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Occupied Territories: Human rights bargaining

Israel/Occupied Territories: Human rights should not be bargained away in roadmap negotiations

Amnesty International calls on the participants in the "roadmap" peace plan summit in Jordan to recognize that respect for human rights and international law is a fundamental obligation - not a bargaining chip to be used in negotiations, or a concession.

"Disregarding human rights, or subordinating these rights to political considerations, can only undermine the prospect of achieving durable peace and security," warned the organization.

The "roadmap" peace plan, which as yet contains no specific mechanism to ensure compliance with obligations under international human rights and humanitarian law, refers to such obligations as if they could be made conditional on political developments.

The failure of past agreements between Israel and the Palestinians has demonstrated that while a human rights agenda alone may not be the answer, it must be a central part of any solution. Only a just settlement, which respects the human rights of all parties, will endure.

"The Israeli and Palestinian sides have a duty to respect fundamental rights, regardless of whether or not they are engaged in a peace process. Their obligation to abide by international law must not rest on the implementation of such a process or on other political considerations," Amnesty International said.

Both sides are bound by the principles of international human rights and humanitarian law which prohibit the killing of civilians. It is also unlawful for Israel, as the occupying power, to impose collective punishment on the occupied population, to wantonly destroy properties, or to impede access to medical care, relief and education. Israel must not detain Palestinians arbitrarily or use them to shield its armed forces during armed confrontations, forcibly transfer them, and move its own population into the Occupied Territories.

As parties to the Geneva Conventions, members of the international community who are sponsoring the "roadmap" peace plan must ensure that the parties to the conflict adhere to their obligations, regardless of the developments in this or other peace processes.

"The USA, EU member states, the Russian Federation and the UN must establish an independent mechanism to monitor and enforce Israeli and Palestinian compliance with human rights and humanitarian law," Amnesty International said.

"This mechanism should be adequately resourced and should be mandated to investigate violations and report its findings publicly."

In the past two and half years the Israeli army has killed more than 2,000 Palestinians and Palestinian armed groups have killed more than 700 Israelis. Most of those killed were civilians and included some 350 Palestinian children and more than 90 Israeli children.

"Israeli and Palestinian sides must put an end to killings and other attacks against civilians," Amnesty International reiterated.

The Israeli army has also destroyed more than 3,000 Palestinian homes, vast areas of cultivated land, and hundreds of commercial and public properties. Prolonged and disproportionate closures and curfews imposed by the Israeli army throughout the West Bank and Gaza Strip have impeded or prevented Palestinians' access to medical care, education and work. Poverty, unemployment and health problems, including malnutrition, have spiralled as a result.

The spread of Israeli settlements in the West Bank and Gaza Strip continues and the measures taken by Israel purportedly to protect the freedom of movement of Israeli settlers, whose presence in the Occupied Territories violates international law, have resulted in increasingly widespread abuses of the local Palestinian population's human rights.

"The Israeli government and army must stop imposing collective punishment against Palestinians," the organization said.

Steps aimed at reducing attacks against Israeli and Palestinian civilians and at improving the situation of the Palestinian population which the concerned parties may take in the context of renewed peace efforts would be a welcome development.

"Taking concrete measures to end such abuses, some of which constitute war crimes and crimes against humanity is a requirement of international law and cannot be made conditional to the implementation of the 'roadmap' or other political processes," said Amnesty International.

"Those who have conceived the 'roadmap' and are promoting its implementation must not repeat the mistakes of the past."

The seeds of the Oslo Accords' failure lay in the subordination of fundamental rights to political considerations and in the lack of mechanisms to monitor and enforce each side's commitments. The spiral of violence which has resulted from those failures makes the responsibilities of those involved in the renewed peace efforts even greater.

"Impunity must end. Those responsible for human rights abuses, including war crimes and crimes against humanity, must be brought to justice in accordance with the provisions of human rights and humanitarian law."

"No funds, equipment or training which may be used, directly or indirectly, to commit abuses of human rights and humanitarian law must be provided to Israel or the Palestinians," Amnesty International concluded.

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