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May 2018

UN: HRC TO DISPATCH URGENT PROBE ON GAZA VIOLENCE

The UN Human Rights Council will send an independent, international commission of inquiry to look into the alleged violations and abuses of international humanitarian law and international human rights law in the Palestine in light of the Israeli military assaults on civilian protests.


By Kanaga Raja

The United Nations Human Rights Council has decided to urgently dispatch an independent, international commission of inquiry to investigate all alleged violations and abuses in the occupied Gaza Strip, in the context of the Israeli military assaults, and what the High Commissioner for Human Rights on 18 May called "appalling" and "horrific"events of the past week.

The High Commissioner, Mr Zeid Ra'ad Al-Hussein, had told the Special Session of the Council that since the large-scale civilian protests began on 30 March 2018, 87 Palestinians, including 12 children have been killed by the Israeli security forces in the context of the demonstrations, and 29 others, including three children, were killed in other circumstances.

Over 12,000 people have been injured, more than 3,500 of them by live ammunition. The violence reached a peak on Monday 14 May, when 43 demonstrators were killed by Israeli forces and the number sadly continues to climb, as some of the 1,360 demonstrators injured with live ammunition that day succumb to their wounds.

In a resolution adopted at the close of its Special Session on Friday (18 May), the Council called upon Israel, the occupying Power, and all relevant parties to cooperate fully with the commission of inquiry.

The resolution was adopted by a vote of 29 in favour, two against and 14 abstentions.

Those that voted in favour of the resolution were: Afghanistan, Angola, Belgium, Brazil, Burundi, Chile, China, Cote d'Ivoire, Cuba, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ecuador, Egypt, Iraq, Kyrgyzstan, Mexico, Nepal, Nigeria, Pakistan, Peru, Philippines, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Slovenia, South Africa, Spain, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates and Venezuela.

Australia and the United States voted against the resolution.

Those that abstained in the vote were: Croatia, Ethiopia, Georgia, Germany, Hungary, Japan, Kenya, Panama, Republic of Korea, Rwanda, Slovakia, Switzerland, Togo and the United Kingdom.

The Special Session was convened following an official request submitted on 15 May by Palestine and the United Arab Emirates, on behalf of the Arab Group of States, and supported by 17 States members of the Council: Angola, Burundi, Cuba, Ecuador, Egypt, Iraq, Kyrgyzstan, Nigeria, Pakistan, Panama, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, South Africa, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates and Venezuela, and by nine observer states: Bahrain, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Malaysia, Kuwait, Maldives, Oman, Tajikistan and Turkey.

Since 15 May, an additional 24 States signed on in support of holding the Special Session: Algeria, Belgium, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, China, Democratic Republic of the Congo, France, Iran, Ireland, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Malta, Mauritania, Mexico, Montenegro, Morocco, Namibia, Portugal, Spain, Sudan, Sweden, Switzerland and Zimbabwe. (See SUNS #8684 dated 22 May 2018).

In the resolution (A/HRC/S-28/L. 1) adopted on 18 May, the Human Rights Council reaffirmed that all High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention are under the obligation to respect and ensure respect for the obligations arising from the said Convention in relation to the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and also reaffirmed their obligations under articles 146, 147 and 148 with regard to penal sanctions, grave breaches and the responsibilities of the High Contracting Parties.

The Council, the resolution said, is convinced that the lack of accountability for violations of international law reinforces a culture of impunity, leading to a recurrence of violations and seriously endangering international peace.

The Human Rights Council noted the systematic failure by Israel to carry out genuine investigations in an impartial, independent, prompt and effective way, as required by international law, into the violence and offences against Palestinians by the occupying forces, and to establish judicial accountability for its actions in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem.

It emphasized the obligations of Israel as the occupying Power to ensure the safety, well-being and protection of the Palestinian civilian population under its occupation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem.

The Council also emphasized that the intentional targeting of civilians and other protected persons in situations of armed conflict, including foreign occupation, constitutes a grave breach of international humanitarian law and international human rights law, and poses a threat to international peace and security.

It recognized the importance of the right to life and the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association to the full enjoyment of all human rights.

The Council condemned the "disproportionate and indiscriminate use of force" by the Israeli occupying forces against Palestinian civilians, including in the context of peaceful protests, particularly in the Gaza Strip, in violation of international humanitarian law, international human rights law and relevant United Nations resolutions.

It expressed its grief at the extensive loss of life, including of children, women, health workers and journalists, and at the high number of injuries.

The Council called for an immediate cessation of all attacks, incitement and violence against civilians throughout the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem.

It also called on all parties to ensure that future demonstrations remain peaceful and to abstain from actions that could endanger the lives of civilians.

The Council demanded that Israel, the occupying Power, immediately and fully end its illegal closure of the occupied Gaza Strip, "which amounts to collective punishment of the Palestinian civilian population, including through the immediate, sustained and unconditional opening of the crossings to the flow of humanitarian aid, commercial goods and persons, especially those in need of urgent medical attention, to and from the Gaza Strip, in compliance with its obligations under international humanitarian law".

The Council decided to "urgently dispatch an independent, international commission of inquiry, to be appointed by the President of the Human Rights Council, to investigate all alleged violations and abuses of international humanitarian law and international human rights law in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, particularly in the occupied Gaza Strip, in the context of the military assaults on the large-scale civilian protests that began on 30 March 2018, whether before, during or after, to establish the facts and circumstances, with assistance from relevant experts and special procedure mandate holders, of the alleged violations and abuses, including those that may amount to war crimes, to identify those responsible, to make recommendations, in particular on accountability measures, all with a view to avoiding and ending impunity and ensuring legal accountability, including individual criminal and command responsibility, for such violations and abuses, and on protecting civilians against any further assaults, and to present an oral update to the Council at its thirty-ninth session and a final, written report at its fortieth session."

It called upon Israel, the occupying Power, and all relevant parties to cooperate fully with the commission of inquiry and facilitate its access.

It requested the cooperation, as appropriate, of other relevant United Nations bodies with the commission of inquiry to carry out its mission.

It requested the assistance of the Secretary-General and the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights in this regard, including in the provision of all administrative, technical and logistical assistance required to enable the commission of inquiry and special procedure mandate holders to fulfil their mandates promptly and efficiently.

The Council decided to remain seized of the matter. Third World Network Features.

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About the author: Kanaga Raja is the Editor of the South-North Development Monitor (SUNS).

The above article is reproduced from SUNS #8685, 23 May 2018.

When reproducing this feature, please credit Third World Network Features and (if applicable) the cooperating magazine or agency involved in the article, and give the byline. Please send us cuttings. And if reproduced on the internet, please send the web link where the article appears to twn@twnetwork.org.

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