Published On: Sun, Jul 27th, 2014

Investigation of War Crimes of Israel

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By Dr. Syed Nazir Gilani –

It is final now.  An investigation into Israeli war crimes in Gaza is to be conducted. The lone vote of USA and support of some countries to frustrate the convening of a special session of UN Human Rights Council, could not save Israel from suffering the most comprehensive condemnation to date by the member States at the UN Human Rights Council, Observers and NGOs for its madness to kill, destroy, turn into debris the infrastructure in Gaza and its disregard for human rights and humanitarian law.

The President of the Human Rights Council  on 18 July 2014 at 6.00 pm Geneva time received a letter signed by the Permanent Representative of Egypt on behalf of the Arab Group, the Permanent Representative of Pakistan on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation and the Permanent Observer of the State of Palestine containing a request to convene a special session of the Council on the human rights situation in the Occupied Palestine Territory, including East Jerusalem, on Wednesday 23 July 2014. As required by the General Assembly resolution 60/251, the support of one-third of the membership of the Council (16 members) was required to convene a special session.

Council members, namely, Algeria, Benin, China, Cuba, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Kuwait, Maldives, Morocco, Pakistan, Peru, Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, the United Arab Emirates and Venezuela (Bolivarian Republic of) and Observer States, namely, Brunei Darussalam, Ecuador, Egypt, Iran (Islamic Republic of), Malaysia, the State of Palestine and Turkey supported the request.

Israel and her support base, including USA and some other countries, used pressure tactics to prevent the convening of this session. These tactics were deplored and regarded as a violation of the Institution-Building Package of the Human Rights Council. Israeli lobby gave in to the numerical superiority in favour of Palestinian cause and the worldwide condemnation did not support the USA on the day. A number of diplomatic moves were made during the debate and in particular one single person (vocal) was put up to make three interventions on behalf of three different NGOs.

The adoption of Resolution S-21/L1 titled “Ensuring respect for international law in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem” passed by 29 in favour, 1 against and 17 abstentions at the 21st special session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva on 23 July 2014 has paved the way of a probe into the alleged ‘war crimes’ committed by Israeli war machinery on the streets and soil of Gaza.

Algeria, Argentina, Brazil, Chile, China, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Costa Rica, Cote d’Ivoire, Cuba, Ethiopia, India, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Kuwait, the Maldives, Mexico, Morocco, Namibia, Pakistan, Peru, the Philippines, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Sierra Leone, the United Arab Emirates, Venezuela, and Vietnam Countries that voted in the affirmative are, in alphabetical order: Algeria, Argentina, Brazil, Chile, China, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Costa Rica, Cote d’Ivoire, Cuba, Ethiopia, India, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Kuwait, the Maldives, Mexico, Morocco, Namibia, Pakistan, Peru, the Philippines, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Sierra Leone, the United Arab Emirates, Venezuela, and Vietnam voted for the resolution.

While as Austria, Benin, Botswana, Burkina Faso, the Czech Republic, Estonia, France, Gabon, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Montenegro, South Korea, Romania, the Republic of Macedonia, and the United Kingdom abstained and United States voted against the resolution.

In my experience at the UN from 1990 I have never seen one person making three statements under the banner of three different NGOs. He was interrupted on a Point of Order by Egypt for his distraction from the debate but USA and Canada came to his rescue and pleaded that the NGO representative had a right to express himself and should not be denied to complete his statement. President of the session allowed him to complete his intervention.

It is very rare that a State comes to the rescue of an NGO speaker. I faced Point of Orders in early 1990s from the Indian representative and it was on one occasion that Pakistan came to support me and on the other occasion it was United Kingdom that came forward in my support. Points of Order make the debate interesting and engaging. However, in this case the NGO speaker became unimpressive and could not hide the leper’s spots.

