Differing BBC definitions of human shields in Iraq and Gaza

h/t JC, YM

Back in November we noted the contrast between BBC reporting on the use of human shields by ISIS in the Mosul area of Iraq and its silence concerning Hamas’ use of human shields in the Gaza Strip during the summer 2014 conflict.

As readers no doubt recall, within hours of the 2014 conflict’s commencement the BBC began to repeatedly amplify false claims that Israel was ‘targeting civilians’ – and hence committing ‘war crimes’ – while failing to report Hamas’ placement of military assets (including missile launchers) in populated civilian areas.

BBC News promotes and amplifies falsehood that Israel deliberately targets civilians

Third example of BBC promotion of the lie that Israel deliberately targets civilians  

BBC’s Bowen promotes accusations of Israeli ‘war crimes’

A written report which appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page on March 13th (“IS fighters left in Mosul will die, says US envoy McGurk“) again informed BBC audiences of the use of human shields by ISIS.

‘”Mosul’s liberation is increasingly in sight, albeit with increasingly difficult fighting ahead,” Mr McGurk [US envoy to the multinational coalition] told reporters on Sunday.

He said Iraqi forces were retaking “some of the most difficult ground that we knew would have to be reclaimed”.

He added: “They’re doing this in a dense urban environment facing a suicidal enemy that’s using civilians as shields.”’ [emphasis added] 

A filmed report – also shown on BBC television news programmes – that appeared on the same page of the website on the same day under the headline “Tamer Suhalia Najaf: ‘Three of my daughters were killed’” features an injured civilian from Mosul whose three daughters were killed in an airstrike by Iraqi forces and/or their coalition partners on an ISIS position placed near their house.

In contrast to the BBC’s 2014 reports from the Gaza Strip, viewers of this report did not hear any claims of deliberate targeting of civilians or allegations of ‘war crimes’.

Viewers of another filmed report, which was shown on BBC television news programmes and posted on the BBC News website on March 10th under the title “Battle for Mosul: The high price of freedom“, heard Orla Guerin tell the story of a woman whose house had been taken over by ISIS militiamen.

“She shows us how they hid when IS fighters stormed in to use them as human shields. One went to the roof, she says, but he started to shoot. He attacked the army.” [emphasis added]

As readers may recall, in an August 2014 report titled “Gaza conflict: Allegations of war crimes” the same Orla Guerin told BBC television audiences:

“While there are growing allegations against Israel, it claims civilians here have been used by militants as human shields but so far there’s been no evidence of that.”

Complaints concerning the accuracy of that statement were repeatedly dismissed by the BBC, with the BBC Trust’s Editorial Standards Committee calling the complainants’ definition of human shields into question.

“The Adviser considered first the complainants’ concerns that overwhelming evidence existed at the time that Hamas was using civilians as human shields and that to suggest otherwise was untrue. She noted that one point of dispute was how the term “human shield” was defined – and whether it meant Hamas using the proximity of civilians to deter an Israeli response to their actions or Hamas forcibly moving or keeping civilians in a location, on the basis that it would be likely to reduce the Israeli response.”

When that ESC decision was published in 2015 we noted that:

“The BBC Trust is charged with the task of ensuring that the BBC delivers its mission to inform, educate and entertain its funding public. Not only does the ESC’s ruling on this subject serve to compound the issue of the BBC’s self-censored reporting on Hamas’ use of human shields throughout last summer’s conflict, but it also does nothing to ensure that in relation to other or future conflicts, audiences will benefit from a higher standard of journalism which will ensure that the BBC meets its public purpose remit of building ” a global understanding of international issues”.

That, of course, does not only apply to conflicts involving Israel and Hamas: unless it intends to apply a different standard in the case of other conflicts, the ESC’s adoption of an unsourced interpretation of the definition of human shields which includes only civilians forcibly relocated close to a military objective is bound to affect the accuracy of the BBC’s reporting in Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Ukraine and elsewhere.”

As we see, the BBC has indeed chosen to apply a definition of the term human shields in its reporting from Iraq which is markedly different to the one used in its coverage from Gaza.

