Special Session of the Human Rights Council on the Gaza Strip: establish an independent commission of inquiry into violations of international law committed during Israeli ‘Operation Protective Edge’ and ensuring accountability

22/07/2014
Press release
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Geneva-Paris, 22 July 2014

The undersigned national, regional and international human rights organisations call upon the UN Human Rights Council, which will convene a Special Session on 23 July 2014, to establish an international independent commission of inquiry to investigate violations of international law, including international crimes, such as war crimes and crimes against humanity, which may have taken place in the context of the ongoing hostilities in the Gaza Strip.

Since the launch of “Operation Protective Edge” on 7 July 2014, Israel has killed at least 500 [1] in the occupied Gaza Strip, including 406 civilians. Furthermore, at least 2,650 Palestinians have been injured, 1,660 houses in Gaza have been destroyed or severely damaged, and tens of thousands of Palestinians in northern Gaza have fled their homes. [2] Meanwhile, thousands of rockets and missiles have been fired at Israel from within the Gaza Strip, causing the death of two Israeli civilians since the start of the military operation .

The current round of hostilities occurs in the context of a seven-year long Israeli-imposed closure on the Gaza Strip. In addition to the dire humanitarian situation already endured by the occupied Palestinian population in the Gaza Strip, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) now warns that 900,000 people are at risk of losing access to their water supplies. Four hospitals and health centers in Gaza have been damaged by Israeli airstrikes, and one rehabilitation center for the disabled has been destroyed.

The imbalance of power in favor of Israel cannot be overlooked, nor can the fact that the population bearing the overwhelming brunt of these hostilities, in terms of physical, emotional and infrastructural damage, is the Palestinian civilian population.

International Humanitarian Law stipulates that in a situation of armed conflict only combatants and military objectives may be directly targeted. Civilians and civilian objects must be protected from direct attack: deliberately targeting civilians or civilian objects is a war crime. Israel itself has admitted that indiscriminate and disproportionate attacks may amount to the commission of war crimes. According to international law,military objectives are limited to those objects which by their nature, location, purpose or use make an effective contribution to military action or whose destruction offers a definite military advantage. Houses belonging to individuals affiliated with Hamas or Islamic Jihad do not qualify as military objectives merely because they are owned by a combatant; initial investigations indicate that in the majority of instances these homes cannot be considered military objectives because they are not being used to store weapons or launch attacks.

Nevertheless, the Israeli military has deliberately attacked such houses and other ostensibly civilian objects and public spaces including hospitals, schools, mosques, sports clubs, and cafes. [3] 

In the evening of 17 July, the Israeli army began a ground invasion marking the next stage of Operation Protective Edge.

It appears that artillery is now being used against residential areas, and that these incursions may violate the prohibition against indiscriminate attacks.

On 20 July, al-Shuja’iya neighborhood in the east of Gaza City was subjected to intensive aerial and ground shelling by Israeli forces which resulted in the killing of least 59 Palestinians, 58 of whom were civilians, including 13 children and 8 women. Due to the intensity of this indiscriminate shelling that was going on the days after with more casualties, medical crews and the ICRC were not able to reach the area prior to the declaration of a brief "humanitarian cease fire”.

In light of the above-mentioned information, and in the interest of preventing further harm to civilian populations, we call on the UN Human Rights Council, during its upcoming Special Session, to:

  • Immediately and unequivocally condemn the deliberate targeting of civilian objects and the indiscriminate attacks against civilians by all parties;
  • Demand that all parties abide by their obligations under IHL and bring to an end indiscriminate and disproportionate attacks against civilians and civilian objects;
  • Strongly condemn the failure of Israel to abide by international humanitarian law, including the underpinning principles of military necessity, proportionality and distinction;
  • Express its grave concern about the Israeli ground incursion into Gaza Strip and the deteriorating humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip resulting from Israel’s military attack and continued closure;
  • Establish an independent international commission of inquiry with the mandate to identify and investigate violations of international law committed by all parties during and leading up to Operation Protective Edge, as well as a mandate to put forth concrete recommendations of action to be undertaken by all parties engaged in hostilities and the international community, including third states parties, with a view of holding perpetrators accountable and ensuring victims access to effective remedy;
  • Immediately implement the recommendations of the UN Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict of 2008-2009; and
  • Call upon Israel and Palestine to ratify the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC), to help ensure accountability for any international crimes that may take place on these territories.

