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Human Rights Watch today canceled a news conference planned for Thursday, August 30, 2007 in Beirut, citing reports by Hezbollah-controlled media about planned demonstrations to prevent the scheduled event at the Crowne Plaza hotel, and the hotel’s decision to disallow the news conference.

Human Rights Watch had called the news conference to release “Civilians Under Assault: Hezbollah's Rocket Attacks on Israel in the 2006 War,” a new 128-page report criticizing Hezbollah for its conduct during the 2006 war with Israel, in particular Hezbollah’s practice of deliberately and indiscriminately firing rockets toward Israeli civilian areas.

“Hezbollah is trying to silence criticism of its conduct during the 2006 war,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, director of Human Rights Watch’s Middle East and North Africa division. “But the fairness and accuracy of our reporting will speak for themselves, whether we hold a press conference or not.”

This report is one of a series by Human Rights Watch examining compliance of parties to the 2006 war with international humanitarian law. On September 6, Human Rights Watch is releasing in Jerusalem a report critical of Israel’s conduct in its attacks on Lebanon, a comprehensive follow-up to a report released during the war, titled “Fatal Strikes: Israel's Indiscriminate Attacks Against Civilians in Lebanon”.

“Our focus is on the protection of civilians wherever they may be, and not about taking sides in a conflict,” said Whitson.

In the course of preparing the report, Human Rights Watch repeatedly sought meetings with Hezbollah officials and solicited information in writing from them, with no substantive response. But starting on August 28, 2007 the Hezbollah-controlled al-Manar television station and website ran repeated stories criticizing Human Rights Watch for its planned news conference and reporting that Lebanese organizations were mobilizing to “prevent” the news conference.

Al-Manar television and falsely stated that Human Rights Watch had been assisted by unspecified Lebanese parties in preparing the news conference. It refused repeated requests to provide Human Rights Watch an opportunity to present its report and respond to the accusations. Due to security concerns following the decision of the hotel where the conference was planned to cancel the venue, Human Rights Watch has decided not to relocate Thursday's news conference and to publish the report for immediate release.

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