Related Articles:

Comparing BBC reporting on human shields in Gaza and Iraq

BBC pot calls the Russian media kettle black

BBC Trust’s ruling on Hamas’ use of human shields makes for future inaccurate reporting

BBC still mum on Hizballah’s human shields in south Lebanon

Back in August we reviewed the BBC’s coverage of Hizballah’s violations of UNSC resolution 1701 throughout the ten years since it was passed.

“The BBC’s public purpose remit commits it to keeping its funding public “in touch with what is going on in the world” and to building “a global understanding of international issues” and so it would be reasonable to assume that audiences have been kept up to date on the issues pertaining to implementation of Resolution 1701 throughout the decade since it was adopted – but is that the case?”

As was noted in that review:

“In 2013 BBC audiences were told by the corporation’s man in Beirut, Jim Muir, that “Hezbollah has scrupulously observed the ceasefire that ended hostilities in 2006”. In 2015 Orla Guerin reported from south Lebanon but failed to use the opportunity provided by a rare BBC visit to that area to inform audiences of Hizballah’s use of civilian villages to store weapons and as sites from which to launch attacks against Israel.”

The IDF recently released a declassified map showing Hizballah’s assets in part of southern Lebanon.

“The map, according to Channel 2 News, features over 200 towns and villages which the organization has turned into its operations bases, and shows over 10,000 potential targets for Israeli strikes in the event of a new war with the terror group.”

idf-map-hizb-assets

BBC audiences, however, remain unaware of this issue and will therefore be incapable of understanding the context to any future Israeli actions which might be necessary to protect the civilian population of northern Israel.

Related Articles:

Reviewing BBC reporting of Hizballah’s violations of UNSC Resolution 1701

Why BBC audiences won’t understand the next Israel-Hizballah conflict – part one

Why BBC audiences won’t understand the next Israel-Hizballah conflict – part two

Comparing BBC reporting on human shields in Gaza and Iraq

As readers no doubt recall, one of the many remarkable features of BBC coverage of the summer 2014 conflict between Israel and terrorist groups in the Gaza Strip was the corporation’s failure to report on Hamas’ use of the local civilian population as human shields.

Not only did BBC journalists refrain from reporting adequately on the issue of Hamas’ placement of military assets in populated areas (with the BBC later claiming that it was “very hard for journalists in Gaza to get to see rockets being fired out”) and the terror group’s instructions to civilians to stay put in such areas but some BBC correspondents even went out of their way to deny the phenomenon.

“I saw no evidence during my week in Gaza of Israel’s accusation that Hamas uses Palestinians as human shields.” Jeremy Bowen, July 22, 2014.

“While there are growing allegations against Israel, it claims civilians here have been used by militants as human shields but so far there’s been no evidence of that.” Orla Guerin, August 13, 2014.

Complaints from members of the public on that issue were eventually dismissed by the BBC Trust’s Editorial Standards Committee in a tortured and self-contradicting ruling which adopted an interpretation of the term human shields that conflicts with existing definitions. The ESC advisor wrote:

“…there may not be universal agreement over the meaning of ‘human shield’ – and whether this should be understood to mean the deliberate placement of civilians near combat targets (and preventing them from leaving) or simply firing from residential areas.” 

In contrast to that ‘radio silence’ on the topic of Hamas’ use of human shields in Gaza in 2014, recent BBC coverage of the multinational military operation to drive ISIS out from the Mosul area in Iraq which began on October 16th has included several reports concerning that terror group’s use of human shields.human-shields-1

Just three days after the operation commenced, the BBC News website published an article titled “Mosul battle: US says IS using human shields” which amplified statements made by one of the parties to the Combined Joint Task Force conducting the operation.

“The US has accused Islamic State (IS) militants of using civilians as human shields as Iraqi forces move closer to the group’s stronghold in Mosul. […]

Asked by reporters in Washington if IS was using civilians as human shields, Pentagon spokesman Navy Captain Jeff Davis said “absolutely”.

“They are being held there against their will,” he said on Tuesday. “We have not seen any change in the last day of people leaving or fleeing.”

