“Precisely Wrong: Gaza Civilians Killed by Israeli Drone-Launched Missiles,” 30 June 2009
August 06, 2009
- In this report, and accompanying press releases and conference, interviews, etc., HRW accuses the IDF of using drones to launch precise weapons during the Gaza operation, leading to wrongful civilian deaths. The entire publication is based on allegations from only 6 ambiguous incidents.
- The term “war crimes” is used 7 times, and the alleged drone attacks are termed “unlawful”. The case is entirely speculative, but the conclusions are stated with absolute assurance, as if the evidence was totally clear.
- Instead of credible evidence, HRW emphasizes technical and legal claims that are unfounded or irrelevant, but present the facade of expertise. These include references to satellite imaging, precise GPS coordinates, weapons specifications, Geneva conventions, etc., none of which offset the complete absence of verifiable evidence.
- Robert Hewson, editor of Jane’s Air-Launched Weapons, stated “Human Rights Watch makes a lot of claims and assumptions about weapons and drones, all of which is still fairly speculative, because we have so little evidence.” (Dan Williams, “Human Rights Watch accuses Israel over Gaza drones,” June 30, 2009)
- On HRW’s “evidence” quoting Palestinian claims to have seen and heard the missiles, a retired British colonel and Commander of British forces in Afghanistan “questioned whether such distinctions could be made, not least as the Spike’s range is 8 km (5 miles) …In a battlefield, in an urban environment, with all the other noises, it's certainly more than likely you would not hear something five miles away.” (Reuters, June 30)
- Additional “evidence” and references are from unverifiable Palestinian “testimony,” reports from journalists (such as an email from the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation quoting a Jane’s Defence Weekly staffer), and from other NGO officials.
- On the legal issue of military necessity, the report takes at face value the Palestinian claims of seeing no active Hamas fighters in the area of the alleged attacks. The Israeli government’s report on the Gaza combat provides details that refute this speculation.
- HRW asserts that drone operators in the midst of the conflict should have consulted with military lawyers “to help determine whether targets are legitimate.” This suggests that the authors have no significant battlefield experience in which split-second decisions must be made, or are simply inventing claims.
HRW accuses the IDF of using drones to launch precise weapons during the Gaza operation, leading to civilian deaths in the absence of military necessity. “The analysis is based on 6 case studies involving an alleged 29 civilian deaths.” HRW claims that these deaths should have been avoided, and that IDF drone operators failed to act accordingly.
The term “war crimes” is used 7 times, and the alleged drone attacks are termed “unlawful”. The case is entirely speculative, but the conclusions are stated with absolute assurance, as if the evidence was totally clear. [“During the recent fighting in Gaza from December 27, 2008, to January 18, 2009, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) killed dozens of Palestinian civilians with one of the most precise weapons in its arsenal: missiles launched from an unmanned combat aerial vehicle (UCAV)… (p. 3)… Individuals who have committed violations ……are responsible for war crimes. …Military or civilian personnel found responsible for committing or ordering unlawful drone attacks should be disciplined or prosecuted as appropriate.” p.8].
Instead of credible evidence, this report emphasizes numerous technical and legal claims that are unfounded or irrelevant to the case, but present the facade of expertise. These include references to satellite imaging, detailed maps, precise GPS coordinates, weapons specifications, Geneva conventions, etc., none of which offset the complete absence of verifiable evidence. Additional “evidence” and references are from Palestinian “testimony”, journalists, and other NGO officials.
The lack of credibility is clear regarding each of the following issues: (Continue)