UN Human Rights Council establishes independent, international commission of inquiry for the Occupied Palestinian Territory

HRC: Lack of accountability for violations of international law reinforces a culture of impunity, leading to a recurrence of violations and seriously endangering the maintenance of international peace.

In a resolution adopted by a vote of 29 states in favor, 1 against and 17 abstentions, the UN Human Rights Council decided yesterday to establish an independent, international commission of inquiry to investigate all violations of international humanitarian law and international human rights law in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT) since 13 June 2014, and to make recommendations with a view to avoiding and ending impunity and ensuring that those responsible are held accountable.

The Council called for the immediate cessation of “the Israeli military assaults throughout the OPT, including East Jerusalem, and an end to attacks against all civilians including Israeli civilians.” It also condemned in “the strongest terms the widespread, systematic and gross violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms arising from the Israeli military operations carried out in the OPT,” particularly against Gaza. The Council emphasized that the military offensive against Gaza involved “disproportionate and indiscriminate attacks, including aerial bombardment of civilian areas, the targeting of civilians and civilian properties in collective punishment contrary to international law, and other actions, including the targeting of medical and humanitarian personnel, that may amount to international crimes, directly resulting in the killing of over 400 Palestinians, most of them civilians, and more than 90 of whom are children, the injury of more than 3500 people and the wanton destruction of homes, vital infrastructure and public properties.”The Council further demanded that Israel end its “illegal closure” of Gaza, which “in itself amounts to collective punishment of the Palestinian civilian population” and expressed grave concern about the critical humanitarian situation in Gaza; expressed concern at the “conditions of the Palestinian prisoners and detainees in Israeli jails and detention centres, notably following the arrest by Israel of over 1000 Palestinians since 13 June 2014”; and condemned the “perpetration of hate crimes”.

The Council also noted its grave concern at the lack of implementation of the recommendations in report of the United Nations Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict of 2009. It emphasized that “a lack of accountability for violations of international law reinforces a culture of impunity, leading to a recurrence of violations and seriously endangering the maintenance of international peace.” Keynote statements were given at the special session by Navi Pillay, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights; Lance Bartholomeusz, the Director of UNRWA Legal Affairs; and Makarim Wibisono, the new Special Rapporteur for the OPT, among others. Immediately after the resolution’s passage, the Israeli Foreign Affairs Minister Avigdor Lieberman and the Justice Minister Tzipi Livni attacked it, as well as the Council. Minister Lieberman wrote on his Facebook page that the Human Rights Council is a council for terrorists’ rights and an anti-Semitic body. These responses indicate that the Israeli government will not cooperate with the inquiry commission and will not deal seriously with its recommendations. To recall that the Israeli government did not cooperate with the Goldstone mission in 2009, despite Justice Goldstone’s repeated attempts to engage it, and Israel did not conduct independent, genuine domestic investigations into Operation Cast Lead. Further, in 2013, the Turkel Committee set forth 18 recommendations concerning deficiencies in Israel’s investigatory practices in this regard, however, to date the government also did not implement these recommendations. A summary of the Turkel Committee’s recommendations is linked here. A preliminary analysis of the Turkel report is available here. A coalition of 14 leading Palestinian human rights and civil society organizations in Israel, including Adalah, submitted a written statement to special session of the UN Human Council. The NGOs urged the UN HR Council to call for an immediate end to the War and the targeting of civilian populations by all the parties, to condemn the deliberate, systematic and widespread targeting of Palestinian civilians and civilian objects in Gaza, and to establish an independent international commission of inquiry be established to investigate allegations of war crimes and crimes against humanity. The joint statement is linked here.

All of the documents, including NGO written statements, summaries of the proceedings and the resolution, are available on the Human Rights Council webpage.