Is­raeli ex­pert says armed chil­dren in ser­vice of ISIS can be tar­geted

The Jerusalem Post - - NEWS - • By YONAH JEREMY BOB (Screen­shot)

Though chil­dren have al­ways had a pro­tected sta­tus in war, armed ISIS chil­dren may be tar­geted un­der the laws of armed con­flict, IDC Her­zliya Prof. Daphné Richemond-Barak told The Jerusalem Post.

“If chil­dren are hold­ing a gun then di­rect par­tic­i­pa­tion in hos­til­i­ties rules ap­ply to chil­dren... chil­dren might be tar­gets and not just vic­tims,” she said on Wed­nes­day.

Richemond-Barak and Syra­cuse Univer­sity Prof. Wil­liam C. Banks spoke to the Post in the midst of the In­ter­na­tional In­sti­tute for Counter-Ter­ror­ism Con­fer­ence in Her­zliya, dis­cussing a range of bat­tle­field and law is­sues rang­ing from sub­ter­ranean war­fare to new stan­dards for tar­geted killings.

The premise of Richemond-Barak’s com­ments about armed ISIS chil­dren as tar­gets is that un­til ISIS started to use them on a mass scale, the is­sue of West­ern coun­tries go­ing up against large num­bers of chil­dren sim­ply had not come up.

That meant that chil­dren were vic­tims and pro­tected from tar­get­ing as a given.

ISIS’s tac­tic of arm­ing chil­dren on a mass scale changed that par­a­digm and re­quired tak­ing a new look at the “new bat­tle­field” and how to ap­ply the laws of war.

Re­gard­ing the sea change of new is­sues con­fronting mil­i­tary lawyers on the bat­tle­field, Banks noted that his univer­sity and the In­ter­na­tional In­sti­tute for Counter-Ter­ror­ism started to work on so­lu­tions to these is­sues dat­ing back to 2006.

Banks said, “Dur­ing the 2006 Le­banon war we were here are on the IDC cam­pus... mulling over what was hap­pen­ing. It was clear from the cir­cum­stances that the frame­work we had been us­ing in the West and in Is­rael was in­ef­fec­tive be­cause the fight­ing was of a new kind.”

He said that cur­rently many West­ern ad­ver­saries “do not use uni­forms, use un­con­ven­tional tac­tics, un­con­ven­tional weapons, are fail­ing to fol­low the laws of war, are hid­ing in civil­ian neigh­bor­hoods and are [us­ing hu­man] shield­ing.”

The Syra­cuse Univer­sity pro­fes­sor said that the le­gal frame­work needed to be up­dated to deal with chal­lenges posed by non-state ac­tors abus­ing the laws of war, while re­main­ing com­mit­ted to prin­ci­ples such as “the rule of law, pro­tect­ing civil­ian and treat­ing all com­bat­ants with dig­nity ac­cord­ing to the laws of war.”

Richemond-Barak added that in 10 years of con­fer­ences, their group of US, Is­raeli and other le­gal schol­ars have “al­ways tried to in­vite a mix of mil­i­tary of­fi­cials... to get them in with the lawyers, be­cause the di­a­logue is so im­por­tant, the con­ver­sa­tion be­tween lawyers and non­lawyers... we need to im­pact pol­icy de­ci­sions at the op­er­a­tional level.”

Fur­ther, she said, “it is im­por­tant that” many of the meet­ings “take place in Is­rael,” since the coun­try is the front line where so many is­sues arise.

Ad­dress­ing another new is­sue, Banks said that the US and Is­rael were re­veal­ing far more in­for­ma­tion about what in­tel­li­gence and other is­sues led to at­tacks that ul­ti­mately led to harm­ing civil­ians, even if the harm to civil­ians was un­in­ten­tional.

One ex­am­ple was the 2015 mis­taken US at­tack on a hos­pi­tal in Kun­duz, Afghanistan, which killed 42 peo­ple in­no­cent civil­ians. Banks com­pli­mented the US for un­prece­dented dis­clo­sure of how the mis­taken at­tack had oc­curred and for its dis­ci­plin­ing of more than a dozen mil­i­tary per­son­nel.

How­ever, hu­man rights groups had crit­i­cized the US for not fully dis­clos­ing how and why its in­tel­li­gence failed and for not crim­i­nally pros­e­cut­ing its sol­diers in­volved.

Banks said, “Both Is­rael and the US govern­ment have made more con­ces­sions to­ward trans­parency in this area than any other West­ern govern­ment since World War II; whether we will see more is doubt­ful.”

He em­pha­sized that de­spite opin­ions by some UN and hu­man rights of­fi­cials that state in­ves­ti­ga­tions of civil­ian ca­su­al­ties in war must re­veal more of what led to in­tel­li­gence mis­takes, states have a “firm cul­tural norm to pro­tect their in­tel­li­gence sources and meth­ods.”

Richemond-Barak re­ferred to the dilemma of how West­ern coun­tries can up­hold their obli­ga­tion to warn civil­ians to leave an area they plan to at­tack when re­lat­ing to tun­nel war­fare.

She threw out the pos­si­bil­ity of broad­cast­ing “a very loud sound un­der­ground,” but added she was “not sure it could work” and that to date no coun­try has come up with a warn­ing that could be im­ple­mented.

Ex­plain­ing that stan­dard warn­ings cur­rently in­volve drop­ping leaflets and send­ing text mes­sages, Richemond-Barak em­pha­sized that these can­not be done in prac­tice in the tun­nel con­text no mat­ter the good in­ten­tions.

She of­fered that new per­spec­tives on new bat­tle­field sit­u­a­tions must also be ready to ad­mit that obli­ga­tions such as the duty to warn may some­times “be vir­tu­ally im­pos­si­ble to im­ple­ment.”

YOUNG IS­LAMIC STATE fol­low­ers pre­pare to ex­e­cute Kur­dish fight­ers from the YPG Peo­ple’s Pro­tec­tion Units in a video the ter­ror­ist or­ga­ni­za­tion re­leased on Oc­to­ber 26, 2016.

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