Updates on the Israeli Defense Force Investigations following Operation ‘Protective Edge’

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Updates on the Israeli Defense Force Investigations following Operation ‘Protective Edge’ – December 2014. Establishment of an Investigation Mechanism in Real Time As part of Israel’s commitment to the rule of law, Israel decided to initiate a professional and comprehensive examination of alleged violations of international law, including the laws of armed conflict, that may occurred during operation “Protective Edge”. A General Staff Mechanism for Fact-Finding Assessments (the ‘FFA Mechanism’) was already established during the operation. The FFA mechanism is designed to examine exceptional incidents that occurred during the operation. Such incidents include events allegedly resulting in unanticipated harm to civilians as well as events where military activity may have resulted in damage to medical or UN facilities. The FFA Mechanism is tasked with providing the Military Advocate General (MAG) with initial investigatory information. The MAG, in turn, is charged with deciding whether to initiate a full criminal investigation. It should be noted that in cases when allegations raise reasonable grounds for suspecting a violation of the law and no further investigation is needed, a criminal investigation is launched immediately, without waiting for examination by the FFA Mechanism. The FFA Mechanism was established as a permanent mechanism, as part of the process of implementation of the recommendations outlined by the Public Commission chaired by Supreme Court Justice (ret.) Jacob Turkel (the ‘Turkel Commission’, website here). The Commission had assessed the compliance of Israel’s mechanisms of examining and investigating complaints and claims of violations of the law of armed conflict, with the requirements of international law. In its report, (summery here and full version here), the Turkel Commission found that the examination and investigation mechanisms in Israel generally comply with the obligations of the State of Israel under the rules of international law, and also made a number of specific recommendations designed to further strengthen these mechanisms.   Updates on the FFA Mechanism investigations The MAG Corps continues to receive complaints regarding alleged exceptional incidents that occurred during the Operation. Many of these complaints are filed on behalf of Palestinian residents from the Gaza Strip or by non-governmental organizations – Israeli, Palestinian and international. In addition, the MAG Corps actively works to identify incidents warranting examination or investigation. Each complaint or piece of information suggesting a fault in conduct of IDF forces undergoes an initial examination in order to determine the credibility and concrete nature of the allegation. If the allegation is deemed credible prima facie, and is sufficiently concrete, it is referred to the MAG who shall decide whether a criminal investigation is warranted without further examination or whether a factual examination is required by the FFAM prior to such a decision. 2 Allegations with regard to approximately 100 incidents have been referred by the MAG for examination by the FFAM. Approximately 50 of these incidents have already been examined and referred to the MAG for decision. Of these incidents, five have been referred for criminal investigation by the MAG. With regard to an additional nine cases, the MAG decided to close the case without opening a criminal investigation, after the MAG reviewed the findings and materials collated by the FFAM and did not find that the forces’ actions gave rise to reasonable grounds for suspicion of criminal behavior. However in some of these cases, the MAG recommended considering changes to operational methods. In few of the cases that were closed, the MAG found that no involvement of IDF forces was identified with regard to the incident. 11 incidents have been referred back to the FFAM for further examination. Tens of additional incidents are in various stages of examination by the FFAM, and their findings will be provided to the MAG in due course. In addition, on the basis of allegations that indicated prima facie grounds for a reasonable suspicion of criminal misconduct without the need for prior examination by the FFAM, at the time of publication the MAG has ordered the opening of eight criminal investigations. When a complaint had been submitted in a written form, a reply has been sent to the complainant organization or individual. Below is information which has been cleared for publication regarding decisions the MAG has reached with regard to specific incidents. A. Incidents Concerning Cases Closed by the MAG Following a Fact-Finding Assessment by the FFAM (1) Allegation Concerning an Attack on a Senior Commander in the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, Hafet Hamed (8 July 2014) In reports received by the MAG Corps, and in correspondence from various NGOs, it was alleged that on 8 July 2014, six members of the Hamed family were killed as a result of an IDF strike on their home (later correspondence from NGOs alleges that seven people were killed). As a result, and in accordance with the MAG’s investigation policy, it was decided to refer the incident for examinations by the FFAM. According to the factual findings and materials collated by the FFAM and presented to the MAG, the attack was directed against Hafet Hamed, a senior military commander (equivalent to a battalion commander) in the Palestinian Islamic Jihad terrorist organization, as well as against a number of other terrorist operatives present with Hamed outside his home, understood to be taking part in an operational briefing prior to conducting military operations against Israel. The attack was carried out using precise and relatively low-3 explosive munitions, in an effort to minimize the risk of harm to civilians who may have been in the vicinity of the targets. After the attack, from the seven people allegedly killed in the attack, it was found that at least three of them belonged to Palestinian terrorist organizations. It should be noted that at the time of the attack no additional persons were identified in the vicinity of the operatives’ group, and on the basis of the factual findings, it is not completely clear how civilians were harmed during the attack. It cannot be ruled out that these civilians were present in a nearby area, not visible to IDF forces, and were harmed as indirect result of the attack. After reviewing the factual findings and materials collated by the FFAM, the MAG found that the targeting process followed in this case accorded with Israeli domestic law and international law requirements. The attack was directed against military objectives, while adhering to the requirements of the principle of proportionality, and the decision to execute the attack was made by the authorities authorized to do so. The MAG further found that the attack was carried out together with significant efforts to minimize civilian harm. In light of the above, the MAG did not find that the actions of the IDF forces raised grounds for a reasonable suspicion of criminal misconduct. As a