Annan tells council to demand truce

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan urged the Security Council yesterday to condemn a deadly Israeli attack on the Lebanese village of Qana and to call for an immediate ceasefire.

Gulf News

United Nations: UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan urged the Security Council yesterday to condemn a deadly Israeli attack on the Lebanese village of Qana and to call for an immediate ceasefire.

Annan spoke to an emergency council meeting he called after the Israeli air strike on Qana.

The council went into closed-door consultations and could later issue a statement on the attack.

But a resolution drafted by France calling for an immediate end to fighting, outlining conditions for a permanent ceasefire and an international force in south Lebanon will not be considered until later in the week.

"We must condemn this action in the strongest possible terms and I appeal to you to do likewise," Annan said.

"I am deeply dismayed that my earlier calls for an immediate cessation of hostilities were not heeded," Annan said. "I repeat this call once again from this chamber and I appeal to the council to do likewise."

Annan said Lebanon's Prime Minister Fouad Siniora told him Beirut would not engage in any more diplomatic discussions until violence had stopped.

Israel's air strike on Qana has fuelled calls for an immediate ceasefire that the United States is still resisting.

The United States is under pressure from European and Arab allies to call for an early truce, though so far it shows no sign of softening its stand that a cease-fire cannot preserve the status quo. It can block any council action.

Washington backs Israeli demands for the Lebanese army, bolstered by an international force, to deploy to the south of the country currently controlled by Hizbollah, which is raining rockets down on towns in northern Israel.

Annan said no one disputed Israel's right to defend itself "but its manner of doing so is causing death and suffering." He also condemned Hezbollah's shelling of northern Israel and its "unprovoked" capturing of two Israeli soldiers.

Did you know?
Geneva conventions definition of war crime

According to the Geneva Conventions, a war crime is akin to a serious breach of international humanitarian law during national or international armed conflict.

"The Geneva Conventions don't specifically mention war crimes but instead talk about serious breaches," says Laurent Colassis, lawyer at the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).

"They are based on the definition of a war crime according to article VIII of the statutes of the international criminal court," Colassis said.

According to the ICRC, several other legal documents contain a definition of war crimes such as the statutes for the international tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda.

The notion of a war crime covers the following acts:

  • Deliberate homicide of a protected person (such as an injured or sick combatant, a prisoner of war, a civilian).
  • The torture or inhumane treatment of a protected person.
  • The act of deliberately causing great suffering or seriously infringing on the physical integrity or health of a protected person.
  • The act of submitting a civilian population to an attack.
  • The deportation or illegal transfer of populations.
  • The use of prohibited weapons or methods of war.
  • The misuse of the distinctive symbol of the red cross, the red crescent or other symbols of protection.
  • The act of killing of injuring people belonging to a nation or a hostile army using deceitful methods.
  • Looting of public or private property.