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Another brick out of the wall

So - our daily slog-to the-office here at the London Amnesty HQ is getting back to normal after the Tube strikes been called off (though, hey, when is commuting in London ever normal?).But imagine your daily commute if the military in the neighbouring country had set up a 200-mile-long wall that separated you from your workplace. And, for good measure, imagine that the same military had also set up 500-plus manned checkpoints - each with its own snaking queue and arbitrary habit of suddenly refusing all crossings.


Thats how it is in the Palestinian West Bank and now Israels High Court has declared that a mile-long stretch of the hugely controversial Israeli security wall/fence is illegal and should be re-routed.

This is definitely a victory for local Palestinian campaigners, including the farmers from the West Bank village of Bili'in who should now get proper access to their own fields. Even better news is the fact that Israels Ministry of Defence has said that it will abide by the ruling (which is actually more than it did when in 2004 the International Court of Justice ruled the entire barrier illegal where it was built on Palestinian land).

The history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is riddled with international measures that fail and resolutions that get ignored, but at least this important decision might restore some equity to the wall situation from now on.

As we showed in an Amnesty report in June, the combined effect of the wall and the checkpoints has been to dramatically undermine normal life for thousands of entirely innocent ordinary Palestinians. The fence/wall often cuts deep into Palestinian farming land, completely encircles some villages, and 80% of it is actually built on Palestinian territory, not on the actual border with Israel.

Then there are the checkpoints. The West Bank is littered with hundreds of them (not to mention numerous illegal Israeli settlements). And remember, the West Bank is actually comparatively small (5,600km2): altogether, were talking about 550 checkpoints and hundreds of temporary sites (flying checkpoints) in a place smaller than Devon.

Overall, this adds up to collective punishment - and its wrong. Israel has every right to defend its citizens from armed attacks, it has absolutely no right to do this at the expense of innocent Palestinians. Listen for yourself to this Palestinian bank worker talking about the daily checkpoint grind in the 8.40am item on Today, and also check out our new blog from the West Bank - just in today.

Meanwhile, there's a big feature in today's Guardian about the scale of human trafficking into Britain. It shows how people who endure sex slavery are still not given proper protection even after being rescued from unbelievable degradation and suffering.

Theres a powerful new book called Enslaved (by Rahila Gupta) out on this - and Rahila will be appearing at a special Amnesty event on 19 September. Sign up now.

About Amnesty UK Blogs
Our blogs are written by Amnesty International staff, volunteers and other interested individuals, to encourage debate around human rights issues. They do not necessarily represent the views of Amnesty International.
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