As the signatories to the Geneva Conventions gather Dec. 17 to review conditions in the Occupied Palestinian Territories,  Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor calls on participants to demand respect by Israel for the treaty’s enshrined principles and implement a mechanism that ensures accountability.

The Geneva Conventions are international treaties ratified by more than 190 countries that impose rules limiting the barbarity of war. They protect people who do not take part in fighting (including civilians, medics and aid workers) as well as those who can no longer fight (such as the wounded, sick and prisoners of war).The Dec. 17 meeting was called by the government of Switzerland, the “depository” of the Fourth Geneva Convention --which specifically protects civilians in occupied territories -in response to a request from the Palestinian Authority after it signed the convention in April.Since the convention was first drafted in 1949, signatories have met only twice, in 1999 and 2001 --both times to deal with Israel.

“It’s no surprise that Israel is not only refusing to attend, despite passing the conventions in 1951, but is calling on other countries to boycott the meeting,” says Maha Hussaini [Euro-Med Monitor spokesperson]. “After all, we are in the midst of one of the worst stages of Israeli violations of the most basic requirements for the protection of civilian human rights. It is trying desperately to avoid accountability for the more than 1500 civilians killed in just 50 days this summer, including 530 children; the estimated 1000 who are now handicapped for the rest of their lives; and the more than 20,000 families who still are living in inadequate shelter in the middle of the winter more than three months later.”

Euro-Med Monitor also notes that Israel is increasingly engaging in behavior that amounts to “armed conflict,” sustaining an ongoing virtual assault on the West Bank and East Jerusalem via mass, arbitrary arrests; home demolitions; and settlement expansion.

The organization, a human rights advocate focused on the Middle East/North Africa region, calls for the Geneva Conventions’ members – particularly the European Union states – to insist on action.

“International law must be more than words,” insists Hussaini. “A mechanism is needed to ensure that signatories are monitored, investigated when there is evidence that they may have violated their commitments and held to account when they are found guilty. That means, in part, allowing signatory states to try violators in their own courts. It is time to end the assumption of impunity.”