In 2015, Jeremy Corbyn was elected leader of the British Labour Party. This political faction prides itself in representing all sectors of society, specifically minorities and oppressed communities. In line with the party’s ideology, Corbyn has been depicted as a champion of human rights through condemning countries and leaders that violate them and standing up for persecuted peoples. For example, Corbyn criticized British Prime Minister Theresa May on International Human Rights Day for holding talks with delegates from Saudia Arabia and Bahrain, notorious violators of international human rights laws.
But while Mr. Corbyn seems to hold a steadfast position on human rights, his support for certain groups and organizations contradict his purported values. Specifically, their his support for the terrorist organization Hamas has created controversy:
In 2009, Corbyn urged the British government to remove Hamas and its leadership from the British list of condemned terrorist groups. That same year, Corbyn invited representatives from Hamas and Hezbollah to a meeting in the British parliament. Hamas and Hezbollah are both currently classified as terrorist groups by the European Union and the United States of America. During his speech, Corbyn referred to Hamas and Hezbollah as “friends” and “hardworking”.
With the British leaders’ support of the organization, it is important to evaluate Hamas’ poor Human Rights record.
Hamas and Human Rights
The Palestinian Resistance Movement Hamas has been categorized as a terrorist organization by the international community and condemned for their multitude of human rights abuses. The following presents specific examples in which the organization violates international law.
Torture is labeled as a violation of international law in Article 5 of the United Nation’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
From December 2016 through March 2017, 38 complaints of torture were reported to the Independent Commission for Human Rights. Reports in Gaza include beatings, suspending detainees to which his shoulders became dislocated, and making prisoners stand in uncomfortable positions for long periods of time.
Arbitrary arrest, detention or imprisonment is labeled a violation of international law in Article 9 of the United Nation’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Hamas has passed legislation that imprisons any Palestinian for 10 years if they are caught interacting with Israeli NGOs. That means any hospital staff or families of patients interacting with an organization like “Save a Child’s heart,” which provides free cardiac treatment, would be arrested by Hamas.
The security forces also arrest Palestinians whom they claim dress improperly. Some men committed the crime of what the authorities called “pop-star” haircuts, while others had pants that were too low or too tight. These perpetrators were arrested, had their heads shaved, and beaten.
Article 55 of the Charter of the United Nations outlines “universal respect for, and observance of, human rights and fundamental freedoms for all without distinction as to race, sex, language or religion”.
And even though Articles 17 and 18 of the Hamas Charter define the mother the head of household charged with furthering the education of her children and preparing them to fulfill religious commandments, the organization’s treatment of women is anything but egalitarian:
Freedom of Thought and Expression
Under article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, “everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion”.
While Muslims represent 99% of the population in Gaza, there is a very small minority of Christians, constituting about 1% within the territory. Even though the Hamas Charter claims to allow them to live peacefully under Islamic rule, Christians are constantly harassed and threatened by Hamas. For example, shortly after the terrorist group assumed control of Gaza, Hamas burned down and invaded a church and Catholic school.
A Christian bookstore in Gaza was burned down that same year. The owner of the store was also kidnapped and killed by Hamas.
Under Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, all people have the “right to freedom of opinion and expression…without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers”.
The media in Gaza has been under Hamas’ control since 2007, with journalists only allowed to report on topics approved by the government.
Western journalists reporting on the poor living conditions in Gaza are subject to threats and mistreatment by Hamas. Many recounted that Hamas officers have destroyed or confiscated their materials and cameras due to depicting the true situation within the territory.
According to the convention of the Rights of Children and the UN Declaration of Human Rights, recruitment and Use of Children is one of the grave violations against children during armed conflict. The UN defines a child as anyone under the age of 18.
Izzedim Kassam, the military wing of Gaza, implemented a program in 2013 that youth from the ages 15 to 17 in preparation for combat. Some of the lessons in this program include handling grenade launcher and urban warfare.
Human shields are considered a war crime, is described by the Rome Statue as: “utilizing the presence of a civilian or other protected person to render certain points, areas or military forces immune from military operations”.
From June 13th to August 26th 2014, during the Israeli-Hamas conflict, the citizens of Gaza were under constant threat from Hamas. The group often uses their own people as human shields by carrying out terrorist activities in civilian areas.. These infrastructures are then targeted and bombed because they are the origin site of rocket fire. And while Israel warns Palestinians to evacuate beforehand, Hamas operatives stop citizens from leaving, intentionally putting their own people in direct danger.
The bodies of those killed in Gaza are then showcased to the media to rally against Israel, but really they in reality victims of the Hamas terrorist agenda.
As outlined above, Hamas has clearly violated a multitude of UN Human Rights and international laws. However, British Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn has made statements and carried out actions supporting the organization.
The United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights outlines the laws and values that all nations and leaders must abide by. The principals set out are supposed to be followed whether at home or abroad by signatory nations. Mr. Corbyn’s contradicting commitment to the Declaration and his support of Hamas, a gross violator of human rights, undermines the legitimacy and importance of Human Rights in Gaza and validates the abuses of the Hamas government. With Great Britain being a leading world power, turning a blind eye to the terror carried out in Gaza can only lead others to follow and further human rights violations to continue into the future.