result, the MAG ordered the case to be closed, without opening a criminal investigation or ordering further action against those involved in the incident. (2) Allegation Concerning the Death of Kaware Family Members in Khan Yunis (8 July 2014) [published in a press release dated September 10th, 2014] In reports received by the MAG Corps, and in correspondence from various NGOs, allegations were raised that an aerial strike on a residential building in Khan Yunis on 8 July 2014, resulted in the death of eight civilians. Subsequently, and in accordance with the MAG’s investigation policy, the incident was referred to the FFAM. According to the factual findings and materials collated by the FFAM and presented to the MAG, the aerial strike was carried out against the building due to its use for military purposes by Hamas. Prior to the strike, the IDF provided a detailed advance warning to the residents of the building to vacate the premises. This warning included an individual phone call and the firing of a warning projectile at the roof of the premises, as part of the ‘knock on the roof’ procedure. The residents were identified as having vacated the building, and subsequently a bomb was dropped on the target. A short time after, a number of people were identified as returning to the premises; however, after the bomb had already been dropped, there was no technical possibility to divert the bomb or to cancel the attack. It should be further noted that visual evidence collated by the FFAM clearly showed that the roof of the targeted building was deserted from the moment of the bombs release till it acquired its target (in contrast to certain reports regarding the incident). 4 After examining the evidence collated by the FFAM, the MAG found that the targeting process accorded with Israeli domestic law and international law requirements. The attack was carried out against a military objective and the decision to carry out the attack was made by the authorities authorized to do so. The MAG found that the attack fulfilled the requirements of the principle of proportionality, as at the time of the attack, the operational authorities determined that the expected collateral damage resulting from the strike was not excessive in relation to the anticipated concrete and direct military advantage of the strike. The MAG further found that the attack was carried out after various precautionary measures were taken, with significant efforts to minimize the possibility of civilian harm. Specifically, individualized advance warning was provided to the residents of the building, which indeed resulted in their evacuation prior to the strike, and moreover, continuous real time aerial surveillance was employed to monitor evacuation. Under these circumstances, the professional assessment of the operational authorities that releasing the bomb would not result in harm to civilians was not unreasonable. It should also be noted, as mentioned above, that at the point when persons were identified as approaching or returning to the building, it was no longer technically possible to cancel the attack. As a result, the MAG found that there was no fault in the actions of the IDF forces involved, and that despite the fact that the attack resulted in a regrettable outcome, it does not affect its legality post facto. In light of the above, the MAG did not find that the actions of the IDF forces raised grounds for a reasonable suspicion of criminal misconduct. As a result, the MAG ordered the case to be closed, without opening a criminal investigation or ordering further action against those involved in the incident. At the same time, the MAG recommended conducting an examination of the operational procedures involved in carrying out such strikes, in order to assess the potential for reducing the likelihood of such exceptional incidents in the future. (3) Allegation Concerning an Aerial Strike on a Vehicle Marked ‘TV’ in Gaza City (9 July 2014) [published in a press release dated September 10th, 2014] The MAG Corps received reports, as well as correspondence from NGOs, alleging that an aerial strike was carried out in the Rimael neighborhood of Gaza City on 9 July 2014, against a vehicle marked ‘TV’, and which resulted in the death of one person alleged to be a journalist (Ahmed Abdullah Mahmoud Shahab) and in the injury of eight additional persons also alleged to be journalists. Subsequently, and in accordance with the MAG’s investigation policy, the incident was referred to the FFAM. According to the factual findings and materials collated by the FFAM and presented to the MAG, the strike was carried out against a vehicle, which intelligence information and direct evidence (specifically, real-time aerial surveillance) indicated was being used to transport weaponry intended to be used against IDF forces or the Israeli civilian population that same 5 day, and whose passengers were involved in the hostilities. It appears that the vehicle was marked ‘TV’ in order to mask the military use made of the vehicle to transport weaponry. The MAG found that the targeting process accorded with Israeli domestic law and international law requirements. The attack was carried out against a military objective, in accordance with the requirements of the principle of proportionality, and the decision to carry out the attack was made by the authorities authorized to do so. It should be noted that, according to the factual findings, at the time of the strike the IDF forces could not discern whether the vehicle was marked ‘TV’. In any event, in light of the military use made of the vehicle for the purposes of transporting weaponry, the marking of the vehicle did not affect the lawfulness of the strike under international law. The MAG further found that the targeting process was carried out after undertaking various precautions with significant efforts to minimize the possibility of civilian harm. Such, the strike on the vehicle was at one point delayed, due to the concern that civilians in its vicinity could be harmed. Furthermore, no supporting evidence was found indicating harm caused to persons other than Shahab. In light of the above, the MAG did not find that the actions of the IDF forces raised grounds for a reasonable suspicion of criminal misconduct. As a result, the MAG ordered the case to be closed, without opening a criminal investigation or ordering further action against those involved in the incident. (4) Allegation Concerning a Strike on a Red Crescent Station in Jabalya and Harm Caused to Red Crescent Personnel (9 July 2014) The MAG Corps received allegations from a number of NGOs that in the nighttime hours of 9 July 2014, a number of persons working at a Red Crescent station were wounded (the various reports differ with regard to the number of wounded persons, with allegations starting from three wounded and varying up to 15 persons, and also differ with regard to the severity of their wounds, with some allegations of minor wounds caused and others claiming moderate wounds caused) and three ambulances were damaged, allegedly as a result of an IDF strike on agricultural property near the station. Subsequently, in accordance with the MAG’s investigation policy, the incident was referred to