The latest report of the group Human Rights Watch (HRW)
is noteworthy not only for its subject but because it constitutes an attempt to examine critically both individual and organizational responsibilities on the subject of suicide bombings.
Kenneth Roth, executive director of HRW, when interviewed after the report's publication, stated that: "The people who carry out suicide bombings are not martyrs, they're war criminals, and so are the people who help to plan such attacks," and added, The scale and systematic nature of these attacks sets them apart from other abuses committed in times of conflict. They clearly fall under the category of crimes against humanity."
"The 170-page report is the first full-fledged examination of individual criminal responsibility for suicide bombings against civilians in Israel and the Israeli-occupied territories. The report, Erased in a Moment: Suicide Bombing Attacks against Israeli Civilians, also provides the most thorough study to date of the suicide bombing operations of Hamas, Islamic Jihad, the al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), the groups that have claimed responsibility for almost all recent suicide bombings."
In my opinion, some of the most important points raised in the Report are those devoted to discuss the arguments invoked to justify those terrorist actions. In particular, attempts of justification based on the linkage between israeli armed repression in the territories and suicide bombings . These arguments have been repeatedly used not only by the terrorist organizations themselves but by a number of sectors of international public opinion. In this respect the Report states:
Palestinian armed groups have sought to justify suicide bombing attacks on civilians by pointing to Israeli military actions that have killed numerous Palestinian civilians during current clashes, as well as the continuing Israeli occupation of the West Bank and much of the Gaza Strip. Such excuses are completely without merit. International humanitarian law leaves absolutely no doubt that attacks targeting civilians constitute war crimes when committed in situations of armed conflict, and cross the threshold to become crimes against humanity when conducted systematically, whether in peace or war. As the latter term denotes, these are among the worst crimes that can be committed, crimes of universal jurisdiction that the international community as a whole has an obligation to punish and prevent.
International humanitarian law governing situations of armed conflict prohibits even attacks against civilians that are said to have been carried out in reprisal for attacks against one's own civilian population. This principle is set out in both the Fourth Geneva Convention and in Additional Protocol I. Even apart from these treaties, a strong trend has developed in international customary law over the past two decades to prohibit reprisals against civilians. This ban on reprisals is not dependent on reciprocal compliance by opposing forces. Even in the face of Israeli violations of international human rights and humanitarian law, Palestinian armed groups have a duty to refrain from reprisals against civilians.