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November 01, 2002

Human Rights Watch: Suicide bombers guilty of war crimes

GAZA CITY (CNN) -- Those who plan and carry out suicide bombings that deliberately target civilians are guilty of crimes against humanity and must be brought to justice, a leading humanitarian watchdog group said in a report released Friday.

The 170-page report from New York-based Human Rights Watch assessed the suicide bombing operations of Hamas, Islamic Jihad, Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), the groups that have claimed responsibility for most recent suicide bombings. The report says the leaders of such groups should face criminal investigation.

Human Rights Watch also said the Palestinian Authority and its president, Yasser Arafat, have failed to do all they can to stop suicide attacks or bring the perpetrators to justice, thus contributing to "an atmosphere of impunity" for such crimes.

"The people who carry out suicide bombings are not martyrs, they're war criminals, and so are the people who help plan such attacks," said Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch. "The scale and systematic nature of these attacks sets them apart from other abuses committed in times of conflict. They clearly fall under the category of crimes against humanity."

. . . Specifically, the group said Hamas' Sheikh Ahmed Yassin and Khalid Mish'al and Islamic Jihad's Ramadan Shalah must face criminal investigation for their roles in such crimes. Criminal investigation is also warranted for the PFLP and Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, it said.