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US State Department’s softer attitude toward terrorist use of human shield
Published Date: 04/09/2018 (Tuesday)

By Daya Gamage – Asian Tribune Political Note

When there is an outcry against the use of human shield by terrorist groups and a clear condemnation of terror groups using such inhuman tactics endangering innocent unarmed civilian lives to face the legitimate armed attacks of conventional forces, the Trump Administration’s State Department is currently working to quash a new legislation now before the U.S. Senate that would sanction such terror groups for using human shields.

The State Department is reportedly opposed to the legislation due to its hesitance to sanction groups such as Hezbollah in Lebanon, where the United States continues to provide massive amounts of military aid that has repeatedly made its way to Hezbollah forces.

A group of senators earlier this year introduced the bipartisan STOP Using Human Shields Act. The bill imposes sanctions on those who use or facilitate the use of human shields.

While the new legislative effort to target terrorists who force civilians into dangerous combat zones has won bipartisan support in the US Senate, the State Department has quietly been working for months to kill the bill and prevent lawmakers from moving the legislation.

Republican Senator Ted Cruz who was instrumental in sponsoring the bill said. “Unfortunately, organizations like the United Nations incentivize this barbaric tactic by blaming civilized countries, who do everything possible to avoid civilian casualties, for whatever civilian casualties that do occur. The United States should hold accountable the monsters who commit these war crimes. This bill will impose consequences on those who enable and facilitate the use of human shields.”

Sri Lanka was one of the countries that fell victim to UN Human Rights Commission in Geneva and the wrath of the US State Department during the 2006-2009 for using its military strategy against the separatist/terrorist Tamil Tigers. The Tiger-use of human shield that cost thousands of unarmed civilian lives in the northern battle front was secondary to Washington when it blamed Sri Lankan authorities for causing civilian deaths. Those who aided and abetted the Tamil Tiger terror campaign domiciled in the United States and other western countries have gone Scott free. The bipartisan US Senate bill has a clause to make such persons responsible and strip their permanent residency in the United States.

Human shields, which are routinely used by terror groups, enable terrorists to inflate the number of civilian casualties and avoid military reprisals from more conventional forces.

The United States has not publicly released any official guidelines for determining whether a civilian shield is acting voluntarily or is being involuntarily forced to cover a target. Thus, it appears that U.S. forces must make this determination based on all reasonably available intelligence, the specific circumstances leading up to a strike, and subject to a good faith requirement. The on-the-ground assessment of a shield’s classification is complicated by the fog of war, under which, as the 2015 US Department of Defense War Manual says, “Information is often limited and unreliable.” Consequently, targeters need only “make [these] decisions in good faith and based on the information available to them.”

As the US sees, if the human shields are voluntary, however, a second inquiry is required: are the volunteers direct participants in hostilities? Answering this first requires defining what constitutes direct participation in the context of shields. According to the War Manual to be considered “taking part in direct hostilities,” individuals must, “at a minimum, take actions that are, by their nature and purpose, intended to cause actual harm to the enemy”. The ICRC agrees with the U.S. position. In this case ‘enemy’ means conventional forces.

In making the determination of whether a voluntary shield is directly participating in hostilities, the Manual
Recent evidence suggests that the United States is not likely to target human shields even when it has the legal authority to do so.

Since the Eelam War IV was concluded, the US Department of State - in two reports released by its Office of Global Crimes - alleged the Sri Lanka military of discriminately using heavy military artillery which cause the deaths of unarmed civilians. The USG went far as the UN Human Rights Commission in Geneva to bring resolutions against the GSL from 2010 through 2014.

However during final months of the Eelam War IV, the state department and foreign offices of EU nations continually appealed to the LTTE not to use unarmed civilians as human shield and urged to allow the civilians to move toward the GSL declared No-Fire Zones to prevent mass casualty.

The US Senate bipartisan bill – STOP Using Human Shield Act – imposes sanctions on foreign persons responsible for serious violations of international law regarding the protection of civilians during armed conflict.

The bill states that the U.S. Congress finds the following:

(1) The international law of armed conflict prohibits, during any armed conflict—

(A) The exploitation of the presence or movement of civilians in an effort to impede attack on or otherwise shield lawful targets;

(B) Using such persons to impede attack on or otherwise shield lawful targets; and

(1) Violating these prohibitions regarding civilians and other specially protected persons is known as the use of ‘‘human shields’’ and is a serious violation of international law subjecting those responsible to individual criminal liability.

(2) When law-abiding armed forces do attack in such situations, the party using human shields frequently hopes to discredit the law-abiding opponent by blaming the opponent for civilian casualties, which are in fact attributable to the unlawful use of human shields. (NOTE: Since the LTTE was defeated in 2009, Sri Lanka was blamed in this manner)

(3) Terrorist groups routinely use human shields to force law-abiding opponents to conduct attacks in circumstances where civilian casualties become unavoidable. (NOTE: When Sri Lankan forces were in combat with the LTTE, the latter use of human shield unavoidably cased civilian deaths)

(4) In accordance with the proportionality rule, an assessment of the legality of attack indicates that these terrorist groups bear responsibility for such casualties when such attack is otherwise legally permissible.
(
(5) The international community has routinely failed to hold terrorist organizations and their personnel accountable for the use of human shields. (NOTE: This was the case of Sri Lanka. Those who aided and abetted the LTTE endeavor are still at large enjoying US hospitality)

The bill proposes to impose sanctions:

Sanctions Described.—The sanctions described in this subsection are the following:

Blocking Of Property: The President shall exercise all of the powers granted to the President under the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (50 U.S.C. 1701 et seq.) to the extent necessary to

(a) block and prohibit all transactions in property and interests in property of a foreign person or agency or instrumentality of a foreign state on the list required by subsection

(b) if such property or interests in property are in the United States, come within the United States, or are or come within the possession or control of a United States person.

Current Visas Revoked: Any visa or other documentation issued to an alien who is a foreign person on the list, regardless of when such visa or other documentation was issued, shall be revoked and such alien shall be denied admission to the United States.

The State Department is currently working to quash the above bipartisan Senate legislation giving a clear indication that the use of human shield by terrorist groups has strategic importance and benefit to Washington.

Source:  Asian Tribune -

 

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