Rights group says silenced by Hezbollah, Lebanon over report
Human Rights Watch cancels Beirut press conference on report accusing Hezbollah of war crimes.
The international human rights organization Human Rights Watch said on Wednesday that Lebanese guerilla group Hezbollah and the Lebanese government are attempting to silence it and prevent the release of a report accusing Hezbollah of war crimes during the Second Lebanon War.
The report was slated for release on Wednesday at a press conference in Beirut, but the hotel in which it was set to take place announced it would not allow the conference to be held on its property.
The hotel refused to hold the conference after the Lebanese government and Hezbollah harshly criticized the organization, and Hezbollah threatened to hold a demonstration in front of the hotel.
Unofficial sources in the human rights group said that its employees in Lebanon feel "threatened," and therefore decided to cancel the press conference.
The war broke out on July 12, after two Israel Defense Forces soldiers were abducted and eight others killed during a cross-border raid by Hezbollah and the subsequent rescue attempt by the IDF.
The 34-day war that followed saw much of northern Israel battered by Hezbollah rockets, while southern Lebanon and part of Beirut were pounded by Israel Air Force strikes.
According to the Human Rights Watch report, Hezbollah had a pattern during the war of "firing indiscriminately and in some cases deliberately at civilians and civilian structures, in violation of international humanitarian law."
The report also found that the Iranian-backed group "repeatedly bombarded cities, towns, and villages without any apparent effort to distinguish between civilians and military objectives."
According to the rights group, those actions by Hezbollah, "a party to an armed conflict governed by international humanitarian law," had "violated fundamental prohibitions against deliberate and indiscriminate attacks against civilians."
The report also states that "Hezbollah rockets repeatedly hit populated areas in Israel," and that in some cases the group "could find no evidence there had been a legitimate military target in the vicinity at the time of the attack, suggesting it was a deliberate attack on civilians."
While in some instances there had been evidence that there was a military target in areas hit by rockets, the report says that, "even assuming Hezbollah had been intending to hit the military target instead of civilians, the unguided rockets it used was incapable of distinguishing between the two."
The report also blasts the group for claiming to back "the principle of sparing civilians on both sides," while threatening to target Israeli population centers and claiming responsibility for previous attacks on communities inside Israel.
"Hezbollah's attacks in violation of the laws of war, when combined with such statements indicating criminal intent," says the report, "is strong evidence that some Hezbollah members and commanders were responsible for war crimes."
The group has published numerous reports on what it calls Israel's human rights violations, including its attacks on Lebanese civilians and use of cluster bombs during the war. According to the organization's Web site, it also intends to release a report condemning Hezbollah's reported use of civilians as human shields.