Residents reached by telephone by Reuters news agency said IS was preventing people fleeing the city and had directed some of them towards buildings likely to be targeted by air strikes.”

The report did not include any indication of independent BBC confirmation of those claims.

October 21st saw the publication of an article headlined “Mosul battle: IS ‘may use civilians as human shields’” which amplified speculative statements made by a UN official.

“At least 200 Iraqi families have been made to leave their homes for Mosul by Islamic State (IS) fighters and could be used as human shields, the UN warns. […]

Zeid Raad Al Hussein, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, said there was “a grave danger that ISIL fighters will not only use such vulnerable people as human shields but may opt to kill them rather than see them liberated,” using an acronym for IS.”human-shields-2

On October 28th the BBC News website published a report titled “Mosul Iraq battle: ‘Tens of thousands of civilians’ used as IS human shields” which again amplified UN statements.

“Islamic State (IS) militants have abducted tens of thousands of civilians from around the Iraqi city of Mosul to use as human shields, the UN says. […]

“Credible reports” suggested that civilians in sub-districts around Mosul had been forced from their homes and relocated inside the city since the offensive began earlier this month, UN spokeswoman Ravina Shamdasani said. […]

“Isil’s depraved cowardly strategy is to attempt to use the presence of civilian hostages to render certain points, areas or military forces immune from military operations, effectively using tens of thousands of women, men and children as human shields,” Ms Shamdasani added, using an acronym for IS.”

Once again, there was no indication of the BBC having independently confirmed those reports before their publication.

On November 7th visitors to the BBC News website and viewers of BBC television news saw a filmed report titled “Battle for Mosul: IS ‘herded human shields like sheep’“.

“The BBC’s Karen Allen spoke to residents of one town near Mosul who say they were used as “human shields” by retreating militants.”

So as we see, within less than a month since the launch of the military operation against ISIS in the Mosul region, BBC audiences were alerted to the terror group’s use of civilians as human shields on at least four occasions. The majority of those reports were based on information provided by outside sources and – in contrast to the 2014 reports from the Gaza Strip, where the corporation did have journalists on the ground in the relevant areas – the BBC apparently did not find it necessary in this case to find “evidence” of its own before reporting on the use of human shields by ISIS. 

Visiting BBC journalist provides some refreshing reporting

A BBC correspondent usually based in Mexico City is currently visiting Israel and on July 12th produced two reports – one written and one filmed – relating to the tenth anniversary of the Second Lebanon War.

In her filmed report titled “On patrol with the Israel Defense Forces on Lebanon border” Katy Watson gave viewers a rare view of Hizballah’s use of the residents of southern Lebanon as human shields.Watson filmed

“The soldiers tell me they can see weapons being stored in areas where civilians live.”

That important and usually overlooked information was also available to readers of her written report titled “Israel ‘readier’ for new Hezbollah war“.

“In these stakeouts, troops keep an eye on Hezbollah operatives around the clock. From what they see, the weapons Hezbollah has are being stored in civilian areas.

“Every mission that I’ve been on personally has been observing Hezbollah operations in a heavily populated area,” says one of the soldiers, Gabriel. “In a house with a family living in it or in a house next door or behind it.”

Israel has long said that it will target places where the weapons are stashed. It warns if war breaks out, Lebanese casualties would be high.”

Both reports also include information about Hizballah’s rehabilitation of its missile arsenal since the 2006 war.Watson written

“Hezbollah was damaged, but rebuilt over the past decade with the help of Iran and Syria. Israel says the group’s firepower is now much greater than before the war.

“Now they have more than 120,000 rockets and missiles,” says General Yaakov Amidror, a former national security advisor, now with the Begin-Sadat Centre for Strategic Studies at Bar-Ilan University near Tel Aviv.

“It’s a huge number that you don’t find in any country in Europe for example. When you see all these efforts, you ask yourself one question – what for?””

