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Thursday, 27 May 2004
Page: 29416

Mrs IRWIN (4:44 PM) —This week Amnesty International released its annual report, which documents the human rights situation in 155 countries during the year ended December 2003. While it details serious human rights abuses in many countries, Amnesty's report on Israel and the occupied territories stands out as a tragedy which demands world attention and action. According to the report:

At least 103 Israeli civilians were killed by Palestinian armed groups. Almost half of the victims were killed in suicide bombings.

Under the heading `Killings and attacks by the Israeli army' the report states:

Around 600 Palestinians, most of them unarmed and including more than 100 children, were killed by the Israeli army in random and reckless shooting, shelling and bombing or as a result of excessive force.

Some 90 Palestinians were killed in extrajudicial executions, including more than 50 uninvolved bystanders, of whom nine were children. Others were killed in armed clashes with Israeli soldiers.

As well as Palestinians who were killed or maimed, the report mentioned US activist Rachel Corrie and UK journalist James Miller, who were killed by Israeli soldiers in Gaza. However, the report states:

Most Israeli soldiers and security force members continued to enjoy impunity. Investigations, prosecutions and convictions for human rights violations were rare.

Further, it states:

In the overwhelming majority of the thousands of cases of unlawful killings and other grave human rights violations committed by Israeli soldiers since the intifada began, no investigations were known to have been carried out.

The report noted:

Israeli settlers in the occupied territories repeatedly attacked Palestinians and their property.

It also noted:

In most cases attacks by Israeli settlers on Palestinians and their property were not investigated and those responsible were not brought to justice.

However, the report did point out:

In October three Israeli settlers were sentenced to 12 and 15 years imprisonment for the attempted bombing of a Palestinian girls' school in 2002.

In recent weeks we have witnessed the destruction of hundreds of Palestinian homes in Gaza. These practices were mentioned in Amnesty's report. It stated:

The Israeli army destroyed several hundred Palestinian homes and scores of commercial and public buildings, and destroyed or damaged water, electricity and communication infrastructure throughout the occupied territories. Often the destruction was carried out by the Israeli army as a form of collective punishment on the local population.

The report also details how similar acts have left hundreds of innocent people homeless and in one case caused the death of a pregnant mother of 10, who was killed in her bed when a neighbour's house was blown up by Israeli soldiers. The report goes on to describe the effect of collective punishment, closures and violations of economic and social rights and it says:

Increasing restrictions imposed by the Israeli authorities on the movement of Palestinians in the occupied territories caused unprecedented hardship for Palestinians, hindering or preventing their access to work, education, medical care, family visits and other activities of daily life.

The report describes one of the worst cases in which a pregnant Palestinian woman was denied passage by Israeli soldiers at a checkpoint. She gave birth on the dirt road. Her baby girl died shortly after, and only then did soldiers allow her to walk to the hospital. Other human rights abuses were listed, including the imprisonment of Jewish Israeli conscientious objectors, the forcible transfer of Palestinians from their West Bank homes to Gaza, and concerns about the administration of justice, including Israeli laws banning family reunification for Israelis married to Palestinians. The report concluded:

Certain abuses committed by the Israeli army constituted war crimes, including unlawful killings, obstruction of medical assistance and targeting of medical personnel, extensive and wanton destruction of property, torture and the use of human shields.

Australia and the world can no longer stand by and allow these gross abuses of human rights to continue. (Time expired)