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|Despite U.S. boycott Geneva Convention states to debate Israel|
|12/05/01 at 13:00:37|
|Despite U.S. boycott Geneva Convention states to debate Israel |
By The Associated Press
GENEVA - Overriding U.S. protests, Switzerland opened an international conference Wednesday to examine whether Israel is violating the Geneva Conventions on warfare by its occupation of Palestinian territory.
The meeting of nations that have signed the 1949 treaties on the conduct of war is looking at the situation in the Middle East and is expected to conclude that Israel is breaching the accords.
It is expected also to call on Israel to respect the agreement on the treatment of civilians in occupied territory and allow independent observers to monitor the situation in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
The United States is boycotting the meeting, claiming it is counterproductive. Israel also has refused to attend.
"We believe that convening the conference after the massacre of almost 30 Israelis over the weekend renders it even more meaningless that it would be in any case," said Israel's ambassador to the Unite! d Nations, Ya'akov Levy.
Levy approached Switzerland - the depository of the Geneva Conventions - and asked for the meeting to be canceled or postponed, but the request was rejected.
The 189 signatories of the conventions last met in July 1999, also to discuss the Middle East, but suspended their session after 17 minutes, citing positive developments in the region.
Arab states and many other signatories have been calling for a new meeting since the outbreak of the Palestinian intifada, or uprising, in late September 2000.
Switzerland has condemned as a breach of the conventions, Israel's policy of building Jewish settlements on land conquered in the 1967 Mideast war. About 200,000 Israelis live in the settlements.
Swiss officials have also criticized Israeli ‘targeted killings’ of Palestinian militants suspected of targeting Israel, and a blockade of Palestinian-inhabited areas. Israel defends its policy, maintaining that the West Bank! and Gaza are disputed territory, not occupied land, and therefore the conventions do not apply.
Human rights group Amnesty International on Tuesday cited grave breaches of the conventions by Israel. But, it said, Palestinian militants also were breaking the convention by targeting civilians.
All signatories - including Israel - are pledged to respect civilians' rights and to make sure others do likewise.
Under the conventions states are supposed to prosecute their own soldiers if they commit war crimes. They can also turn to other organizations to set up special courts, like the UN war crimes tribunals for former Yugoslavia or Rwanda.
But there are no legal measures to ensure compliance, and no sanctions specified if signatories do not respect the agreements
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