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Israel must suspend plan to demolish homes of suspected terrorists: HRW

[JURIST] Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] on Sunday asked the Israeli government to stop official plans [letter text] to demolish or confiscate the homes of those suspected of terrorism, calling such plans a violation of international law. The request by HRW came after Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak [official website, in Hebrew] on Wednesday ordered the demolition [Jerusalem Post report] of a home owned by the family of a suspected terrorist. HRW Middle East director Sarah Leah Whitson said of the demolition plans:

Proposals to allow the Israel Defense Forces to resume the collective punishment of house demolitions would mark a substantial step backward in Israel’s respect for human rights – a return to illegality. ...Punishing people for the crimes of others is no solution to terrorism. Israel should focus on bringing to justice those who actually plan or carry out attacks.
HRW officials wrote that the demolition policy violates both Article 17 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and Article 53 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which prohibits all property destruction in occupied territories except as "absolutely necessary" for military reasons. They also alleged violations of Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention [texts] because the demolitions are collective punishments affecting people who are not suspected terrorists.

In February 2005, then-Israeli Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz [BBC profile] ordered a halt [JURIST report] to the destruction of homes of suspected terrorists after a committee report showed that the policy was inflaming tensions with Palestinians. The policy was initiated in 2000 in an attempt to deter terrorists who did not want to leave their families homeless, or to encourage families to turn in those plotting attacks. Under the plan, about 670 homes were destroyed. Israeli and international human rights groups have objected to the policy, condemning it [B'Tselem backgrounder] as a form of collective punishment affecting innocent individuals.

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