Scotland: Amnesty calls for suspension of arms transfers to Israel and Hizbullah

Following the allegations in The Daily Telegraph (UK airport used to fly bombs to Israel 26.7.06) that Prestwick Airport has been used as a staging post to transport UK ‘bunker-busting bombs’, Amnesty International is calling for the suspension of all arms and military equipment to the parties in the Lebanese conflict, and for such flights not to use Scottish airports to facilitate these transfers.

Amnesty International Secretary General Irene Khan has today published an Open Letter addressed to foreign ministers meeting in Rome to discuss the crisis in Lebanon and Israel.

The letter calls on ministers attending the meeting to use their influence to “ensure that Hizbullah and Israel comply with international humanitarian law”, pointing out that “the evidence so far … indicates that serious violations of the laws of war have been committed and continue to be committed by both sides in the conflict.”

Amnesty International’s letter calls for much more urgency from the international community - noting that the efficient evacuation of foreign nationals “contrasts sharply” with the slow pace of the international community’s response to the wider crisis.

Specifically, Irene Khan’s letter calls on delegates at the Rome conference to:

*Make clear to the parties to the conflict, at the highest level, that it is a war crime to target civilians or civilian objects or to carry out indiscriminate and disproportionate attacks and that they are obligated to conduct criminal investigations of anyone suspected of serious violations of international humanitarian law during the conflict.

*Suspend all sales and transfer of arms and military equipment to the parties to the conflict and ensure adequate oversight arrangements are in place to prevent such transfers, and support a UN Security Council arms embargo

*Press the parties to the conflict immediately to establish and guarantee humanitarian corridors for the provision of urgent humanitarian assistance to civilians affected by the conflict and safe passage for humanitarian workers.

*Call for the urgent dispatch of an International Humanitarian Fact-Finding Commission, established under Article 90 of Protocol I relating to the Protection of Victims of International Armed Conflicts, to investigate incidents where serious violations of the Geneva Conventions and the Protocol are alleged to have taken place.

Amnesty International’s letter - in urging Rome’s foreign ministers to use their influence to ensure the protection of civilians in Lebanon and Israel, and to bring conflicting parties into compliance with international humanitarian law - is also warning that there should be no impunity for perpetrators of war crimes in this conflict.

The full text of the Open Letter is available on request.

Contact: Rosemary Burnett on 0131 313 7014 or 07818453070 or Naomi McAuliffe on 0131 313 7010

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