The U.N.’s top human-rights official, Navi Pillay, said before the vote that there was a “strong possibility” of war crimes committed by both sides in Gaza. Pillay cited both sides in a case for a probe into war crimes, pointing to Israeli airstrikes on civilian homes in the region and to Hamas and other Palestinian militant groups’ attacks on Israeli civilians. She also said that Israel has not done enough to protect civilians in the conflict zone.

Israeli War Crimes

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in her opening address to the 21st Special Session of the Human Rights Council convened to consider Human Rights Situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem made out a case for War Crimes against Israel in Gaza. Her three references to War crimes are:

1. Respect for the right to life of civilians, including children, should be a foremost consideration. Not abiding by these principles may amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity.

2. These are just a few examples where there seems to be a strong possibility that international humanitarian law has been violated, in a manner that could amount to war crimes. Every one of these incidents must be properly and independently investigated.

3. The continued failure to properly ensure accountability on both sides following earlier escalations of hostilities in Gaza is of serious concern. The culture of impunity for alleged violations of international law invites further transgressions and the victims of the past become victims again. War crimes and crimes against humanity are two of the most serious types of crimes in existence, and credible allegations that they have been committed must be properly investigated. So far, they have not been.

JKCHR made its written input vide its communication emailed and faxed to the President of the UN Human Rights Council on Monday 21 July 2014. It came to the surface that Israel had turned Gaza into an open air prison. She had restricted the civilians indoors and was denying men, women and children their right to seek safety. It was also pointed out that Israel was directly and intentionally targeting the civilians. Human Rights Council was reminded again and again by the NGO speakers that the political agenda of some States should not be allowed to take over justice and human rights. It was regretted that some States were trying to equate the victim and the aggressor. The use of lethal weapons, prolonged blockade and belligerent occupation by Israel reverberated during the debate.

United States failed to shield Israel from the overwhelming condemnation of States, Observer States and NGOs. She could not hide herself even in ‘hell’ when the Council was told that Israel targeted the schools identified by UN flags. It was also highlighted that the common conscience in Israel had started rebelling against the Israeli aggression. Israeli reservists had started refusing to take part in the military action. The erring country could not find a leaf to hide itself when the Council was told that it had killed innocent children playing on a beach and on the roof of their house. Israel was not only faced with a rebuke of the world community, she is faced with a growing number of dissenters, resisters and AWOLers. The militarization of Israel is catching the world as an epidemic.

A new Israel has been exposed to the world. War has replaced politics in Israel. A one-time victim community has turned into a victimiser. It is not only engaged in a genocide but in peace times operates a discriminatory policy against a section of the community. There is a widespread discrimination against Mizrachi Jews, that is, Jews whose families originate in Arab countrires. Palestinians in Gaza strip live under different laws than their Jewish neighbours.

Countries like Mexico came out to condemn the use of force against the civil population and attacks on hospitals and civilian homes. Turkey highlighted that Israel has planted the seeds of hatred and during the 60 years of her occupation, this would not be the last aggression against the people of Palestine. Cuba expressed its deep pain and indignation against the Israeli act of aggression. She said that it was a blatant and widespread military action. Cuba said that the warning to civilians to leave their homes because Israel would bomb them is a blatant violation of human rights. Malaysia held Israel accountable for senseless and brutal aggression and observed that Israel had committed wanton war crimes. She said that Israel had turned Gaza into a concentration camp. Tunis called for bringing Israel before the International Criminal Court for her war crimes.

Saudi Arabia called Israel a rogue State and some other States accused it of practicing apartheid and acting like Natzis. The atmosphere and the tone of condemnation was so severe that the President of the Council had to make repeated interventions reminding the speakers to be restrained and cautious in the use of language. He requested them not to use insensitive language and keep the dignity and respect of the State (Israel).

Debate on Israel involved the Council’s credibility and the HR Council could not betray the trust of the States and NGOs. There was an overwhelming sympathy with the people of Palestine.  The world-wide unwavering support and solidarity with the Palestinian people and their resilient efforts to realize their inalienable right and the legitimate national aspirations for freedom, justice and peace won and Israel failed on the day.

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