the FFAM. According to the factual findings collated by the FFAM and presented to the MAG, Palestinian terrorist organizations had positioned rockets aimed at Israel in underground rocket launching sites a few tens of meters away from the Red Crescent station. The location of the station was known to the IDF forces and was marked in the IDF’s operational systems as a “sensitive site”, which receive special consideration. The rockets and the launchers that were hidden in the underground launch site next to the station were attacked by the IDF, together with an effort taken to avoid any harm to civilians and to the nearby Red Crescent station. This included selecting the time for attack (at nighttime) and employing appropriate 6 munitions, in an effort to ensure that any damage caused to adjacent buildings, and persons potentially located inside them, would be minor, at most. In actuality, it appears that besides the destruction of the military target, incidental damage was caused to the Red Crescent station, workers inside the station were possibly injured, and ambulances at the location suffered indirect damage resulting from the attack – seemingly as a result of objects that were thrown by the force of the blast. After reviewing the factual findings and the material collated by the FFAM, the MAG found that the targeting process accorded with Israeli domestic law and international law requirements, and included significant efforts to minimize harm to civilians. The MAG further found that the damage caused to the Red Crescent station was unavoidable considering the proximity of the rockets placed by the Palestinian terror organizations only a few tens of meters from the station. In light of the above, the MAG did not find that the actions of the IDF forces raised grounds for a reasonable suspicion of criminal misconduct. As a result, the MAG ordered the case to be closed, without opening a criminal investigation or ordering further action against those involved in the incident. At the same time, the MAG recommended to the relevant IDF operational entities that they consider specific amendments to the target planning process, which may assist in further minimizing the potential collateral damage resulting from IDF strikes on military objectives located in close proximity to sensitive sites. (5) Allegation Concerning Two Female Casualties at the ‘Alambra Association’ in Bet Lehia (12 July 2014) According to correspondence and reports from various NGOs, on 12 July 2014, two women were killed and four others injured as a result of an IDF aerial strike on a care centre for the mentally and physically disabled, belonging to the ‘Alambra Association’, in Beit Lehia. As a result, and in accordance with the MAG’s investigation policy, it was decided to refer the incident for examination by the FFAM. According to the factual findings and materials collated by the FFAM and presented to the MAG, the strike was directed at a weapons depot located inside the residential home of a senior Hamas commander, in a building comprising of four apartments. While the operating forces were aware of the existence of a kindergarten in the same building, close to the weapons depot, there was no information indicating the existence of a care center. Prior to the attack a number of precautionary measures were undertaken in order to minimize potential civilian harm – including several attempts to telephone the residents of 7 the building and the firing of two warning projectiles towards the structure (as part of the ‘knock on the roof’ procedure). No reaction was identified by the residents, and no presence of persons at the site was discerned prior to the attack. As an additional precaution, the attack was carried out late at night, in order to avoid any possible harm to children attending the kindergarten during the day. The findings further indicated that at the time the attack was decided upon, the operational assessment concluded that, as none of the precautionary measures resulted in any response, no civilians were present and no civilians were expected to be harmed as a result of the attack. In light of these factual findings, the MAG found that the targeting process followed in this case accorded with Israeli domestic law and international law requirements. The attack was directed against a military objective, while adhering to the requirements of the principle of proportionality, and the decision to attack was made by the authorities authorized to do so. Further, the MAG found that the attack was carried out after a number of precautions were undertaken intended to minimize the potential for civilian harm, and that the professional assessment at the time of the attack – that civilians would not be harmed as a result of the attack – was not unreasonable under the circumstances. Although seemingly civilians were harmed as a result of the attack, this is indeed a regrettable result, but it does not affect its legality post facto. In light of the above, the MAG did not find that the actions of the IDF forces raised grounds for a reasonable suspicion of criminal misconduct. As a result, the MAG ordered the case to be closed, without opening a criminal investigation or ordering further action against those involved in the incident. (6) Allegation Concerning a Strike on an Ambulance in Bet Hanoun (22 July 2014) Correspondence from an NGO alleged that in the morning hours of 22 July 2014, the IDF “struck three ambulances that were involved in the evacuation of wounded persons east of the industrial area of Bet Hanoun. One of the wounded persons in an ambulance was killed and the three vehicles were seriously damaged”. As a result, and in accordance with the MAG’s investigation policy, the incident was referred to the FFAM. Following a thorough review conducted by the FFAM with all the forces identified as operating in the relevant area, such a strike by IDF forces operating in that area could not be identified. Likewise, and in contrast to other complaints concerning similar incidents, no report could be located from the time of the incident indicating that harm had been caused to a rescue crew. In turn, the FFAM did not dismiss the possibility that damage, insofar as such occurred, was the result of activity other than that of the IDF. Under these 8 circumstances, considering the complaint could not be sufficiently substantiated and insufficient details existed in order to identify the incident, the MAG ordered that the case be closed. However, the MAG instructed that if additional information in the future allows for sufficient identification of the incident, a further examination of the incident will be considered. (7) Allegations Concerning Attacks on Al-Wafa Hospital (11-23 July 2014) In reports received by the MAG Corps, and in correspondence from various NGOs, it was alleged that the Al-Wafa Hospital was unlawfully attacked by IDF forces on a number of occasions between 11-23 July 2014. As a result, and in accordance with the MAG’s investigation policy, it was decided to refer the incident for examination by the FFAM. According to the factual findings and materials collated by the FFAM and presented to the MAG, Palestinian terrorist organizations used the hospital