While more could have been done to provide audiences with information concerning Iran’s provision of funding and weapons to Hizballah and neither report addresses the fact that Hizballah’s weapons stockpiles are a violation of UNSC resolution 1701 that ended the 2006 war and a clear indication of the impotence of the UNIFIL forces in southern Lebanon, these two reports by Katy Watson are nevertheless a refreshing change in the landscape of BBC Israel-related reporting.

It is not every day that we come across a BBC journalist who is content with telling a story rather than telling audiences what to think about a story. 

Hamas terror cash shoes not news for the BBC

As has been noted here on numerous occasionsover the past two years the BBC has avoided providing its audiences with any serious reporting on the topic of Hamas’ efforts to build up its infrastructure in Palestinian Authority controlled areas and certainly has not proffered any analysis of how that factor has influenced the surge in terrorism seen over the last ten months.

Concurrently, the BBC’s portrayal of the reasons for restrictions on entry to Israel from the Gaza Strip is often at best superficial and at worst misleading; particularly when its journalists elect to amplify populist notions of “collective punishment” but ignore cases in which entry permits are abused for the purpose of terrorism.

A recent announcement from the Israeli security forces highlights both those issues as well as that of Hamas’ deliberate use of the civilian population of the Gaza Strip as human shields – a topic which the corporation has similarly failed to adequately address.

The Jerusalem Post reports:Euros

“A joint Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency), Israel Police Southern District and IDF operation resulted in the arrest on June 16 of 65-year-old Faiz Atar from Bet Lahia in Gaza, who had a permit to enter Israel to conduct trade. […]

The Shin Bet said the suspect hid cash in his shoes for Hamas, and smuggled tens of thousands of euros to terrorist operatives in the West Bank.
As the investigation continued, the domestic intelligence agency gleaned valuable information on Atar’s family in Gaza and their activities on behalf of Hamas, including tunnel digging.

“It emerged that his sons made use of his home to meet with Hamas operatives. The investigation revealed information on tunnel openings, which are partly located underneath civilian structures – including innocent civilian residential buildings and mosques – and rocket launch locations, which are located near civilian structures in a manner that endangers the civilian population in the Strip,” the Shin Bet said in a statement.”

In addition:

“Security forces nabbed a Gazan resident at the Erez Crossing in June with 10,000 euros stuffed in his shoes, intended for Hamas operatives in the West Bank. When the suspect, identified as Jabaliya resident Itallah Sarahan, 37, was questioned, security forces learned that he received a permit to enter Israel for trade purposes two weeks prior to his arrest.

On his first day visiting Israel, a Hamas policeman on the Gazan side of the crossing asked Sarahan if he would smuggle cash to Hamas in the West Bank. Sarahan “expressed his willingness to do so,” the Shin Bet said, leading the Hamas police officer to take him to a meeting with the Islamist regime’s operatives, who paid him for the mission and provided him with special shoes in which the money was hidden.”

The BBC cannot possibly claim to be meeting its remit of enhancing “audiences’ awareness of international issues” as long as it continues to avoid such stories and the broader issues behind them and the omission of that context of course shapes audience views of Israeli counter-terrorism measures. 

 

 

A Polish reporter’s account of the human shields the BBC refused to see

Last year the BBC Complaints department responded to complaints concerning the lack of BBC coverage of terrorist missile fire from the Gaza Strip by claiming that “it was very hard for journalists in Gaza to get to see rockets being fired out” and by citing a filmed report by Orla Guerin from August 12th 2014 as support for the claim that it did in fact report “on allegations that Hamas and other militants put Palestinian civilian lives at risk by operating from residential areas, as well as launching rockets near schools and hospitals”.BBC Trust

Earlier this year the BBC Trust’s ESC produced a decidedly tortured and self-contradicting verdict rejecting complaints from members of the public about a statement made by Orla Guerin in that same filmed report from Gaza in which she said that there was “no evidence” to support the claim that civilians in the Gaza Strip were being used as human shields.

The Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz recently published an article by Polish Radio’s foreign correspondent Wojciech Cegielski in which he recounts some of his own experiences whilst in the Gaza Strip last summer.

