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European Commission Aid to the Occupied Palestinian Territories

Letter to E.C. President José Manuel Barroso

We write regarding the issue of European Commission (E.C.) aid to the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT) in light of Hamas’s victory in the Palestinian elections of January 25.

February 9, 2006

Mr. José Manuel Barroso
President of the European Commission
1049 Brussels
Belgium

Dear President Barroso,

We write regarding the issue of European Commission (E.C.) aid to the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT) in light of Hamas’s victory in the Palestinian elections of January 25.

On February 2, the European Parliament voted to continue aid payments to Palestinians as long as any future government led by Hamas complies with certain conditions, noting that future aid “will be dependent on the new government's clarification on denouncing violence and recognizing Israel.” We urge you to use your financial leverage vis-à-vis the Palestinian Authority (P.A.) to promote respect for international human rights and humanitarian law.

Human Rights Watch supports conditioning aid to any government that is responsible for grave violations of international human rights or humanitarian law. Human Rights Watch has called on the Hamas leadership to permanently end all attacks, including suicide bombing and Qassam rocket attacks, against Israeli civilians and to announce publicly and without delay that in the future it will not carry out or permit under any circumstances attacks that target civilians or cause them indiscriminate harm. As you know, Hamas declared and largely has maintained a moratorium on such attacks for more than a year, but has never made a commitment to end them or, if it assumes the reins of government, to prevent such attacks by others. Under international law, attacks that intentionally kill and maim civilians, whether carried out by a state or by non-state actors, are among the most serious crimes, and may constitute war crimes or crimes against humanity.

If elements of any new Palestinian government plan, execute, or sanction attacks against civilians, international donors should suspend their direct financial aid to the P.A. In the case of the E.C., this direct aid amounted to 70 million of its 280 million Euro aid package to the OPT in 2005. To the extent that funds directly channeled to the P.A. are used for humanitarian purposes, such as medical care or education, steps should be taken to re-route that aid through nongovernmental entities.

Another 210 million euros of E.C. aid is earmarked for refugee, humanitarian and development assistance through international agencies, such as the United Nations Relief and Works Agency and the European Community Humanitarian Office. In our view, such humanitarian aid via third-party organizations should not be affected by any suspension of direct aid to the P.A.

We look forward to continued dialogue with the E.C. regarding these issues.

Sincerely,

Sarah Leah Whitson
Executive Director, Middle East and North Africa Division

Cc: Ursula Plassnik, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Republic of Austria

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