Israel broke international law, report claims

Observers took hundreds of testimonies to compile reports on human shields and indiscriminate targeting of noncombatants.

Israel violated international law according to a report released Thursday that investigated the use of human shields during Israel’s 2014 onslaught of the Gaza Strip.

The report, published by the Geneva-based Euro-Mid human rights observer, says that the Israeli army broke international law on at least six occasions in the southern Gaza Strip in August.

Civilians were subjected to “inhumane and abusive” treatment, according to the report entitled, “Israeli Matrix of Control: use of Palestinian civilians as human shields.”

Palestinians were beaten and exposed to the hot sun while naked for long periods of time, investigators found.

The human rights organization claims that testimonies collected by its observers show that the use of Palestinian human shields is a recurring Israeli policy since there have been similar cases outside of Gaza, such as in the West Bank.

Jessica Purkiss from the Middle East Monitor, told Anadolu Agency on Thursday that the cases of human shields were “horrific.”

Purkiss referenced the case of Ramadan Qdeih from Khan Younis, where he told observers that he saw his father shot dead and was made to stand at the windows with his hands tied while Israeli soldiers stood behind him, shooting.

“It’s complete injustice, it’s treating people absolutely like animals, and I think it’s symbolic of how the Israeli military see Palestinians and Gazans,” said Purkiss.

The Euro-Mid team also said that they did not find any evidence of Palestinians who were forced to stay in their homes or to use their bodies for the protection of Palestinian fighters.

The report calls on Israeli military prosecutors to carry out a “serious and reliable” investigation of the cases documented in the report and asks for the individuals that are found guilty to be held to account.

Euro-Mid also called on the United Nations Human Rights Council to establish a fact-finding mission into the recent conflict and to investigate the issue of human shields.

Ihsan Adel, a legal advisor working at Euro-Mid, told Anadolu Agency that they will give the evidence that they have gathered to the UN in the hope that those who committed crimes would face trial.

Adel said that both Palestinians and Israelis should join the Rome Statute for the International Criminal Court and an investigation should be launched into war crimes committed during the war on Gaza.

In a separate report released Thursday by the same organization, it was claimed that the Israeli military deliberately carried out indiscriminate attacks on the Gaza Strip.

The observers based their claims on the testimonies of 432 people and again urged a UN investigation.

Euro-Mid said that “reconstruction of the Gaza Strip is needed for Palestinians… However without accountability for crimes and protection for human rights; it will be a life without dignity or hope.”

The report concludes that Israel violated Article 16 of the fourth Geneva Convention that obliges parties to protect people with special needs such as those with disabilities.

“By bombing a Palestinian charity and other institutions housing disabled people without effective warning, Israeli forces violated its obligations under the fourth Geneva Convention on the rights of persons with disabilities,” the report said.

Israel has denied all charges that it has acted outside of international law and has instead accused Hamas of using human shields.

During Israel’s onslaught this summer, over 15,000 housing units were damaged across the Gaza Strip, including 2,200 that were totally destroyed, according to official Palestinian figures.

More than 2,160 Gazans were killed and 11,000 injured, mostly civilians, during seven weeks of unrelenting Israeli bombardment — from air, land and sea — throughout July and August.

Read the original article published in Anadolu Agency on 22 October 2014

UK Muslim group threatens government with legal action

Organization with alleged links to Muslim Brotherhood could face restrictions in government crackdown.

The Muslim Association of Britain has said it will take the British government to court if it attempts to place any restrictions on the organization over allegations it is linked to the Muslim Brotherhood.

The declaration came on Thursday days after a British newspaper report – attributed to government officials leaking information – suggested that, although the Muslim Brotherhood, the transnational Islamic group founded in Egypt, would not be designated a terrorist organization, the government would “crack down” on it.

 According to the Telegraph newspaper, up to 60 organizations in the U.K. with alleged links to the Muslim Brotherhood are to come under scrutiny, including charities, think tanks and even television channels.

