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 IranThe United States House of Representatives recently passed legislation condemning the use of civilians as human shields, a violation of internationally recognized human rights currently being practiced by Hizballah. The Sanctioning Hizballah’s Illicit Use of Civilians as Defenseless Shields Act is currently being reviewed by the United States Senate Committee on Foreign Relations.

Hizballah is a terrorist organization originally formed by Iranian extremists in Lebanon. They are responsible for terrorist attacks all over the world, including bombings of the United States embassy in Lebanon, suicide bombings in Bulgaria and barrack attacks in Beirut. The organization has been operating in Lebanon for decades, sustaining political power by holding nearly half of the seats in Lebanon’s cabinet and National Assembly. Hizballah has maintained a reputation for being the most successful anti-Israel group in the Middle East, gaining support from Arab nationalists as well as Iran and Syria.

Hizballah is currently putting Lebanese lives at risk by placing military strongholds within Lebanese villages. They seize civilian homes, hospitals and schools and use them to store weapons and house troops. Over 200 villages are currently being used by Hizballah for military purposes, mainly in southern Lebanon. The terrorist organization is essentially using civilians as human shields to try and protect their military with no regard for their safety. If conflict were to occur between Israel and Hizballah, which is likely and recurrent, civilians will be caught directly in the middle of the violence. These practices are in direct violation of Article 58 of the Geneva Conventions precautioning against the effects of attacks, which state that parties of conflict must avoid locating military objectives in densely populated areas and take precautions to protect civilian populations.

If the Sanctioning Hizballah’s Illicit Use of Civilians as Defenseless Shields Act becomes law, Congress will condemn Hizballah’s use of human shields, and the United States president will sanction any person or entity guilty of using human shields, impose asset blocking and urge the United Nations Security Council to support a resolution imposing multilateral sanctions against Hizballah. This law will be an important step towards protecting civilians who are affected by Hizballah’s activity.

– Jenae Atwell

Photo: Flickr

sanctions on hezbollah
On July 22, the House of Representatives voted 404-0 to pass legislation that would introduce sanctions on Hezbollah and its foreign assets. Hezbollah has been designated as a terrorist organization by the United States since 1995, and operates out of Lebanon. The sanctions aim to financially cripple the group, in turn protecting the Lebanese people from further poverty.

Hezbollah has played a critical role in the conflict in Syria. In April of 2014, the leader of Hezbollah, Hassan Nasrallah, boldly stated that the war had essentially ended. He asserted that President Bashar al-Assad of Syria had regained control of the country and had won.

Nasrallah spoke as Hezbollah continued to intensify involvement in the conflict, fighting for Assad’s continued reign.

The reaction in Lebanon to Hezbollah’s involvement has been tense, as many fear it may carry the conflict back to Lebanon.

Even without the war taking place in Lebanon, the people feel the effects of the Syrian conflict. As hundreds of thousands of refugees pour into Lebanon, the economy is slipping.

“For each of the conflict years, we found that growth has been 2.9 percent lower than [had the conflict not happened]” Eric Le Borgne, lead Lebanon economist for The World Bank, explains.

IRIN reported in 2013 that 170,000 Lebanese were in danger of falling into poverty for reasons caused by the Syrian conflict. Lebanon is a small country, with a population of only four million, and cannot withstand the surge of 800,000 refugees.

The Syrian conflict, which has generated poverty and destruction outside its borders, not only in Lebanon, but also in other refugee-host countries, such as Afghanistan, has been escalated by foreign involvement. Hezbollah is one of the main contributors to the violence.

Furthermore, Hezbollah is known to be in close alliance with the Iranian government. Recently, Iranian news agency, Fars, published an article titled Iran Urges Palestinian, Syrian, Lebanese Resistance Groups to Ink Defense Pact.

Effectively, this means that an attack on one of the groups from Israel would constitute an attack on all of them. The defense pact would heighten tensions in the region, and any attack on one group would involve multiple countries.

Analyzing the effects of the conflict in Syria on Lebanese poverty alone provides reason enough to avoid inflaming conflict.

The new sanctions passed in the House are an important step against poverty. The sanctions would specifically target Hezbollah’s foreign finances by allowing the Department of the Treasury to deny payable-through accounts in the U.S. through foreign financial institutions connected to Hezbollah activity.

The legislation would also allow the President to officially categorize Hezbollah as a foreign narcotics trafficker and transnational criminal organization in addition to its terrorist organization designation.

“Today we have the opportunity to place a critical blow to Hezbollah,” said Mark Meadows, R-N.C., the bill’s sponsor. Rep. Eliot Engel, D-N.Y., compared these sanctions to the ones placed on Iran over its nuclear weapons development. Engel proposed that the current negotiations with Iran are happening because of the international sanctions.

“This can be done with Hezbollah. This is what we’re trying to do today,” he says, providing a beacon of hope for further peace in the region.

Julianne O’Connor

Sources: The Algemeiner, IRIN, The Guardian, The Hill
Photo: NYTimes