Journalists 'should challenge' Gaza waiver

Form: breaches international law

Human rights lawyers have cast doubt on the legality of Israel’s insistence that journalists and aid workers sign waivers before entering the Gaza Strip.

Signing the document effectively absolves the army of responsibility for their deaths or injury.

One week after the killing of British broadcast journalist James Miller, shot in the neck by the Israeli Defence Force (IDF), the Israeli authorities devised a form for all foreigners to sign, which includes the clause:

“I am aware of the risks involved and accept that the Government of the State of Israel and its organs cannot be held responsible for death, injury and/or damage/loss of property which may be incurred as a result of military activity.”

Phil Schiner, a solicitor with Birmingham-based Public Interest Lawyers, said the waiver had no basis in international law and flouted the 4th Geneva Convention.

“It is not permissible for a state to unilaterally disapply this important protection and intransgressible principle of international law, by insisting that journalists and civilians sign a waiver purporting to absolve Israel of any responsibility,” he said.

“It is not only a clear breach of international law, but the very act of producing these waivers should be challenged. Journalists should not be intimidated, but on the contrary should seek to challenge the legality of the policy,” Schiner added.

Angus Evers, a solicitor at Denton Wilde Sapte, suggested that the waiver could also have unforeseen consequences on journalists’ insurance.

“If a journalist signs a waiver, it might invalidate the employer’s insurance. In the event of injury or death, the waiver presents the insurer with two good reasons for not paying out.

“One, because the Foreign Office is advising against travelling to the Occupied Territories and, two, because in signing the waiver the journalists are acknowledging that going into the area is dangerous, and so are knowingly putting themselves in danger.”

The NUJ has also condemned the decision as “shocking” and accused the Israelis of trying to intimidate journalists into staying away from the region.

Broadcasters are split in terms of their compliance. ITN has so far refused to tell its journalists to sign, while a BBC spokeswoman said: “Those wanting to enter Gaza are signing the waiver. Every reporter has to sign a waiver to get across the border so we are doing so.” Channel 4 News is not recommending that anyone signs.

By Wale Azeez

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