Amnesty International Says Sorry For 'War Crimes' Slur

Chloe Markowicz - Thursday 14th January 2010

Israeli tanks in Gaza

Amnesty International has been forced to apologise to Northern Ireland Friends of Israel for accusing leaders of the group of defending "war crimes committed by Israel".

In a letter published in the Belfast Telegraph this week, Patrick Corrigan, programme director of the human rights campaign group in Belfast, admitted he had "incorrectly accused Steven Jaffe and Terry McCorran of Northern Ireland Friends of Israel [NIFI] of attempting to defend war crimes committed by Israel". He said that the co-chairs of NIFI had "made no such attempt" and offered his "full apologies for any hurt or embarrassment" caused.

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The clarification came after both Amnesty International and NIFI published letters in the Northern Irish newspaper referring to the unique feature of British law that is being used to issue arrest warrants for Israeli officials visiting the UK. Amnesty International said the law should remain as it is, whereas NIFI supported a change.

Jaffe said: "We attracted Amnesty's ire when we pointed out that it was undermining its own core values by defending flawed legal processes in the UK that are being used to try to arrest visiting Israelis on war crimes charges. Amnesty should be at the forefront of ensuring proper safeguards are in place against the abuse of these processes."

Jaffe acknowledged that Corrigan was quick to admit his mistake after NIFI said it would be seeking legal advice against him. However, he told the Jewish News Corrigan apologised for saying only that NIFI had defended war crimes. Jaffe said: "In his apology he is referring to Israeli war crimes as if they were an established fact.

"Unfortunately, the words 'war crimes' and 'Israel' trip off the tongue all too lightly so far as Amnesty is concerned. In this case those who call themselves friends of Israel are described as 'defenders of war crimes'." Corrigan claimed he had confused NIFI with other supporters of Israel who had contacted him.

The Zionist Federation said: "Regretfully by apologising, Amnesty International did not withdraw its accusation of Israel committing war crimes. It joins other organisations that seem to have set the de-legitimisation of Israel as their top priority."

In July, Amnesty International accused both Israel and Hamas of committing war crimes during the Gaza offensive.

Read the latest copy of The Jewish News Online by clicking here.

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