UNHRC investigator: Israel likely ‘deliberately’ targeted civilian homes in Gaza war

United Nations Human Rights Council to convene again on Israeli violations in Gaza and West Bank.

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March 22, 2015 22:49
3 minute read.
Geneva

A session of the Human Rights Council at the United Nations in Geneva underway. (photo credit: REUTERS)

 
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A report charging that Israel apparently “deliberately” targeted civilian homes will be presented Monday to the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva by its special investigator Makarim Wibisono.

Is is part of a general debate the UNHRC will hold on Israeli violations of human rights during its 28th session.

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The day will open with a short initial oral report from the controversial Commission of Inquiry into the Gaza war, which is made up of a two-member investigatory team, headed by former New York Supreme Court judge Mary McGowan Davis.

She and Senegalese legal expert Doudou Diene have looked at human rights violations in Gaza, the West Bank and east Jerusalem from June 13 to the end of Operation Protective Edge last summer.

The commission had been due to present a written report on the matter, but at the last minute asked for a delay until the June session.

Instead, it will update the UNHRC on their work, with statements that are not expected to last more then 15 minutes.

Israel compared the Gaza probe to a Kangaroo court and claimed its conclusions were already pre-written.

However, it has been hopeful that the report may be more balanced now that Canadian legal expert William Schabas has resigned from the commission.

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The UNHRC will then hear multiple reports on alleged Israeli violations in the Palestinian territories and the Golan Heights penned by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein.

The UNHRC is mandated to debate such violations at every session under Agenda Item 7.

In addition Wibisono, the new special rapporteur on the situation of human rights who replaced Richard Falk, will present his first report to the UNHRC. In the document he charges that Israel apparently “deliberately” targeted civilian homes during its conflict with Hamas in Gaza last summer.

Civilian victims were “in the wrong place at the wrong time,” he wrote in the report. “Most victims were families killed in missile strikes on their own homes, usually at night.

“In the non-exhaustive list of cases brought to the attention of the Special Rapporteur almost all of the families lost one or more infants or children,” he wrote.

Israel estimates that some 2,100 Palestinians were killed during the Gaza war, of which about half were Hamas or Islamic Jihad fighters and half were civilians.

The UN’s casualty count, Wibisono said, listed 2,256 Palestinian fatalities, of which 1,563 were civilians, including 538 children. “On principle,” he said, “ten children died every day over a period of 50 days” during the conflict.

This casualty count is more then the two previous conflicts with Hamas in Gaza, he wrote, adding that it is disproportionately higher then the 66 Israeli soldiers and five civilians who died during the war.

The “stark disparity in casualty figures on the two sides, he said, reflects the skewered balance of power and disproportionate cost borne by Palestinian civilians.

Wibisono noted that Israel had explained that it was responding to indiscriminate rocket fire by Palestinian armed groups from homes and hospitals when it attacked civilian areas, however, that personal testimony, satellite imagery and the high civilian death count raised questions as to whether Israel adhered to the “international principles of distinction, proportionality and precautions.”

With regard to the West Bank, he charged that “trigger happy” soldiers used excessive force when dealing with Palestinian protests.

He also called on Israel not to forcibly relocate the Beduin in Area C of the West Bank; to halt its policy of punitive home demolitions; and to stop its nighttime arrests of minors.

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