The Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS) welcomes the findings and recommendations of the United Nations’ investigation into the 2014 Gaza conflict and the situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT), presented today by the Commission of Inquiry (CoI) to the UN Human Rights Council (HRC). It is the obligation of the international community as a whole to actively support efforts towards accountability and guarantees of non-repetition by ensuring the implementation of the report’s recommendations.
The HRC mandated Commission of Inquiry found overwhelming evidence that the law of war was violated during the most recent offensive on Gaza, with attacks deliberately directed towards civilians and resulting in extensive civilian deaths and massive destruction of civilian infrastructure. According to numbers provided by the CoI, 1,462 Palestinian civilians were killed, including 299 women and 551 children, as well as six civilians in Israel. The report further concluded that impunity for serious international crimes committed during the last war on Gaza, and outlined in the report, continues to prevail.
In particular, the Commission highlighted the clear Israeli military policy to target civilians through airstrikes and the use of artillery, and other explosive weapons in densely populated areas. After reviewing extensive evidence, including testimony of victims from the 52 day military assault, the CoI concluded that several Israeli attacks likely amounted to war crimes, outlining the responsibility and role of military commanders and senior officials in the execution of these crimes.
Concerning Palestinian armed groups, the CoI expressed concerns for the “inherently indiscriminate nature of most of the projectiles directed towards Israel,” which violated international humanitarian law. The Commission also condemned the executions of alleged “collaborators,” which it claimed amounted to war crimes.
Following the examination of Israeli internal accountability mechanisms, the Col rightfully concluded that current Israeli domestic mechanisms fail to comply with international standards of impartiality, independence, promptness and effectiveness. In the report, the Commission echoed the failure of national accountability by stating that “impunity prevails across the board for violations of international humanitarian and human rights law allegedly committed by Israeli forces, whether it be in the context of active hostilities in Gaza or killings, torture, and ill-treatment in the West Bank.”
Further, in examining previous incidents of investigations of alleged war crimes committed by Israeli forces, the CoI concluded that Israel has persistently failed to hold wrong-doers accountable. According to the CoI, accountability is viewed “not only as a means to secure justice for victims but also to ensure the necessary guarantees for non-repetition.”
While CIHRS strongly supports the CoI conclusion on the need for comprehensive and effective accountability mechanisms for violations committed during the 2014 hostilities, CIHRS notes certain shortcomings in the report. CIHRS particularly regrets that despite references by the CoI to widespread and systematic attacks directed against the civilian population, the report failed to recognize the commission of alleged “crimes against humanity” by Israel. Additionally, investigations into cases of internationally displaced Palestinians in Gaza, now amounting to almost 100,000 persons, and violations against Palestinians in the West Bank, particularly East Jerusalem, as a result of the conflict, were not merited adequate attention in the report.
We recall the CoI considerations that this report should be viewed in the context of the “structural issues that fuel the conflict.” Specifically the denial of Palestinian self-determination through prolonged occupation, and the fragmentation and annexation of land through the construction of separation walls, settlements, the illegal annexation of East Jerusalem, and the 8 years long blockade of the Gaza Strip. These illegal policies remain the root causes of the recurring violence and escalations in the continued offensives launched by Israel against Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank.
CIHRS re-affirms its full solidarity with the Palestinian people’s struggle and their legitimate right to resist the Israeli occupation. However, using the resistance as a pretext to commit extrajudicial killings or endanger the lives of civilians only helps to fuel the conflict and undermines the struggle of the Palestinian people. Achieving peace can only be ensured through real accountability for the persistent pattern of violations of international law committed in the OPT.
To this end CIHRS calls upon:
The members of the international community, in particular the high contracting parties to the 4th Geneva Convention, to implement the CoI recommendation to support the work of the International Criminal Court (ICC) to investigate and try all crimes committed during the conduct of hostilities. States should also follow the CoI’s recommendations triggering the exercise of Universal Jurisdiction by accepting cases of international crimes in their national courts, in line with the provisions of art. 1 of the Fourth Geneva Convention.
The international community to take all necessary action to lift the blockade imposed on the Gaza Strip and to facilitate a speedy and effective relief and reconstruction process. Economic recovery and the rehabilitation of the infrastructure are key aspects to ending the long lasting humanitarian crisis in Gaza.
All UN member states to take necessary measures to bring impunity for Israeli violations of international law to an end. We reiterate the absolute need for accountability mechanisms that guarantee fair remedies to Palestinian victims for damage incurred before, during and after the hostilities.
The Human Rights Council to ensure an effective follow-up to recommendations of the CoI addressed to both parties to the conflict by establishing a mechanism to conduct a comprehensive review of their implementation, and including the recommendations pertaining to other UN investigations, namely the fact-finding mission in the aftermath of Cast Lead in 2009, as highlighted in the CoI report.
The state of Palestine to thoroughly investigate and ensure accountability for violations of international human rights and humanitarian law committed during the hostilities.
*The CoI was mandated on the 23rd of July 2014 by the HRC ” to investigate all violations of international humanitarian law and international human rights law in the Occupied Palestinian Territory…in the context of the military operations conducted since 13 June 2014, whether before, during or after, to establish the facts and circumstances of such violations and of the crimes perpetrated and to identify those responsible, to make recommendations, in particular on accountability measures, all with a view to avoiding and ending impunity and ensuring that those responsible are held accountable, and on ways and means to protect civilians against any further assaults.”
 According to Palestinian organizations figures, a total of 1,639 Palestinian civilians were killed, including 556 children.
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