A Palestinian boy plays at a house that witnesses said was destroyed during Operation Protective Edge in the east of Gaza City.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Those who committed human rights violations in Gaza should be held accountable, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al-Hussein said in Geneva on Monday.
He spoke in advance of the release of a UN Human Rights Council report that is expected to charge Israel with war crimes for its 2014 Operation Protective Edge against Hamas in Gaza.
It is believed the Palestinian Authority will use the report as part of its submission to the International Criminal Court, which it hopes will be the basis for legal action against Israeli soldiers.
“It is my hope the [UNHRC Gaza] report will pave the way for justice to be done to all civilians who fell victim to the fighting last year by holding to account those alleged to have committed grave and other serious violations of international humanitarian law, through investigation and, where required, prosecution,” Al-Hussein said.
He also warned against renewed violence in Gaza as he addressed the opening day of the three-week 29th session. He was particularly concerned, he said, by the continued restrictions on goods and pedestrian traffic in and out of Gaza.
“In Gaza, the longstanding blockade and slow reconstruction is generating more poverty and has further undermined economic and social rights. I fear this may create the conditions for renewed violence. Gaza needs not just physical reconstruction, but the reconstruction of hope; development, accountability and respect for human rights are a counterweight to violence and extremism,” Al-Hussein said.
With regard to the West Bank, Al-Hussein called on Israel to stop building settlements and to halt its practice of demolishing Palestinian homes, including in east Jerusalem.
Israel’s Ambassador to the UN in Geneva Eviatar Manor issued a scathing response to Al-Hussein’s comments and the UNHRC’s “growing obsession” with Israel, charging that since its inception in 2006 it has dispatched six fact-finding missions into Israeli humanrights violations and issued at least 60 country resolutions against it.
“This Human Rights Council exhibits double morals and is ethically flawed,” Manor said. “Israel does not behead people. We use our heads to create innovations. Israel does not cut off [the] hands of people. We use our hands to vote in ballot boxes. Israel does not stone women. We empower women.
“Amos Oz, the well-known Israeli author, says there are degrees of evil and one who cannot make a distinction ends up serving evil. You have been advised,” he warned.
The UNHRC report is the work of a two-person fact-finding mission headed by former US Supreme Court Judge Mary McGowan Davis.
It previously had been led by Canadian legal expert William Schabas, who recused himself after a conflict- of-interest charge.
Israel refused to cooperate with the fact-finding mission, charging that it was a kangaroo court whose conclusions were already known.
On Sunday, outside the purview of the UNHRC, Israel issued a report of its own to show that its actions in Gaza were in compliance with international law and that Hamas had committed war crimes.
In an interview with Channel 2 on Monday, Schabas said Israel erred in its decision not to cooperate with the mission.
“It would be a very unusual war if only one side had committed violations of laws of war and the other had engaged perfectly,” he said. “That would be an unusual situation and an unusual conclusion.
“The greater likelihood is that both sides actually committed violations of the laws of war during the conflict.”