“Yes, Israel bombed Palestinian houses in Gaza. But Hamas is also to blame for its cruel and selfish game against its own people. I do not have hard evidence, but for me, spending a month in the middle of this hell, it was obvious that they were breaking international rules of war and worst of all, were not afraid to use their own citizens as living shields.

The first incident happened late in the evening. I was in the bathroom when I’ve heard a loud rocket noise and my Spanish colleague, a journalist who was renting a flat with me near the Gaza beach, started to scream. He wanted to light a cigarette and came to one of the open windows. The moment he was using his lighter, he saw a fireball in front of his eyes and lost his hearing.

From what our neighbors told us later, a man drove up in a pickup to our tiny street. He placed a rocket launcher outside and fired. But the rocket failed to go upwards and flew along the street at ground level for a long time before destroying a building. It was a miracle that nobody was hurt or killed.

When we calmed down, we started to analyze the situation. It became obvious that the man or his supervisor wanted the Israel Defense Forces to destroy civilian houses, which our tiny street was full of. Whoever it was, Hamas, Iz al-Din al-Qassam or others, they knew that the IDF can strike back at the same place from which the rocket was fired. Fortunately for us, the rocket missed its target in Israel.

The second story happened in the middle of the day. I was sitting with other journalists in a cafe outside one of the hotels near the beach. During wartime, these hotels are occupied by foreign press and some NGOs. Every hotel is full and in its cafes many journalists spend their time discussing, writing, editing stories or just recharging the phones. Suddenly I saw a man firing a rocket from between the hotels. It was obvious that we journalists became a target. If the IDF would strike back, we all would be dead. What would Hamas do? It would not be surprising to hear about the “cruel Zionist regime killing innocent and free press.”

For me, provoking is also creating living shields.”

Mr Cegielski’s testimony joins the many others provided by foreign reporters who were working in the Gaza Strip at the same time as unprecedented numbers of BBC journalists. Curiously, the BBC would have us believe that its own staff somehow failed to witness what so many others have already described and it continues to clutch at a definition of human shields which does not stand up to scrutiny.

BBC Trust’s ruling on Hamas’ use of human shields makes for future inaccurate reporting

The BBC Trust’s latest publication of editorial appeals findings (March 2015 – published on 30/4/15) includes the result of requests for appeals concerning complaints made about a filmed report by Orla Guerin which was broadcast in August 2014 – available from page 84 here.BBC Trust

The requests for appeals were not granted and the BBC Trust Editorial Standards Committee’s response concerning one aspect of those requests is particularly worthy of note. Summarising the original complaints, the ESC states:

“A second point of complaint concerned the reporter’s assertion that there was no evidence for Israel’s claim that Palestinian militants were using their own civilians as human shields. Complainants said there was abundant evidence.”

Summarising the appeal stage, the ESC notes that complainants stated that:

“…the report inaccurately stated that “there was no evidence of the use of human shields” by Palestinian militants when there was evidence at the time of broadcast; the reporter would have been aware of it and chose to ignore it.”

Orla Guerin’s report was broadcast on BBC One’s ‘News at Ten’ on August 12th and appeared on the BBC News website on August 13th – i.e. well over a month after the commencement of Operation Protective Edge.Guerin ISM report

The ESC states:

“The [Senior Editorial Complaints] Adviser then considered the second issue raised by the complaint, that the highlighted sentence in the following section of commentary was inaccurate:

REPORTER: While there are growing claims against Israel, it claims that civilians here have been used as human shields – but so far there’s been no evidence of that. During this conflict Palestinian militants have kept a low profile, avoiding the cameras. But we know that at times they have operated from civilian areas. A rocket was fired from this waste ground about ten days ago. There was no ceasefire at the time – but you can see that just across the road, there are people living in these apartments. These images were filmed by Indian TV just up the road. They appear to show militants firing rockets near their hotel (Captions “Hamas team assembles rocket under tent” and “Hamas rocket fired from residential area”).”