compound for a range of varied and multiple military purposes throughout the period noted above, as well as beforehand. Such, it was found that Hamas used structures in the hospital for positioning surveillance devices so as to track IDF operational activity, that the hospital structures were used on multiple occasions as firing positions towards IDF forces, and that rockets were launched from the immediate vicinity of these structures. Further, according to materials presented to the MAG, reliable information indicated that the sole use that was made of the hospital, from a certain date onwards, was for the military purposes of Hamas, by Hamas’ military operatives. At this point, the hospital had already been evacuated of all civilians – patients and staff. According to the factual findings, on a number of occasions during this period IDF forces were forced to return immediate fire, in a discerning and precise manner, towards sources of attacking fire that posed a serious and immediate threat to those forces. The MAG is not aware of any civilian harm resulting from these incidents. At the same time, in light of the ongoing and widespread military use made of the hospital by Hamas, a number of warnings were provided by the IDF to official entities in the Gaza Strip and to the Palestinian Authority, as well as to international organizations, requiring that the military use of the hospital be ceased. On 23 July 2014, after these warnings went unheeded and after fire was again directed at IDF forces from the hospital, it was decided to attack the hospital. The attack was only carried out after the IDF had ensured a number of times, that all civilians had evacuated the hospital and that the hospital was being used at that time solely for military purposes. After reviewing the factual findings and the material collated by the FFAM with regard to each and every incident of attack, the MAG found that, with exception to one instance which 9 will be discussed below, the attacks were conducted in accordance with Israeli domestic law and international law requirements. The attacks were directed against military objectives, while adhering to the requirements of the principle of proportionality. Likewise, the MAG found that the attack was executed only after various precautions were undertaken, with significant efforts to minimize civilian harm. With regard to the incidents where IDF forces were faced with a serious and immediate threat to their lives, the forces returned fire immediately towards the source of the attacking fire, in a precise and discerning manner, and without harming civilians. The structures in the hospital compound were attacked and destroyed only after advance warning had been provided as required under international law, and no civilians were present at the time. The decision to attack was made in a careful and reasoned manner by the authorized authorities, after Hamas disregarded advance warnings and continued in its military use of the hospital compound, thereby resulting in the loss of the special protection from attack provided to the hospital under international law. In light of the above, the MAG did not find that the actions of the IDF forces raised grounds for a reasonable suspicion of criminal misconduct. As a result, the MAG ordered the case to be closed, without opening a criminal investigation or ordering further action against those involved in the incident. At the same time, the MAG found that one of the attacks, occurring on 11 July 2014, and directed against military surveillance equipment placed by Hamas on the roof and uppermost floor of one of the hospital’s buildings, was seemingly carried out without advance warning. It should be noted that this attack was directed at a defined point on one of the buildings in the hospital compound, where it was known that no patients or medical staff were present at the time, and that the attack was planned and carried out in such a manner so as to strike only the surveillance equipment and its immediate vicinity, without causing any collateral damage to civilians or adjacent buildings. Since this incident did not establish a serious violation of the law of armed conflict which requires criminal investigation, and in light of the other circumstances of the incident, the MAG found that there were no grounds for a reasonable suspicion of criminal misconduct in this incident. However, the MAG recommended that the Chief of General Staff examine the reasons why the relevant authorities did not provide the required advance warning and to take measures where deemed appropriate. In addition, the MAG recommended that the Chief of General Staff provide a clarification in the relevant IDF regulations reflecting the requirement to advance warning prior to an attack against a medical facility being used for military purposes. (8) Allegation Concerning a Strike on the Al-Shifa Hospital and a Park in the Shati Refugee Camp in the Gaza Strip (28 July 2014) Various media reports alleged that on 28 July 2014, an incident occurred involving a strike on medical clinics belonging to the Al-Shifa Hospital, as well as a strike on a park where children 10 were present in the Shati Refugee Camp, and as a result of which ten persons (including nine children) were killed and tens injured. Some of these reports alleged that the strikes were carried out by the IDF. As a result, and in accordance with the MAG’s investigation policy, it was decided to refer the incident for examination by the FFAM. Following a thorough review conducted by the FFAM, such a strike by IDF forces could not be identified. However, Israel’s technical systems recorded in real-time the path of a salvo of missiles fired from within the Gaza Strip, seemingly by Hamas or Palestinian Islamic Jihad, which landed in the medical clinics and in the Shati Refugee Camp at the time of the alleged incident. Under these circumstances, and in light of the fact that the strike on the hospital was the result of rocket fire from Palestinian terrorist organizations, the MAG ordered the case to be closed. (9) Allegation Concerning a Strike on the UNSCO Headquarters in Gaza City (29 July 2014) In a report received by the MAG in real time, it was alleged that the UNSCO (United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process) headquarters were damaged by IDF shelling. The report claimed that several shells fell in the headquarters compound, which caused damage to buildings in the compound and one of the organization’s armored vehicles (it was not claimed that any persons were harmed in the incident). As a result, and in accordance with the MAG’s investigation policy, it was decided to refer the incident for examination by the FFAM. According to the factual findings and materials collated by the FFAM and presented to the MAG, no high-explosive shells were fired by IDF forces in that area during that time, rather only illumination shells, intended to illuminate the area as part of an effort to disrupt mortar and rocket fire towards IDF forces and Israeli territory. According to an assessment of the relevant operational authorities, it is possible that the UNSCO headquarters may have been damaged as a direct or indirect result of the ogive (casings) of such shells falling randomly within the compound. The FFAM found that at no time during the Operation were the UNSCO headquarters directly targeted. The MAG found that the use of illumination shells in this incident was employed for a proper military objective and was conducted in accordance with Israeli domestic law and international law requirements. The incidental and unintended damage to the UNSCO headquarters is a regrettable though possible outcome, considering the fierce and intense fighting taking place in the Gaza Strip (insofar as the damage was indeed caused by the illumination shells). Nonetheless, such incidental damage does not affect the legality of the employment of the illumination shells. 