just a private Swiss organization governed by the Swiss Civil Code. Just the same, it is clearly abusing its privileges by giving shelter to representatives of a known terrorist organization. That should be enough of a reason for the Israeli government to revoke the privileges and special status that it foolishly granted it many years ago. The ICRC has long lost all objectivity in the Arab-Israeli conflict, exemplified by the recent dramatic statements its representative Mégevand made regarding Gaza, just two weeks before the spiffy brand new mall opened in the same Gaza.

GS Don Morris, Ph.D./Chana Givon said...

Would you write a piece or series exposing this organization? doc