Signatories:

  • Al-Haq
  • Al Mezan Center for Human Rights
  • Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS)
  • FIDH- International Federation for Human Rights
  • Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR)
  • Public Committee against Torture in Israel (PCATI)
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  • Co-signatories

    with the support of :

    Altsean – Burma
    Aprodeh- Peru
    Association marocaine des droits humains (AMDH)- Morocco
    Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights (BYSHR)- Bahrain
    Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) – USA
    Centre d’études en droits humains et démocratie (CEDHD)- Morocco
    Centre Œcuménique des Droits Humains (CEDH) – Port-au-Prince -Haïti
    Colectivo de Abogados (CCAJAR) - Colombia
    Comisión Ecuménica de Derechos Humanos - Ecuador
    Comité de Accion Juridica - Argentina
    Comité Permanente de Derechos Humanos - Colombia
    Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR) – Egypt
    Egyptian Organisation for Humarn Rights (EOHR)- Egypt
    El Centro de Capacitación Social- Panama
    El Centro Nicaraguense de Derechos Humanos - Nicaragua
    El Comité de Familiares de Detenidos-Desaparecidos en Honduras (COFADEH)- Honduras
    Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Network (EMHRN)
    Human Rights Center (HRIDC) - Georgia
    Human Rights Commission of Pakistan
    Human Rights Now- Japan
    Instituto Latinoamericano para una Sociedad y un derecho Alternativos- Colombia
    International League for Human Rights - Germany
    KontraS - Indonesia
    Latvian Human Rights Committee – Latvia
    League for the Defence of Human Rights in Iran (LDDHI)- Iran
    Lebanese Center for Human Rights- Lebanon
    Liga Argentina por los Derechos del Hombre – Argentina
    Ligue des droits de l’Homme- France
    Ligue guinéenne des droits de l’homme – Guinea Bissau
    Ligue sénégalaise des droits humains (LSDH)- Senegal
    Lualua Center for Human Rights -Bahrain/ Lebanon
    Organisation guinéenne de défense des droits de l’Homme et du Citoyen- OGDH- Guinea Conakry
    ORGANIZACIÓN FEMENINA POPULAR, Colombia
    Organisation marocaine des droits de l’homme (OMDH) -Morocco
    Palestinian Human Rights Organization (PHRO)- Lebanon
    Philippine Alliance of Human rights Advocates (PAHRA)- Philippine
    Rencontre Africaine pour la Défense des Droits de l’Homme (RADDHO)- Senegal

  • Member organisations - Israel & Palestine
    vignette contact
    Israel
    vignette contact
    Israel
    Nahalat Binyamin 75
    65154 Tel Aviv
    +972-3-5608185
    +972-3-5608165
    vignette contact
    Israel
    9153002 Jerusalem Address for visitors : 8 HaTa’asiya St. (4th Floor)
    Jerusalem
    +972-2-6735599
    +972-2-674911
    vignette contact
    Israel
    91046 Jerusalem
    +972-2-642-9825
    +972-2-643-2847
  • Member organisations - Israel & Palestine
    Palestine
    P.O.Box: 1413 54 Main Street 2nd & 3rd Fl. - Opp. Latin Patriarchate Saint Andrew’s Evangelical Church - (Protestant Hall) -
    Ramallah
    +970 (0)2 2954646/7/9
    +970 (0)2 2954903
    vignette contact
    Palestine
    1 Al Mena, Omar El-Mukhtar Street, (close to Akila Gas Station) Western Rimal,
    P.O. Box. 5270 Gaza City
    +972-(0)8-2820442/7
    vignette contact
    Palestine
    29 Omar El Mukhtar str El Remal
    Qadada Building
    Gaza City
    +00 973 8 28 24 776
    +00 972 8 28 23 725
    vignette contact
    Palestine
    Ramallah
    + 972 2 296 1180
    + 972 2 296 1181

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