In fact, Guerin said:

“While there are growing allegations against Israel, it claims civilians here have been used by militants as human shields but so far there’s been no evidence of that.” [emphasis in bold added]

The ESC continues:

“The Adviser considered first the complainants’ concerns that overwhelming evidence existed at the time that Hamas was using civilians as human shields and that to suggest otherwise was untrue. She noted that one point of dispute was how the term “human shield” was defined – and whether it meant Hamas using the proximity of civilians to deter an Israeli response to their actions or Hamas forcibly moving or keeping civilians in a location, on the basis that it would be likely to reduce the Israeli response. She noted that the ECU [Editorial Complaints Unit] had addressed this point:

“I would accept that there may not be universal agreement over the meaning of ‘human shield’ in this context – and whether this should be understood to mean the deliberate placement of civilians near combat targets (and preventing them from leaving) or simply firing from residential areas. However I am not sure this distinction is significant in this context, given that viewers were told and shown evidence of what they had done to put civilian lives at risk.”

She also noted and agreed with the ECU’s statement in response to the script line that there was “no evidence” to support claims that Hamas had used human shields:

 “To refer to the ‘evidence’ put forward by one side would not necessarily endorse their version of events and to that extent I would agree that this might have been better worded.”

The Adviser considered, however, that the issue for her to consider was whether the choice of wording would have misled the audience on a material fact. She noted the broader context in which the sentence appeared. She noted the following extract from the ECU finding to one of the complainants:

“Given the explicit references to rockets fired from civilian areas and the inclusion of this footage I can see no prospect of audiences believing that this was not happening or that the actions of Hamas were not putting civilians at risk – which seems to me to be the central charge against them. I would accept that there may not be universal agreement over the meaning of ‘human shield’ – and whether this should be understood to mean the deliberate placement of civilians near combat targets (and preventing them from leaving) or simply firing from residential areas. However given that viewers were told and shown evidence of what they could be proven to have done to put civilian lives at risk, I am not sure this distinction is significant in this context.” […]

The Adviser concluded that the audience would have been likely to have understood that there was a case for Hamas to answer in relation to the allegation that it was using civilians as human shields and that taking the section as a whole, the reporter had gone as far as she was able, with the facts that she was able to verify.

The Adviser decided neither point of complaint would have a reasonable prospect of success and the complaint should not proceed to appeal.”

In other words, one the one hand the BBC is claiming that despite Orla Guerin’s categorical statement that there was no evidence of Hamas using human shields, audiences were not misled and would have understood that in fact it was doing just that because she went on to show footage of a residential area from which missiles had been fired. On the other hand the BBC is also claiming that it is not sure that the residents of areas from which missiles were fired were actually human shields because it thinks there is a dispute regarding the definition of human shields. Obviously any reasonable viewer would have interpreted Guerin’s sequence of commentary as supporting that interpretation of the definition of human shields as applying only to people who have been actively and forcibly placed in a certain location.

The ESC then notes that:

“Two of the complainants to the consolidated appeal requested that the Trustees review the Adviser’s decision not to proceed.”

The ESC’s decision was as follows:

“The Committee acknowledged the complainants’ reference to international law. However, Trustees considered that it was clear from the report that the correspondent attached a precise meaning to her words when she said there was “no evidence” so far that civilians “had been used as human shields”.

The Committee observed that the complaints, whilst clearly made in good faith, were predicated on testing the content by isolating a single sentence rather than considering the report overall and by a misinterpretation of what the reporter had actually said. It noted, for example, the section of commentary which followed:

“During this conflict Palestinian militants have kept a low profile, avoiding the cameras. But we know that at times they have operated from civilian areas. A rocket was fired from this waste ground about ten days ago. There was no ceasefire at the time. But you can see that just across the road there are people living in these apartments.”

The Committee agreed that the subsequent sequences offered further clarification and would have accurately informed the audience that, even without actual evidence of civilians being coerced, there was substantial circumstantial evidence that Hamas had a case to answer.

The Committee therefore agreed with the Adviser that the complaint would not have a reasonable prospect of success were it to proceed to appeal.”

As we see, assorted BBC bodies state that the definition of human shields is unclear and appear to adopt a stance according to which if civilians have not been coerced, they are not acting as human shields. Those claims, however, do not stand up to scrutiny.