11 In light of the above, the MAG did not find that the actions of the IDF forces raised grounds for a reasonable suspicion of criminal misconduct. As a result, the MAG ordered the case to be closed, without opening a criminal investigation or ordering further action against those involved in the incident. B. Incidents into Which, Following an Assessment by the FFAM, the MAG has Ordered Criminal Investigations (1) Allegation Concerning the Death of Four Children on the Gaza Strip Coast (16 July 2014) [published in a press release dated September 10th, 2014] The MAG Corps received reports, as well as complaints from human rights organizations, regarding allegations that an IDF strike on July 16, 2014, resulted in the death of four children on the coastal strip next to Gaza City. Subsequently, and in accordance with the MAG’s investigation policy, the incident was referred to the FFAM. The factual findings and materials collated by the FFAM and presented to the MAG, indicated the existence of grounds for a reasonable suspicion that the strike was not carried out in accordance with the rules and procedures applicable to IDF forces. As a result, the MAG has ordered a criminal investigation into the incident. (2) Allegation Concerning Civilian Casualties Resulting From a Strike in the Vicinity of an UNRWA School in Beit Hanoun (24 July 2014) [published in a press release dated September 10th, 2014] The MAG Corps received reports, as well as complaints from UNRWA and from human rights organizations, regarding allegations that an IDF strike in the vicinity of an UNRWA school in Beit Hanoun on July 24, 2014, resulted in the death of 15 civilians. Subsequently, and in accordance with the MAG’s investigation policy, the incident was referred to the FFAM. The factual findings and materials collated by the FFAM and presented to the MAG, indicated the existence of grounds for a reasonable suspicion that the incident involved a deviation from the rules and procedures applicable to IDF forces. As a result, and despite the fact that the actual number of civilian casualties is as yet unknown, the MAG has ordered a criminal investigation into the incident. (3) Allegation Concerning the Death of an Ambulance Driver in the Khan Yunis Area (25 July 2014) Operational reports indicated a suspicion that on 25 July 2014, at approximately 23:45, an ambulance driver in the vicinity of Khan Yunis was fired upon by IDF forces, and killed as a 12 result. Subsequently, and in accordance with the MAG’s investigation policy, the incident was referred to the FFAM. The factual findings and the material collated by the FFAM and presented to the MAG, indicated the existence of grounds for a reasonable suspicion that the incident involved a deviation from the rules and procedures applicable to IDF forces. As a result, the MAG has ordered a criminal investigation into the incident. (4) Allegation Concerning the Death of an Ambulance Driver in the Vicinity of a Hospital in Beit Hanoun (25 July 2014) In reports received by the MAG Corps, and in correspondence from various NGOs, it was alleged that on 25 July 2014, at approximately 17:28, an IDF strike resulted in the death of an ambulance driver. As a result, and in accordance with the MAG’s investigation policy, the incident was referred to the FFAM. The findings and the material collated by the FFAM did not provide sufficient information as to the allegations arising from the reports and the NGO’s claims. As a result, the MAG has ordered a criminal investigation into the incident. (5) Allegation Concerning the Deaths of 27 Civilians in the Abu-Jama House in Khan Yunis (20 July 2014) In reports received by the MAG Corps, and in correspondence from various NGOs, it was alleged that on 20 July 2014, 27 civilians were killed as the result of an IDF strike on the house of the Abu-Jama family in Khan Yunis. As a result, and in accordance with the MAG’s investigation policy, the incident was referred to the FFAM. The factual findings and materials collated by the FFAM and presented to the MAG, indicated the existence of grounds for a reasonable suspicion that the incident involved a deviation from the rules and procedures applicable to IDF forces. As a result, the MAG has ordered a criminal investigation into the incident. C. Incidents Regarding Which the MAG Ordered Criminal Investigations without Prior FFA (1) Allegation Concerning the Death of a Palestinian Woman in Dahaniya (18 July 2014) [published in a press release dated September 10th, 2014] The MAG Corps received an operational incident report indicating that on 18 July 2014, a Palestinian woman was shot by IDF forces in the area of Dahaniya, after her presence in the 13 area was apparently prior coordinated with the IDF. Subsequently, the MAG ordered a criminal investigation into the incident. (2) Allegation Concerning Looting (20 July 2014) [published in a press release dated September 10th, 2014] The MAG Corps received an operational incident report indicating a suspicion that an IDF soldier looted (cash money) during the Operation. Subsequently, the MAG ordered a criminal investigation into the incident. (3) Allegation Concerning Mistreatment of a 17-year old Allegedly Held by IDF forces in Khirbeit Haza’a (23-27 July 2014) [published in a press release dated September 10th, 2014] Following media reports alleging unlawful acts (including allegations of assault and threats) by IDF forces against Ahmed Jamal Abu Raida, who was allegedly held by IDF forces in the area of Khirbeit Haza’a, the MAG ordered a criminal investigation into the incident. (4) Allegations Concerning the Death of a Person Carrying a White Flag and the Use of Human Shields (29 July 2014) In a complaint submitted by an NGO, it was alleged that on 29 July 2014 (in media reports it was alleged that the incident occurred on 25 July 2014), IDF forces operating in the area of Kuhza’a, fired at Mohammed Tawfik Mohammed Kadiach, while he was carrying a white flag, resulting in his death, and used the person’s family members as “human shields”. Subsequently, the MAG ordered a criminal investigation into the incident. (5) Allegations Concerning Four Incidents of Looting (second half of July 2014) On the basis of a complaint received from four Palestinians from Khuza’a and Khan Yunis (the Big Abbassan), alleging that IDF forces looted their property while the former had allegedly left their houses, during the second half of July, the MAG ordered the opening of four criminal investigations into the incidents.