Khalil Charles, spokesperson for the Muslim Association of Britain (MAB), told Anadolu Agency: “There’s nothing in law that proscribes what we do or what we intend to do.”

“All of these things must happen within existing laws … anything else that they [government officials] chose to do, within my estimation, would be outside the law and therefore it would be challenged.”

Charles acknowledged the U.K. government could attempt to restrict what the Muslim Association of Britain does, but he said: “Yes, we expect that there will be different pathways and difficulties with things that we want to do but, because we are not doing anything illegal, we would challenge anything that stops our right to do what we need to do.”

Report ‘delayed’

In April, British Prime Minister David Cameron announced a review into the activities of the Muslim Brotherhood in the U.K., which would also look into the government’s policy towards the organization and its impact on the U.K.’s national security and foreign policy, particularly in the Middle East.

Led by Britain’s Ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Sir John Jenkins, a report was due to be completed before the summer recess of parliament.

However, AA has learned that the report has been delayed until the autumn.

Saudi Arabia and Egypt have both designated the Muslim Brotherhood a “terrorist organization” and recent reports suggested members of the organization have fled to the U.K. to escape possible discrimination in the two countries.

Khalil Charles told AA that, although the organisation shared “the main principles that the Muslim Brotherhood… including its commitment to uphold democracy, freedom of the individual, social justice and the creation of a civil society” it was “not a branch or an arm of the Muslim Brotherhood”.

After publication of the Telegraph article, Britain’s first female Muslim cabinet minister – former Foreign Office Minister Sayeeda Warsi – took to Twitter to criticize the leak.

She posted: “The ‘source’ in this piece uses lines used by one of my ex-Cabinet colleagues. V[ery] worrying if he is the leak, as suggests sanctioned leak.”

‘Al Capone method’

Warsi then tweeted again, raising her concerns of a potential crackdown on organisations allegedly linked to the Muslim Brotherhood.

Re-interpreting comments in the article, she tweeted: “‘We can go after single individuals, not for terrorist-related activity, b[u]t through the Al Capone method of law enforcement’ this is policy?”

She then added: “‘We cannot get them for terrorism, but I bet you they don’t pay their taxes’ This is policy too?!”

Warsi resigned from the government in August, saying its policy over Israel’s “Operation Protective Edge” assault on Gaza in July – in which more than 2,200 Palestinians were killed, including more than 500 children – was “morally indefensible”.

Charles also told AA that the organisation believed “the ideology of the Muslim Brotherhood is neither extreme nor has it ever endorsed the use of violence”.

British daily the Financial Times reported in August that a delay in the publication of the report had been due to government fears of Arab allies’ displeasure over it stopping short of recommending a “terrorist” label for the Brotherhood.

 Deadly attacks

Charles said that he did not want to “speculate” as to why the report had been delayed but, from what he had read from the leaks in newspapers, he believed the report had “vindicated” the Muslim Brotherhood as no links to terrorism had been found, given there was no recommendation to ban it.

The MAB confirmed that they had attended official meetings with a government inquiry group and outlined their position.

MAB said it told the group its organisation was separate from the Muslim Brotherhood, but there could be MAB members who were also part of it, adding “that is entirely up to them [as individuals]”.

Downing Street said that the report had been completed in the summer and passed to ministers and would be released in the autumn, but denied the release had been delayed.

Mohamed Morsi – Egypt’s first freely elected leader and a Brotherhood leader – was removed by the Egyptian military in a coup d’etat in July last year.

Egypt’s government, which launched a sustained crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood after Morsi’s removal from power, has accused it of sponsoring deadly attacks on security personnel in Egypt over the past year.

The group has denied the claims.

Read the original article published in Anadolu Agency on 23 October 2014

UK Muslims criticize PM’s Charity Commission proposals

Islamic charity and human rights campaigners accuse British government of anti-Muslim bias.

Muslim rights groups in the U.K. have responded with anger to new proposals announced by Prime Minister David Cameron to give extra powers to the country’s charities regulatory body.