“The prohibition of using human shields in the Geneva Conventions, Additional Protocol I and the Statute of the International Criminal Court are couched in terms of using the presence (or movements) of civilians or other protected persons to render certain points or areas (or military forces) immune from military operations.[…]

It can be concluded that the use of human shields requires an intentional co-location of military objectives and civilians or persons hors de combat with the specific intent of trying to prevent the targeting of those military objectives.”

Likewise, as pointed out by Tali Kolesov Har-Oz and Ori Pomson:

“In international humanitarian law (IHL), the term “human shields” concerns “civilians or other protected persons, whose presence or movement is aimed or used to render military targets immune from military operations.” The use of human shields both in international armed conflicts (IACs) and in non-international armed conflicts (NIACs) is considered a violation of customary international law (von Leeb, 15 ILR 395, n.1; ICRC, Rule 97). Treaty law directly prohibits such practice in IACs (GCIV 28; API, art. 51(7)) and indirectly in NIACs (e.g., CA 3 with Category ‘C’ Claims, 109 ILR 441). […]

The specific elements relevant to the definition of the crime of using human shields in the International Criminal Court’s Elements of Crimes document are as follows:

The perpetrator moved or otherwise took advantage of the location of one or more civilians or other persons protected under the international law of armed conflict.

The perpetrator intended to shield a military objective from attack or shield, favour or impede military operations.

In order to fulfil the required actus reus in Element 1 of the crime, it is not necessary to force civilians to relocate close to a military objective. The mere placement of military assets in the vicinity of civilians fulfils this requirement. [emphasis added]

Since the actus reus of this crime is rather broad, it seems that great emphasis is placed on the mens rea. Thus, in order to be considered a crime of using human shields, the actus reus must be performed with the intention to “shield a military objective from attack or shield, favor or impede military operations.” Additionally, this crime does not require any result; rather, it focuses solely on the acts and intention of the belligerent fearing an attack.”

Whilst the ESC notes that it “considered that it was clear from the report that the correspondent attached a precise meaning to her words when she said there was “no evidence” so far that civilians “had been used as human shields””, it does not acknowledge that by the time Orla Guerin produced her report, there was in fact ample evidence of that practice [see also related articles below].

“It is widely reported that the acts of Hamas clearly fall within the actus reus of the crime, through the placement of ammunition, rocket launchers and other military assets in civilian homesmosqueshospitals and schools. While this practice has been the focus of widespread condemnation (see here a statement by the US Secretary of State), Hamas has openly and explicitly endorsed this policy. For example, a Hamas spokesperson called on Palestinians in Gaza to “oppose the Israeli occupation with their bodies alone,” explaining that this was an effective way to thwart Israel’s attacks. This was followed by other, similar statements, such as this one by Hamas’s Interior Minister. These are all examples of the ways in which Hamas “took advantage of the location of one or more civilians.” The particular intent behind these acts is also easily established. In these statements, Hamas officials admit openly and explicitly that their intention is to use the civilian population in Gaza in order to shield their rockets and operatives.”

Neither does the ESC examine the relevant question of why the BBC had not only failed to report adequately on the issue of Hamas’ use of human shields throughout the month of conflict which preceded Guerin’s report, but in some cases had broadcast content which even denied the phenomenon – a practice which one BBC editor also continued outside his organization.

The BBC Trust is charged with the task of ensuring that the BBC delivers its mission to inform, educate and entertain its funding public. Not only does the ESC’s ruling on this subject serve to compound the issue of the BBC’s self-censored reporting on Hamas’ use of human shields throughout last summer’s conflict, but it also does nothing to ensure that in relation to other or future conflicts, audiences will benefit from a higher standard of journalism which will ensure that the BBC meets its public purpose remit of building ” a global understanding of international issues”.

That, of course, does not only apply to conflicts involving Israel and Hamas: unless it intends to apply a different standard in the case of other conflicts, the ESC’s adoption of an unsourced interpretation of the definition of human shields which includes only civilians forcibly relocated close to a military objective is bound to affect the accuracy of the BBC’s reporting in Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Ukraine and elsewhere.