Bahrain’s Ministry of Culture – Strategy

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By Sheikha Mai bint Mohammed bin Ibrahim Al Khalifa, Minister of Culture and Information of the Kingdom of Bahrain. Bahrain, the harbour of the universe and cultures, engages with people and nations from all corners of the world to share its culture, arts, heritage, literature, history, and theatre. The Ministry of Culture harnesses the influence of culture in many ways; a universal language of dialogue, a basis for honourable humanistic messages, and a conduit to development which respects differences and welcomes diversity. In addition, the Ministry of Culture strives towards developing landmark achievements inspired by its rich local ingredients, and sharing its knowledge and experiences with friendly nations around the world. To achieve this grand objective, the Ministry of Culture, in coordination with specialised international experts, initiated a multi-facetted and integrated national cultural strategy. This strategy encompasses galvanising the cultural movement in Bahrain, ingratiating local intellectual and knowledge-based assets within national achievements, cultivating active partnerships with the private sector and innovative projects, activating culture and art as a language for communication, dialogue, and understanding with other nations, spearheading cultural and artistic projects, and formulating rules and regulations which support these endeavours. In each of the aforementioned areas, the Ministry of Culture utilises the æsthetic and humanitarian sense, and allows culture the freedom to innovate and experiment. Anchoring the Ministry of Culture’s vision is its cultural landscape and closely-knit geography which made it a multi-cultural, multi-ethnic port of call for various civilizations, creeds, religions, and intellectual tendencies and experiences. That being the case, it directed its efforts to protecting the national cultural identity and promoting it as a key element which shapes civilizations. Through various roles and efforts, the Ministry of Culture is seeking to integrate culture in the day-to-day life of the community and unlock its potential to achieve economic, social, and humanitarian development, and project the true image of the Kingdom on the world stage. In addition, the Ministry of Culture endeavours to encourage creative and innovative initiatives in various cultural and artistic pursuits through engagement with thought leaders and innovators to recycle ideas and create dedicated spaces to discover human capacities and involve them in shaping the cultural landscape.ministryofculture_bahrain2_main As for protecting the national cultural identity and integrating it within the daily lives of people to strengthen their bond with it, the Ministry of Culture is working on a medium-term plan in which citizens interacts with their national cultural identity as an exception to be expressed and respond to, and as a tool for genuine expression of intellectual and social attitudes. This is accomplished by conducting various cultural programmes, workshops, events and discussions which engage with all strata of society, essentially making culture a communal creative space which fosters those collective experiences and aspirations and enables them to breathe and innovate. The Ministry of Culture also continuously supports cultural and artistic initiatives and organisations which contribute to building the community and culture, including full-time writers, artists, and authors, as well as cultural awards, industries, symposia, and conferences, promising artistic talents, and artistic pioneers. Its support also extends to cultural activities at the grassroots community level and participation in artistic and cultural events at the local, regional, and global level, and planning for cultural development in key areas such as theatre, music, fine arts, and folk arts. In conjunction, the Ministry of Culture organises extended annual events which highlight various cultural, intellectual, and artistic pursuits and facilitate intercultural dialogue. In parallel, the Ministry of Culture’s strategy also focuses on the development of a solid cultural infrastructure. A key element within this area is cultural urbanisation, which serves as a genuine creative laboratory for intellectual and civilisational pursuits and operations. Hence, the Ministry of Culture actively works to erect flagship projects such as theatres and museums, renovating and operating cultural monuments and landmarks for cultural and tourism purposes, building centers, organising temporary and permanent museum exhibitions, supporting cultural activities within the civil and private sectors, and fostering the movements emanating from cultural houses, projects, and coffee houses.Bahrain Culture 1 Undoubtedly, many of these plans can only be achieved through real partnerships with the private sector and major investment projects. For this purpose, the Ministry of Culture launched “Invest in Culture”, an initiative which seeks to involve those parties in the formation of the cultural, intellectual, tourism, and civilisational landscape by underwriting cultural urbanisation, museum shows, festivals, and other types of relevant activities. Moreover, the Ministry of Culture’s mandate extends beyond the country’s geographical footprint, forging memoranda of understanding with friendly nations which bolster cultural and tourism ties, facilitate dialogue, and establish culture as a tool of communication to broaden understanding and cooperation. This, in turn, boosts the cultural movement in Bahrain, and promotes the country on the local, regional, and international stage. The Ministry of Culture furthermore establishes and maintains a sophisticated cultural environment by inducing technologically-driven paradigm shifts which not only revitalize the cultural field, but also formulate successful and effective solutions which feed into a new connection system. This system, in turn, serves as a catalyst for the two major tasks of inclusive development, which are: accelerate development at the speed of the amount of knowledge generated by culture, and create more investment opportunities in culture. The National Technology Strategy adopted by the government will outline the real role that culture plays in the lives of individuals and the community, and also promote information exchange between all cultural institutions in the country. In parallel, the Ministry of Culture is working within its strategies to modernise its current systems and regulations and add whichever new systems are required.Bahrain Culture 5 The Kingdom of Bahrain did not separate culture from tourism, and hence the Ministry of Culture also put forth the National Tourism Strategy for 2015 – 2018 which revolves around seven essential experiences for tourists in Bahrain, including the Pearling Road, one of the most significant historic evidences of the economic, social, and environmental life in Bahrain, as well as environmental tourism, which involves exploring the various environmental landmarks in Bahrain such as its coastal environment and the unique identity and charm derived from Bahrain being the “Land of a Million Palm Trees”. The other elements include establishing an infrastructure which enables the country to become a hub for regional cultural tourism of all kinds, such as family, entertainment, sports, conference, exhibition, festival, event, or food tourism.    

66th Anniversary of the abolition of the Armed Forces in Costa Rica

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The newly appointed Ambassador of Costa Rica to the Kingdom of the Netherlands, H.E. Sergio Ugalde, explained the importance his country gives to the abolition of the Armed Forces. “On 1 December 2014, Costa Rica celebrated the 66th anniversary of the abolition of the Armed Forces. Since 1948, Costa Rica has entrusted its national security to international law and diplomacy, and its foreign policy has focused on sharing that experience and pursuing a world committed to the rule of law and the resolution of conflicts through peaceful means. At its core, our policy strives to convince all nations that peace and disarmament are a centerpiece of the realization of all human rights, and that along with the principles of freedom and democracy, the force of reason must prevail as a safeguard for future generations. The abolition of the military is one of those exceptional steps that led Costa Rica to become a fairer more educated society, able to meet the most pressing needs of its population, focusing on human development rather than strengthening its military capabilities. Costa Ricans have reaped the benefits of a decision which marked its development as a nation. The resources that would otherwise have gone to the maintenance and purchase of military weapons are directed to causes that seek greater prosperity for the people, particularly education, health services and the protection of the environment. That fundamental decision made on December 1, 1948, and enshrined in the 1949 Constitution, currently in force, has forged generations of Costa Ricans who have never seen a war tank or a war plane on their territory. Costa Ricans do not aspire to carry a rifle and truly hope never dying in a battle field as a result of armed conflict. Yet, to achieve this high objective, it is fundamental that just not the Costa Ricans, but all peoples of the world, are given the conditions to renounce the use of force, effectively rendering military apparatuses ineffective. Through the unilateral renunciation of the use of force as a means of settling disputes, Costa Rica has privileged international law to preserve its national interests, its sovereignty and its democratic institutions. The country is acutely aware that much still needs to be done in the strengthening of International Law, but it notes with optimism that much has been achieved, thanks to respected legal institutions such as the International Court of Justice, the International Criminal Court and the Permanent Court of Arbitration. Costa Rica continues to share with the international community its experience as a disarmed democracy, and it hopes that this experience will contribute to universal peace and security, principles that guide our foreign policy and it remains convinced that this experience might one day to be enjoyed by all nations and peoples.” Ambassador Sergio Ugalde Ambassador Sergio Ugalde has almost 20 years of practice in the field of International Law. He graduated from the University of Costa Rica and holds a Magister Iuris from the University of Oxford. In his capacity as legal advisor to the last five Ministers of Foreign Affairs of Costa Rica, he has represented his country in the International Court of Justice as part of the Legal Team and, for the last five years, as Co-Agent. He has also been appointed as Special Ambassador for matters in foreign policy and international cooperation. Together with former President of Costa Rica, Ms Laura Chinchilla, Ambassador Ugalde taught a course on the Inter-American Human Rights System at the University of Costa Rica and has written numerous articles on subjects such as international security and International Law.  He is a member of the Permanent Court of Arbitration, and has been recently appointed Ambassador of Costa Rica to The Kingdom of The Netherlands.    

