Israel to testify on Gaza before UN in Geneva

Human Rights Committee holding periodic review of Israel’s compliance with International Covenant on Civil, Political Rights.

Smoke rises following what witnesses said was an Israeli air strike in Gaza (photo credit: REUTERS)
Smoke rises following what witnesses said was an Israeli air strike in Gaza
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Israeli officials are expected to testify before the United Nations in Geneva on Monday with regard to its military activities in Gaza this summer during Operation Protective Edge.
“At this stage it is the only UN forum to which Israel will provide information with regard to Operation Protective Edge,” a Justice Ministry spokeswoman said on Sunday.
Its delegation will answer questions on Gaza when it appears before the UN’s Human Rights Committee, which is holding its periodic review of Israel’s compliance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
Israel ratified the covenant in 1991 and was one of the initial signatories to the covenant when the UN first adopted it in 1966.
Compliance with the covenant falls under the auspices of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. But its Human Rights Committee bears no relationship to the more contentious and better known body that is also under that office, the UN Human Rights Council.
The Human Rights Council, which was first created in 2006, is composed of representatives from 47 UN member states, that have censured Israel more than any other country. The Council is conducting a probe into the Gaza war, headed by Canadian human rights expert William Schabas who has already publicly stated that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu should be brought before the International Criminal Court.
Israel is not cooperating with that probe, whose results will be presented to the Human Rights Council in March.
But it works seriously with the Human Rights Committee, a body that is composed of 18 independent international human rights experts, including one from Israel. The Human Rights Committee last reviewed Israel in 2009.
In advance of Monday’s meeting in Geneva, Israel submitted a detailed 72-page report in December 2013 on a vast array of largely domestic issues that relate to the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, including gender equity, gay rights, torture, rights of the child, protection of religious minorities, civil burial, migrants and asylum seekers.
The Human Rights Committee had asked Israel questions about its actions on both sides of the Green Line, including what steps it had taken to stop settlement activity.
Israel in its reports to the committee accepts question about east Jerusalem and the Golan Heights, which Israel has annexed. But it has traditionally refrained in its written reports from overly focusing on Israeli actions in the West Bank, which is under Israeli military rule.
In its report to the Human Rights Committee Israel explained that it did not believe the convention was applicable to the West Bank.
It wrote, “Israel believes that the Convention, which is territorially bound, does not apply, nor was it intended to apply, to areas beyond a state’s national boundary.”
It did, however, in its December 2013 report deal briefly with the question of enforcing its naval and aerial military blockade on Gaza, which it said met the standards of international law. Israel militarily withdrew from Gaza in 2005, but retains control of its borders.
Israel has traditionally replied orally to questions on its activities in the West Bank.
It intends to do so as well this time, including on questions relating to Operation Protective Edge. To this end, it has sent Ministry of Justice director-general Emi Palmor and its Deputy Attorney General for International Law Roy S. Schondorf to Geneva. They will be joined by Col. Noam Neuman, who heads the IDF’s International Law Department.