The government announced earlier Wednesday that it was proposing giving the Charity Commission, the regulatory body for British charities, more powers to be able to freeze charity bank accounts and suspend or remove trustees.

The proposals included banning people with convictions from being a charity trustee, disqualifying a person from being a charity trustee if the commission finds them “unfit,” shutting down charities which are under investigation and issuing official warnings for less serious cases.

The proposals came after a cross-party committee of lawmakers described the Charities Commission in February of this year as being “not fit for purpose.”

Reacting to the announcement of the proposals, the London-based Islamic Human Rights Commission (IHRC) said: “The reality is that the Charity Commission will have more teeth to harass innocent and law-abiding Muslim-run organizations.”

Wrongly accused

In a statement to The Anadolu Agency, the IHRC said: “Given that the government’s definition of extremism now incorporates a latitudinous range of beliefs and behavior, it will allow the Commission to target a larger number of charities, simply on account of the religious and/or political beliefs they or their partner organisations appear to hold.”

Similar sentiments were also expressed by Cage, an organization which campaigns on behalf of people wrongly accused of crimes under the so-called “war on terror.”

Cage spokesman Amandla Thomas-Johnson told the AA: “It seems as though the government is slowly turning the heat up on Muslim charities.”

A number of Muslim organizations have had their bank accounts closed down over the past year.

In August, Finsbury Park mosque, international development charity the Ummah Welfare Trust and the think-tank Cordoba Foundation all received letters from HSBC bank giving them notice that their accounts were being closed.

“These actions again have created further suspicion of Muslim charitable donations,” said Amandla.

‘Unfair move’

Cage said the move was unfair, especially given that a poll last year revealed the British Muslims gave more to charity than any other group in the U.K.

Earlier this year, Barclays froze Cage’s bank account after the U.K.’s Treasury Department contacted the bank, following the arrest of former Guantanamo detainee Moazzam Begg, a signatory on the account.

All charges against Moazzam were dropped earlier this month.

One of Cage’s donors, the long-established and reputable Joseph Rowntree Foundation, was also put under investigation by the Charity Commission.

The charities watchdog said it had been looking into charities that use aid convoys to Syria as a front to fund “terrorism.”

The IHRC also accused the government of using the Charities Commission to target Muslims.

‘Instrument of repression’

The recent appointment of the former counter-terrorism chief, Peter Clarke, to the board of the Charity Commission “underlines this transformation of the Charity Commission from an oversight agency into an instrument of repression against British Muslims” the IHRC said.

Questions have also been raised about the head of the Charities Commission, William Shawcross, regarding his political views.

Shawcross was a supporter of the 2003 Iraq war — deeply unpopular in the U.K. — and has defended the imprisonment under extrajudicial arrangements of suspects at Cuba’s Guantanamo Bay, begun during the U.S. administration of George W. Bush, as “model justice.”

In October 2011, Shawcross was appointed a member of the board of directors of the Henry Jackson Society — itself a registered charity — which has been accused of having anti-Muslim views.

In the National Review in 2010, Shawcross attacked the Labour Party for being “in awe of Islam.”

And in an interview with the Sunday Times in April this year, he claimed: “The problem of Islamist extremism and charities … is not the most widespread problem we face in terms of abuse of charities, but is potentially the most deadly. And it is, alas, growing.”

‘Grab for power’

Amandla said: “Members of the Henry Jackson Society have long pushed an anti-Muslim agenda and have called for the targeting of the Muslim community.

“We worry about someone like Shawcross, with such views and links, being at the helm of the (Charities) commission.”

Cage said that there were already laws in place to ensure that charities are compliant with laws and regulations, but added that Cameron’s proposals showed a “further grab for power under the pretext of a supposed terrorist threat”.

“The politicization of the Charity Commission is extremely worrying, and giving them more powers will see them further entrench an anti-Muslim civil society agenda,” Amandla said.

A spokeswoman for the Charity Commission told The Anadolu Agency that the organization “completely rejected the accusation the commission is disproportionately targeting Muslim organizations.”

Read the original article published in Anadolu Agency on 22 October 2014