Human Rights Watch update: Reports on Hezbollah use of cluster bombs and human shields; and violence against Palestinian women.

Human Rights Watch issued a three page report on October 19, which stated that Hezbollah had fired cluster munitions at Israel during the recent Israel-Lebanon conflict of July/August this year. This came over 2 months after HRW published a 51 page report on "Israeli war crimes" in Lebanon. The report stated that "Hezbollah launched cluster attacks that were at best indiscriminate…At worst, Hezbollah deliberately attacked civilian areas with these weapons." The long publication delay was attributed to claims that the Israeli government had requested secrecy, but HRW’s evidence for this claim lacked credibility.

Sarah Leah Whitson, HRW’s Middle East Division Director, published an op-ed in Al-Sharq al-Awsat on October 5, in which HRW acknowledged that its numerous reports during the war were not correct. Whitson stated that Hezbollah was guilty of using human shields during the recent Israel-Lebanon war: "Human Rights Watch’s research found that on a number of occasions Hezbollah unjustifiably endangered Lebanese civilians by storing weapons in civilian homes, firing rockets from populated areas, and allowing its fighters to operate from civilian homes." This contradicts HRW statements such as by HRW’s Emergencies Director Peter Bouckaert on July 31 where he claimed that "our investigations have not found evidence to support Israeli allegations that Hezbollah are intentionally endangering Lebanese civilians by systematically fighting from civilian positions." (see NGO Monitor report on NGO activities during the Lebanon war)

HRW also published a 101-page report on November 7 entitled "A Question of Security: Violence Against Palestinian Women and Girls" detailing the PA’s failure to address this issue. Lucy Mair, the report’s co-author wrote "when confronted with cases of violence against women and girls, the Palestinian criminal justice system is more interested in avoiding public scandal than in seeing justice done." Unlike Amnesty’s discredited report on Palestinian women, HRW’s publication does not attribute these human rights violations to Israel, but explores Palestinian sociological and religious factors, as well as the political responsibility of the PA.

Back to November 2006 Digest