What came first? The chicken — or Protocol I Additional to the Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949?

Commenter Alex thinks my concern about the killing of chickens belonging to Palestinian civilians during the bombing of Gaza doesn't really capture the gravitas of the Gaza situation:
with all do respect to the atrocity of killing 31,000 chickens: it is horrible and unmoral but it is not a humanitarian crime or a crime against humanity. We can protest, but we can't trial people for that
And since I think this might be a common misconception, I did some legwork and dug up the relevant legal points for you, gentle reader.

You might not think that killing chickens could be a crime against humanity, but it can be, and in this case, it is.

What follows is my reply to Alex, lightly edited for clarity:

As to your last point I must disagree in the strongest possible terms. International Humanitarian Law is crystal clear on this matter. The demolition of the chicken farm was completely and obviously illegal. It was a war crime, and quite possibly a crime against humanity.

The first and most clear violation is of article 52 of Additional Protocol I to the Geneva Conventions, ratified in 1977. Which, notably, Israel has not ratified. However, it is now accepted throughout the world as being customary international law, and the IDF is completely bound by it.

Art. 52 of Protocol I states that
1. Civilian objects shall not be the object of attack or of reprisals. Civilian objects are all objects which are not military objectives as defined in paragraph

2. Attacks shall be limited strictly to military objectives. In so far as objects are concerned, military objectives are limited to those objects which by their nature, location, purpose or use make an effective contribution to military action and whose total or partial destruction, capture or neutralization, in the circumstances ruling at the time, offers a definite military advantage.

3. In case of doubt whether an object which is normally dedicated to civilian purposes, such as a place of worship, a house or other dwelling or a school, is being used to make an effective contribution to military action, it shall be presumed not to be so used.
I don't seem to remember chickens having military applications, unless of course the Palestinians have somehow gotten hold of a "Blue Peacock" nuclear device. And foodstuffs that are also (indeed, primarily) used for civilian populations are not legitimate targets.

Secondly, this is also a blatant violation of article 55 of the fourth Geneva Convention, ratified in 1949, and which Israel HAS ratified. Article 55 states that:
To the fullest extent of the means available to it, the Occupying Power has the duty of ensuring the food and medical supplies of the population; it should, in particular, bring in the necessary foodstuffs, medical stores and other articles if the resources of the occupied territory are inadequate.

The Occupying Power may not requisition foodstuffs, articles or medical supplies available in the occupied territory, except for use by the occupation forces and administration personnel, and then only if the requirements of the civilian population have been taken into account. Subject to the provisions of other international Conventions, the Occupying Power shall make arrangements to ensure that fair value is paid for any requisitioned goods.

The Protecting Power shall, at any time, be at liberty to verify the state of the food and medical supplies in occupied territories, except where temporary restrictions are made necessary by imperative military requirements.
In case you were wondering, "imperative military requirements" does not include "because we've blocaded Gaza again", "because we're busy bombing the civilian population" or "because we felt like it".

The definition of "crimes against humanity" contained in the Rome Statute of the ICC is basically really bad things – including war crimes – being done in a systematic way. A system of oppression which derives a people of basic neccesities easily falls under this heading. The destruction of the chicken coops may have been tougher on the chickens than the people in the area. But it was also beyond a shadow of a doubt a crime of war and almost certainly part of a system of abuse which constitutes a crime against humanity.


(all photos by Flickr user Rafahkid, CC-BY-SA. The photos do not display the destruction of this particular chicken farm, but of another destruction of a chicken farm. You could almost think they were targeting chicken farms intentionally! Rafahkid has more photos of this incident in his photostream.)

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Anonymous Peter Olsen said...

The KGB chicken's coming home to roost.

The Motives of Russia's Pro-Gaza Vote
Online political newsletter Counter Punch has posted an interesting piece on Russia's decision to endorse the Goldstone Gaza report in the United Nations Human Rights Council last week. Although I can't agree with the broad summation that Russia's vote indicates a black-and-white pro-justice stance, given that its human rights record on other foreign policy issues is so poor. The contradiction just goes to show that political decisions that appear to be made benevolently in the interests of human rights usually have some ulterior driving point. In this case, the motives may not be clear, but you can bet there's something other than concern for human kindness at work here...

From Counter Punch:

Israel began courting Russia, hoping to build bridges and to enlist Moscow in its cause. Avigdor Lieberman, Israeli Moldova-born Foreign minister, met ten times with his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov; Netanyahu flew to Moscow on a "secret mission" for a talk with Medvedev, and President Peres met with Medvedev in Sochi. They wanted Russian support for Iran sanctions and for silencing the Goldstone report. They said to the Russians that it would create a dangerous precedent: If today they judge Israeli ministers and generals for Gaza, tomorrow they will judge Russian ministers and generals for Chechnya. This is a false comparison: Chechens are Russian citizens with full rights, Gazans have no rights at all; Chechens are free to travel and live in Moscow or elsewhere, Gazans are not allowed to leave their concentration camp. Though Russia's campaign against Chechen separatists was bloody and cruel, it could not be compared with the cold-blooded murder the Israelis unleashed on Gaza.


October 26, 2009 4:43 pm  
Anonymous ThomasLG said...

Interessant blogg, må følges :)

October 26, 2009 7:24 pm  

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