Dear Mr. President:
We are writing to urge you to avoid the disregard for international legal obligations that condemned your predecessor.
The issue concerns investigating or prosecuting torture.
The United States ratified the United Nations Convention Against Torture (CAT) in 1994. Article 12 of the CAT provides: “Each State Party shall ensure that its competent authorities proceed to a prompt and impartial investigation, wherever there is reasonable ground to believe that an act of torture has been committed in any territory under its jurisdiction.”
Dear Mr. President:
One nine-year-old boy said his father had been shot dead in front of him despite surrendering to Israeli soldiers with his hands in the air.
Another youngster described witnessing the deaths of his mother, three brothers and uncle after the house they were in was shelled.
He said his mother and one of his siblings had been killed instantly, while the others bled to death over a period of days.
A psychiatrist treating children in the village of Zeitoun on the outskirts of Gaza City, where the alleged incidents took place, described the deaths as a "massacre".
The Israeli newspaper Ma'ariv reported that the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) had privately admitted using phosphorus bombs, and that the Judge Advocate General's Office and Southern Command were investigating.
The Times first accused Israeli forces of using white phosphorus on January 5, but the IDF has denied the charge repeatedly. Phosphorus bombs can be used to create smoke screens, but their use as weapons of war in civilian areas is banned by the Geneva Conventions.
Eight Israeli human rights groups came together Tuesday to demand the state investigate the army's behaviour in the deadly 22-day assault on the Gaza Strip.
They urged prosecutor general Menachem Mazuz, who is also the government legal adviser, to act "given the scale of the casualties among the civilian population during Operation Cast Lead."
Human rights group Amnesty International accuses Israel of war crimes, saying its use of white phosphorus shells in Gaza was indiscriminate.
"Such extensive use of this weapon in Gaza's densely populated residential neighborhoods is inherently indiscriminate," Donatella Rovera, a Middle East researcher with Amnesty International, said in a statement on Monday.
"Its repeated use in this manner, despite evidence of its indiscriminate effects and its toll on civilians, is a war crime," she charged.
Doctors in Gaza described today how they had struggled to treat dozens of patients with terrible and unusually deadly burns consistent with white phosphorus weapons, during Israel's three-week war in Gaza.
Nafiz Abu Shabaan, head of the burns unit at Shifa hospital and the most senior burns surgeon in Gaza, said 60 to 70 patients had died in his unit during the war from severe burns that were unlike any injury he had previously seen.
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