ICC rejects Côte d’Ivoire’s challenge

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ICC Pre-Trial Chamber I rejects Côte d’Ivoire’s challenge to the admissibility of the case and reminds the Government of its obligation to surrender Simone Gbagbo   On December 11. 2014, the Pre-Trial Chamber I of the International Criminal Court (ICC) rejected the Republic of Côte d’Ivoire’s challenge to the admissibility of the case against Simone Gbagbo before the Court, and reminded Côte d’Ivoire of its obligation to surrender Simone Gbagbo to the Court without delay. A challenge to the admissibility of a case before the ICC is granted if the case is being genuinely investigated or prosecuted by a State which has jurisdiction over it, unless the State is unwilling or unable genuinely to carry out the investigation or prosecution. For a case to be declared inadmissible, the national investigation and/or prosecution must cover the same individual and substantially the same conduct as alleged in the proceedings before the Court. After a thorough assessment of the documentation made available to the Chamber, in accordance with article 17(1)(a) of the Rome Statute, the Chamber concluded that Côte d’Ivoire’s domestic authorities were not taking tangible, concrete and progressive steps aimed at ascertaining whether Simone Gbagbo is criminally responsible for the same conduct that is alleged in the case before the Court. Accordingly, Pre-Trial Chamber I rejected the admissibility challenge. Having found the case against Simone Gbagbo admissible before the ICC, the Chamber reminded Côte d’Ivoire of its obligation to surrender Simone Gbagbo to the Court without delay. The decision of the Pre-Trial Chamber may be appealed, in accordance with article 82 of the Rome Statute.

World Day against Violence and Extremism

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In an int’l conference on world against Violence and Extremism (WAVE):
10 Iranian strategies to combat terrorism and extremism in the region and world / President proposes Dec 18 as World Day against Violence and Extremism
President Hassan Rouhani stressed the importance of enhancing efforts by all governments and peace-loving movements to optimize coordination, interaction, understanding, cooperation and zeal worldwide to fight violence and extremism. He made the remarks here on Tuesday in his opening speech to the international conference on World against Violence and Extremism (WAVE). President Rouhani said governments should orchestrate policies to push aside extremist groups. President believed the universal enthusiasm shown to the idea of a world free of violence and extremism and the fact that it was adopted almost unanimously with world countries indicates the necessity and significance of anti-violence attempts worldwide. Though extensive economic cooperation and political interaction led to reducing amount of violence and extremism in significant parts of the world, he added, it unfortunately persisted in other parts of the world like the Middle East, claiming lives of tens of people every day. President Rouhani highlighted the need for the governments to cooperate in a bid to bring about a world free of violence. President proposed December 18 as the World Day against Violence and Extremism. President Rouhani proposed the date because it coincides with the anniversary of a UN General Assembly resolution last year. President put forward ten strategies to launch an immediate fight against terrorism. He said allocating a day to highlight the notion will make the bloods shed unfairly remembered and the global will to fight violence and extremism get a new life each year. He said the countries which have initiated, organized and financially supported terrorist groups should distance themselves now from them and stop their direct and indirect assistance to these groups. He said such groups should also aid with the victim countries by providing financial, information and military assistance to them. He noted that Iraq and Syria have suffered extreme losses due to the assistance provided to the terrorists, making it necessary for certain countries to financially compensate for the damages. Stressing that terrorists recruit their forces from among unemployed and deprived people, President Rouhani underscored the necessity of establishing an international fund to generate jobs and help development process in countries which have fallen victims to terrorism. He also said religious schools should be established with the objective of correcting the wrong extremist and violent notions followed by the terrorists and also to promote the true image of beneficent Islam in the world. He pointed to the need for a global campaign to confront misuse of cyber space and social networks by terrorists. He said countries which are located on the terrorist’s mobility route should have stronger political will and devise better mechanisms to stop easy movement of terrorists. President went on to stress the need for the international community to try to make amendments in the United Nations structure especially in the Security Council and its use of veto mechanism which in times poses serious threat to the global peace and security. This very mechanism, President Rouhani added, has been quite ineffective and practically paralyzed the international organization. The inefficiency of the UN Security Council seriously undermines international peace and security, encourages aggressions, disappoints victims and paves the way for violent actions, he added. He urged the international community to use determination and firm will to start initiation of a process for rehabilitation of the UN from its periodical paralysis. He finally hoped that the WAVE conference in Tehran could come up with effective and practical ways to promote the culture of peace and coexistence as well as the spirit of fighting violence and extremism in the world

Kyrgyzstan marks the country’s Independence Day

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                            By Baron Henri Estramant. The Embassy of the Kyrgyz Republic (based in Brussels) to The Netherlands, Belgium, Luxemburg, the EU, the French Republic, to the international organisations in the latter countries, Permanent Representation to UNESCO, organised a reception at the Gothic City Hall of Brussels to mark the country’s independence day. The reception was held to celebrate the Indepedence Day of the Kyrgyz Republic from the Soviet Union on 31 August 1991. Back then the country was name Kirghizia. u043Au0430u043Cu0431u0430u0440u043Au0430u043D The well-attended event included a magnificent exhibition held at the marriage hall including pictures of Kyrgyz landscapes, flora and fauna, and of the Kyrgyz citizenry in their daily lives. Moreover musical performances and delicacies typical of Kyrgyzstan. Though the Embassy of Kyrgyzstan is located in Brussels, there is a Honorary Consulate in Utrecht. The Head of Mission, H.E. Ambassador Asein Isaev, is yet to present his credentials in The Netherlands as he only did so in Belgium on 2 July 2014.u043Fu0440u0438u0435u043C  

Kenya Celebrates 51st Jamhuri Day

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By Muthoni Muchiri. Photography M. Muchiri. H.E Mrs. Rose Makena Muchiri marked Kenya’s 51st Jamhuri Day celebrations at the Worldhotel Bel Air The Hague. This prolific event welcomed various dignitaries, distinguished guests as well as a sizeable number of the Kenyan Diaspora. It was particularly pleasing to note the large turn out of Kenyan students present from various universities in the Netherlands.Untitled-1 The night commenced with a speech from the Ambassador in which she extended a warm welcome to all, with specific mention to the Kenyan Diaspora and the important role they play in the development process and growth of the community. She strongly encouraged their continued input towards the development agenda through the Diaspora Web Portal; all while a myriad of images JamhuriDay3showcasing Kenya’s natural beauty and diversity were displayed across screens around the room. After the formalities were completed guests were treated to local delicacies from mouthwatering samosas to a Kenyan favorite, nyama choma – barbequed meat, leaving no dish untouched. The festivities continued with the Ambassador leading guests to the dance floor where they sang and shuffled the night away. The ‘Independence Day’ celebrations were topped off with news received earlier that day declaring that charges against Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta had officially been withdrawn at the International Criminal Court.Kenay Jamhuri Day At the end of the night guests received a vibrant bouquet of Kenyan roses courtesy of Sian Roses, in addition to a variety of Kenyan magazines and dvds. The chilly weather outside was no match to the warmth and joyfulness that engulfed the room that evening. Congratulations to Ambassador Rose Makena Muchiri and her delightful team for organising such a lively and memorable evening.JamhuriDay1  

