Have Great Britain and the US changed their ROE against ISIS to justify their criticism of Israel in Gaza?
|Hamas terrorist preparing rocket fuse with kids|
From The Daily Mail:
Islamic State jihadists in Syria and Iraq are using human shields to stop British RAF pilots killing them with drones operated from nearly 3,000 miles away, it can be revealed.
Barbaric militants are exploiting Western rules of engagement by travelling around the war-torn region with women and children or moving in civilian crowds so laser-guided Hellfire missiles are not fired to wipe them out.
New tactics mean high value targets on a British kill list may be watched by an ‘unblinking eye in the sky’ at RAF Waddington in Lincolnshire for days on end waiting for an opportunity to strike.
Last week, RAF personnel seated behind screens from the comfort of a high-security hangar in either Lincolnshire or Nevada in the US took part in a US-led top secret mission to wipe out Jihadi John.
Although they did not fire the missiles that killed him – as they came from a US drone – they helped watch him for months until an opportunity came to strike him without injuring any civilians.
He was nearly killed twice before but on one opportunity he entered a crowded street and on the second he was deemed too close to women and children.
A defence source said: ‘It is fairly obvious that the West prides itself on its strict adherence to international law and that is clear to anyone with common sense.
‘It doesn’t take rocket science for those who are medieval enough to exploit that and use women and children as human shields.’
As I wrote recently in light of the news that the US was also refusing to launch attacks unless there were no civilians around, this is an absurd and wholly incorrect interpretation of international law when dealing with high value targets.
The UK Laws of Armed Conflict Manual (2004), as amended in 2010, states:
[C]ivilian immunity does not make unlawful the unavoidable incidental civilian casualties and damage which may result from legitimate attacks upon military objectives, provided that the expected incidental casualties and damage are not excessive in relation to the concrete and direct military advantage anticipated. This is the principle of proportionality.
As the ICRC documents, Great Britain has never had a policy of “no civilians killed” but rather that the target must be a military target and the damage to civilians not be excessive in proportion to the military advantage:
In 1991, in reply to a question in the House of Lords concerning the Gulf War, the UK Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence stated:
The Geneva Conventions contain no provisions expressly regulating targeting in armed conflict. The Hague Regulations of 1907 and customary international law do, however, incorporate the twin principles of distinction between military and civilian objects, and of proportionality so far as the risk of collateral civilian damage from an attack on a military objective is concerned. These principles and associated rules of international law were observed at all times by coalition forces in the planning and execution of attacks against Iraq
Some 3000 civilians were killed in the first Gulf War.
In 1993, in reply to questions in the Foreign Affairs Committee of the House of Commons about the launching of “around 40 Cruise missiles by the Americans which resulted in the killing of innocent civilians in places like the Al Rashid Hotel”, the UK Minister of Foreign Affairs stated:
I do not believe the action was disproportionate. You know what it was aimed against; it was aimed against a plant that the Iraqis had themselves admitted was producing material for their nuclear programme … It seemed to me a proportionate target. It looks and sounds as if … one of the Cruise missiles went astray and killed innocent civilians in the Al Rashid Hotel. That clearly is to be deplored but I do not think the action as a whole can be regarded as disproportionate
In 2003, in reply to a written question in the House of Commons, the UK Secretary of State for Defence wrote:
The military campaign is crafted around the principle of minimum use of force. We attack only military objectives and combatants subject to the constraints of proportionality. If there is any expectation that harm will be caused to civilians, this must not be excessive when set against the direct and concrete military advantage anticipated from the attack.
But when discussing Israel in more recent operations, something funny happened. The British position changed from minimizing civilian casualties to avoiding civilian casualties:
In 2006, in a written answer to a question concerning, inter alia, “the implications under the Geneva Conventions of the targeting by Israel of civilian facilities and infrastructure in Gaza”, the UK Minister of State for the Middle East, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, stated:
We are opposed to the targeting of civilian facilities and call upon Israel to respect international law and, in particular, the requirement of proportionality and the duty to take all feasible precautions to avoid civilian casualties.
In 2006, in a reply to a question in the House of Lords concerning “[w]hat representations [the UK Government] have made to the Government of Israel regarding their military response to the kidnapping of one Israel Defense Force soldier”, the UK Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, stated: “Any military steps taken should avoid civilian casualties, abide by international law and observe the principle of proportionality.”
In 2006, in a written ministerial statement, the UK Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, stated:
While Israel has the right to defend itself and to secure the release of Corporal Shalit, its actions should be proportionate and in accordance with international law, as we, the G8 and the EU have made clear. We call on Israel to exercise restraint and to do everything possible to avoid civilian casualties.
It is hard to escape the conclusion that both Great Britain and the US have changed their rules of engagement so as not to look like hypocrites for condemning Israel for doing what they themselves had done in the Gulf wars, in Iraq and in Bosnia.
The Geneva Conventions allows for civilian deaths in war as long as the target is military and the number of deaths is not excessive, as determined by the military commanders. To change that rule into one where civilian casualties are to be forbidden might make HRW and Amnesty happy, but it results in the ability for ISIS to mimic Hamas’ use of human shields to avoid being targeted altogether. And we are seeing that now.
Wars cannot be won this way.
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