ICRC Harbors Hamas Fugitives
Samuel Sokol, Five Towns Jewish Times, July 22, 2010
The International Committee of the Red Cross [ICRC] stated Tuesday that it 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 Pales tinian 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.
Dorothea Krimitsas, a spokeswoman for the ICRC, 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. (Read more....)
I think it to be more telling, though, to read the ICRC's responses to Shmuel's questions,
Dear Mr. Sokol,
Here are my answers to your questions, which I copied below for the sake of clarity:
I would like the position of the Red Cross on this matter and to know if this is being done as a matter of policy.
On 1 July, the three persons (two PLC members and a former Minister for Jerusalem Affairs) asked the ICRC's delegation in Jerusalem to provide them with protection. They were told that they could remain on ICRC premises, but also that the ICRC could not prevent the Israeli authorities from taking action against them. (What's stopping Israel from "taking action?" Worries over bad PR?)
The ICRC has also been in contact with the Israeli authorities from the very beginning, asking them to respect their obligations under international humanitarian law:
- East Jerusalem is occupied territory, and the Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem are considered protected persons under international humanitarian law (Article 4 of the Fourth Geneva Convention).
- 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. Under Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, forcible transfers of protected persons are explicitly prohibited regardless of their motive.
Does the ICRC make a differentiation between the civilian and militant sides of Hamas and does it recognize Israel's categorization of all parts of the organization as terrorist entities?
It is not up to the ICRC, as a humanitarian organization, to confer a particular status on people or organizations or to recognize their legitimacy, neither does international humanitarian law. Under international humanitarian law – which is applicable in Israel and the occupied territories and is the law on which the ICRC's mandate and activities are based – everyone who is not a combattant (as defined in the Third Geneva Convention and in the First Additional Protocol), is a civilian.
In a recent study (A study? Study of what? Study with whom?), 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). (http://www.icrc.org/web/eng/siteeng0.nsf/htmlall/direct-participation-ihl-feature-020609) This principle of distinction is particularly relevant for the conduct of hostilities.
Has the ICRC been in touch with Israel in order to resolve this matter?
Yes. See my answer above.
I hope this information is helpful.
With best regards,
International Committee of the Red Cross
Media and Public Relations, Middle East
office +41 22 730 25 90, mobile +41 79 251 93 18
The ICRC - working to protect and assist people
affected byinvolved in armed conflict and other situations of violence (...against Jews. Remember Terezinschadt?). Find out more: www.icrc.org
I think that Dorothea would like to get some additional feedback on this matter, don't you?
Additional related articles by Shmuel Sokol:
Hamas Four Renounce Their Party
Hamas Parliamentarians To Defy Israeli Ban
Cross-posted on Esser Agaroth.