Special National Day of Thailand for H.E. Dr. Virachai Plasai in The Hague

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By Johann Peter Gies, Junior Editor. On the evening of the 4th of December H.E. Dr. Virachai Plasai, Ambassador of the Kingdom of Thailand to the Kingdom of The Netherlands, invited to a reception at Worldhotel Bel Air in The Hague on the occasion of King Bhumibol Adulyadej’s 87th birthday. The reception was well frequented by ambassadors, investors and friends of the Southeast Asian nation. Accompanied with traditional Thai music, performed by the Thai Music Circle in The Netherlands, the guests enjoyed a rich buffet of original Thai dishes, ranging from spicy papaya salat to coconut noodles and flavourful, authentic snacks. In his speech H.E. Dr. Plasai outlined the bright future that lies ahead of Thailand. He described the Situation in the country as calmed down. The aim is now to return to democracy by performing political, economic and educational reform. H.E. Dr. Plasai stressed the attractiveness of Thailand as a country of investment, which regardless of recent unrest, remains on a high level. The country offers the unique opportunity to combine business with pleasure. This might also explain the high number of Dutch tourists that visit Thailand. About 200.000 Dutch tourists visit the Kingdom every year and enjoy the world-known hospitality of Thai people. However, H.E. Dr. Plasai underlined not the importance of numbers, but the quality of tourism. In Thailand’s case the main focus lies on sustainable and responsible tourism that respects Human and Animal Rights. IMG_1735 As a token of Dutch-Thai friendship H.E. Dr. Plasai and his mother combined the traditional spicy papaya salad with Dutch herring; a unique, yet tasty symbol of the friendship between the two kingdoms.  A friendship for which the ambassador was very grateful. Unfortunately this reception has been the last national day celebration of Thailand for H.E. Dr. Plasai in The Netherlands, as he will leave the country in the near future. On behalf of the team of Diplomat Magazine I wish H.M. King Bhumibol Adulyadej good health and a long life. Untitled-4

National Day Reception by the Embassy of the Republic of Korea

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By Johann Peter Gies, Junior Editor. The mythological background of Korea’s national day takes us back over 4000 years to the 3rd of October 2457 B.C. On this day Hwanung descended to earth to become the Supreme Divine Regent in the valleys and mountains of the Korean Peninsula. In a cave close to the regent’s seat lived a tiger and a bear. One day, Hwanung offered both of them to become human, if for 100 days they stayed in the cave and ate only twenty bulbs of garlic, which Hwanung gave them. Being too impatient and hungry the tiger left the cave before the 100 days were over and only the bear remained. After 100 days Hwanung transformed the bear into a beautiful woman. As she grew lonely, Hwanung gave her a son, called Dangun. In the year 2333 B.C. Dangun founded Gojoseon, the first kingdom of Korea, in a simple ceremony on Mani Mountain.  This kingdom is being regarded as the first Korean state and the 3rd of October is now the National Day of the Republic of Korea, celebrating the foundation of Gojoseon. WB-KE-11-web
In the picture Ambassadors of India and Ambassador of  Korea.
 
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In the picture Ambassador of Kosovo and Korean’s Ambassador.
Although the mythological foundation of  Korea has been a rather simple ceremony, the reception by H.E. Jong-Hyun Choe, Ambassador of the Republic of Korea to the Kingdom of The Netherlands, didn’t lack splendour. On the 3rd of December 2014 His Excellency received fellow ambassadors, colleagues, partners and friends at Crowne Plaza Hotel in Scheveningen. On this occasion the Letter of Credence, accrediting H.E. Jong-Hyun Choe for his new post in The Hague, have been presented. On behalf of Diplomat Magazine we wish H.E. Jong-Hyun Choe an enjoyable, fruitful and memorable stay in The Netherlands.  WB-KE-010-web    

Au revoir Eugenio

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By Roy Lie A Tjam. Many friends and acquaintances attended a party yesterday to say farewell to Eugenio Matos, a wonderful personality who all agree made a significant contribution to the diplomatic community of The Hague. Eugenio Matos has been a key driving force behind the scenes at Diplomat Magazine, overseeing the creation of the project from its humble beginnings with a handful of volunteers in 2013, to the supervision of the first published paper edition in November 2014.  Invitation sent to the diplomatic corps: http://en.calameo.com/read/000733685963056495f49  COMPLETE PHOTO-ALBUM. CLICK HERE: https://www.flickr.com/photos/121611753@N07/sets/72157649715337682/  Embajador de Irak y Eugenio Eugenio  Matos has been a driving force behind the scenes at Diplomat Magazine, overseeing the creation of the project from its humble beginnings with a handful of volunteers in 2013, to supervision of the first published paper edition in November 2014. The Ambassador for the Republic of Burundi, H.E. Vestine Nahimana, speaking at the event expressed her gratitude for the assistance her mission received from Eugenio Matos and Diplomat Magazine. Eugenio was showered gifts as a token of the friendships he has made during his assignment in the Netherlands. Eugenio y embajadora de Kosovo Mayor de Wassenaar con Eugenio   Con Arwin Paulides Eugenio, yo con los Embajadores de Oman y Rwanda eugenio con Maria Teresa Infante Embajadora de Chile Stephan van der Meulen y Eugenio Walid Akoum y Eugenio Con Anne O'Obrien Asser, Eugenio y xxx Eugenio y Eelco Dystra Eugenio y Crownw Plaza