Sunday, November 1, 2009

African Union holds key to Rafah Crossing: "Will they use it?"

On October 29, 2009, the National Association of Muslim American Women (NAMAW), a US based NGO and member of the UN Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinians, sent an appeal to all of the members of the African Union requesting that the African Union take jurisdiction over the Rafah Crossing, and provide the necessary military and security support to insure that the crossing is operated safely, and efficiently.

The African Union, which has adopted the UN Rome Statute as a guide for its own set of human rights laws, has the authority to take jurisdiction from Egypt, since Egypt is a member of the African Union, and bound by its human rights laws, and is subject to the African Union’s authority. It is clear that by keeping the crossing closed, and denying Palestinian’s humanitarian aid, including food, medicines and medical supplies, and also building materials and equipment, that Egypt is in violation of Articles 6 and 7 of the Rome Statute that prohibits genocide and crimes against humanity. Egypt is also blatantly violating the African Union’s human rights laws and principles.

It is clear from even a cursory review of the Rome Statute that both Israel and Egypt are in almost certainly in violation of article 6, which prohibits genocide. The Statute describes genocide as “acts committed to destroy, in whole or part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group ...” The statute includes such acts as “ killing members of the group, causing serious bodily harm or mental harm to members of the group, deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part, imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group, forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.”

They are also likely in violation of Article 7, “Crimes against Humanity” which is described by the Rome Statute as “acts committed as part of a widespread or systemic attack directed against any civilian population, with knowledge of the attack.” According to the Rome Statute such acts include, but may not be limited to murder, extermination, torture, rape, persecution against any identifiable group or collectivity on political, racial, national, ethnic, cultural, religious, gender or other grounds...”

Under the above mentioned definition, the Rome Statue also criminalizes apartheid, and “other inhumane acts of a similar character intentionally causing great suffering or serious injury to body, or physical health.”

Whereas much is being made of Israel’s history of alleged war crimes and refusal to abide by UN resolutions in respect to Palestine, and especially in respect to its continued and illegal economic siege on Gaza, little has been said about the fact that Israel’s embargo could not succeed if Egypt, a supposedly Muslim and Arab nation/state, was not providing full support and cooperation, making it possibly a co-conspirator with Israel in the conduct of these crimes.

Since there is little hope that either the EU or US will use their considerable influence over Israel, to lift the illegal embargo, it is clear that the only hope now is for the people of the Muslim and Arab world to come together to insist that Egypt end its possibly criminal cooperation with Israel, and act according to international law by opening the Rafah Crossing.

There must also be greater pressure applied by the international Muslim religious authorities who can call for Muslim and Arab boycotts of Egyptian goods, along with boycotting Israeli goods, should Egypt also thumb its nose at the African Union.

Muslim, Arab and African people are shocked by Egypt’s stubbornness in respect to permanently re-opening the Rafah Crossing, and many suspect that this stubbornness is being driven by a new lucrative industry that has sprung up in Egypt that is dependant upon illegally confiscated aid and goods intended for Gaza, along with bribes paid by activists who want to enter the strip for humanitarian causes, and also bribes paid by journalists.

Egypt has begun to auction off the goods intended for Gaza that it confiscates from tunnels under the guise of searching for weapons. If the goal is to prevent the re-arming of Gaza, why is food and equipment confiscated and why can’t these confiscated items be delivered by Egyptian security to the Gazans? Previously Egypt burned and even allowed donated foods to rot, rather than to allow the people of Gaza to receive and benefit from the humanitarian aid, illegally confiscated by Egypt at the borders and also in the makeshift tunnels. This shows that it is Egypt’s clear intent to deny the people of Gaza the sustenance and medical aid required for their survival, and that this denial is based purely upon the Egyptian, US, PA and Israeli desire to undermine the elected government, and to overthrow Hamas.

Hopes are high, that since Libya’s leader Muammar Qaddhafi, known for his fiery speeches in support of the Palestinian’s ongoing struggle, is the present head of the AU, that the Union will use its power and authority to end the illegal siege on Gaza by permanently re-opening the Rafah crossing, and possibly bringing charges of genocide and crimes against humanity against Egypt in its own criminal court. The AU can also recommend to the International Criminal Court, that an investigation immediate into Egypt’s wrong doing get underway, while giving jurisdiction over the crossing, which is in Africa, to the African Union.

With winter and the cold weather approaching quickly, it is of the utmost importance that adequate shelter, clothing, food and medical care be made immediately available for the people of Gaza. The African Union holds the key to the Rafah Crossing; let’s pray that they will use that key to save the lives of the people of Gaza.

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