War crimes and other trials

After three weeks of shelling and with over 1,200 people killed and more than 5,000 wounded, the Israeli bombardment of Gaza is finally, or at least temporarily, over. All reports describe the peace as fragile, with Hamas demanding that IDF troops are out within 7 days (without seeming to be in a position to demand very much) and Israel rejecting their demands. I hope we wont be blogging about a resumption of hostilities next Monday.

While theres understandably a lot of discussion about the ceasefire and humanitarian relief and reconstruction (at a cost of $1.6 billion, according to Ian Blacks conflict in numbers briefing in the Guardian) the issue of War Crimes must not be forgotten, as Robert Fisk reminds us in todays Independent. With civilian casualties appallingly high, UN buildings including schools targeted by IDF missiles and reports of illegal use of White Phosphorus weapons, this cant just be forgotten as the media turns its eyes to tomorrows Washington street party.

Amnesty is calling for a prompt investigation of alleged war crimes by all parties to the conflict, not least the shelling of the UN Relief Agencys compound last week. Theres a temptation to keep starting afresh when pursuing peace in the middle east, but no durable peace will be found if no-one is held to account for grave abuses of human rights and the Geneva Conventions.

The difficulties and the importance of accountability for abuses is also a big issue for Turkey this week, as Prime Minister Erdogan goes to Brussels to revive the countrys EU accession hopes. Today is the second anniversary of the murder of Hrant Dink, the Armenian journalist who was prosecuted, threatened and eventually killed for trying to promote peaceful discussion of Armenian identity and official versions of history in Turkey regarding the 1915 massacres of Armenians.

According to the Hurriyet newspaper, Hrant Dinks lawyer Fethiye Çetin said the murder trial had failed to garner the momentum necessary to find the real culprits over the past two years, and that police departments and the gendarmerie had failed to share intelligence. Two years on, justice and accountability are still some way off.

Later this week, Turkeys willingness and ability to hold officials to account for human rights abuses will again be tested, as 60 state officials implicated in the death of Engin Ceber go on trial Wednesday.  Twenty-nine-year-old Engin Çeber died on 10 October last year after he was allegedly kicked and beaten with wooden and metal bars both in police custody and in prison over a period of nine days.

Freedom of expression, respect for human rights and accountability for officials implicated in abuses are all issues that have plagued Turkeys moves towards EU accession. We may see later this week how seriously they take these challenges.

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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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