Related Articles:

BBC fails again to report Hamas order to civilians to act as human shields

BBC’s Bowen tries to persuade TV audiences that Hamas does not use human shields

BBC films Hamas human shields policy in action: fails to explain to audiences

The return of the template BBC response to complaints

BBC WS presenter: filmed evidence of Hamas’ misuse of hospitals is ‘rumours on the internet’

Indian TV network shows what the BBC does not

Hamas PR department invokes BBC’s Bowen

 

One to Watch: Jerusalem conference on Law of War

Among many notable aspects of the BBC’s coverage of Operation Protective Edge last summer was the extensive promotion of pseudo-legal claims made by both political NGOs and some of its own correspondents. Concurrently, BBC audiences heard reporters make frequent use of legal language such as ‘collective punishment’ and ‘disproportionality’ – although not necessarily always in its correct context – and particularly notable was the BBC’s ‘creative’ interpretation of the issue of Hamas’ use of human shields.

Readers with an interest in such topics may like to know that the Israel Law Center is holding a two-day conference in Jerusalem this coming week – May 4th and 5th – titled ‘Towards a New Law of War’. Conference sessions will be live-streamed (registration is available at the above link under ‘live stream’) and include two panel discussions which may be of particular interest to our readers.

On May 4th at 10:45 Israel time:

Panel 1

On May 4th at 13:45 Israel time:

Panel 2

The full programme can be viewed here.

Related Articles:

Law of Armed Conflict, Gaza and the BBC

More on the Law of Armed Conflict, Gaza and the BBC

 

Hamas PR department invokes BBC’s Bowen

Readers may have heard about the Hamas social media campaign which recently invited Twitter users to ‘#AskHamas’. It is safe to say that the results of that PR drive did not exactly meet the terrorist organisation’s expectations and the topic was picked up by the mainstream media – see for example here, here and here.

Whilst Hamas did not answer most of the Tweets sent its way, here is one which did receive a reply:

Hamas tweet Bowen

Clearly the BBC Middle East editor’s efforts to whitewash Hamas’ use of human shields during last summer’s hostilities did not go unnoticed by that internationally recognised terrorist organisation.

The civilian population of the Gaza Strip might, however, be somewhat less appreciative of that politically motivated reporting from the man supposedly responsible for ensuring the accuracy and impartiality of the BBC’s Middle East content. 

 

BBC pot calls the Russian media kettle black

h/t MW

In an article titled “Ukraine conflict: Is Russia stoking war or pushing peace?” published on the BBC News website’s Europe page on January 20th, Moscow correspondent Sarah Rainsford made the following observations:BBC logo

“For months, Moscow has accused a “fascist” government in Kiev of conducting a “punitive” operation – even genocide – against Russian speakers in Donetsk and Luhansk.

That message is hammered home daily by state-controlled television, which portrays patriotic rebel warriors alongside helpless civilians under attack by indiscriminate Ukrainian artillery. The fact that insurgents frequently fire from residential areas is never mentioned.”

The caption to a picture used to illustrate the article also informed audiences that:

“Russian state TV depicts rebels in Donetsk and Luhansk as warriors defending civilians”

Those observations may indeed be accurate and justified, but one does have to note the irony of the fact that the BBC finds it worth pointing out to audiences that the Russian state media’s failure to report that “insurgents frequently fire from residential areas” is one method used to influence the public’s perception of the hostilities in Ukraine. 

After all, it took the BBC itself no fewer than thirty-six days to get round to telling its audiences that “at times” terrorists in the Gaza Strip “have operated from civilian areas” in its coverage of last summer’s conflict between Hamas and Israel. And when members of the public complained about the corporation’s failure to report adequately on the issue of terrorist missile fire from residential areas, they were informed that “[i]t was very hard for journalists in Gaza to get to see rockets being fired out”.

If the BBC is serious about safeguarding its reputation as an accurate, impartial and independent reporter of news, it might care to examine how – and why – its own reporting of the conflict between Hamas and Israel was tailored to influence public opinion in ways apparently not all that different from those used by Russia’s non-independent media outlets.