Saturday, October 31, 2020

Palestinian Delegation files complaint with ICC; UN Human Rights Council agrees on fact-finding mission in Gaza

By Lynda Franken - July 27, 2014
Section: [Main News] [Life under Occupation]
Tags: [Gaza] [UN] [Operation Protective Edge]

Vote outcome for the UNHRC resolution to investigate war crimes | UNHRC


In the past week a Palestinian delegation has set out to hold Israel accountable for committing war crimes during 'Operation Protective Edge’. Two significant diplomatic efforts have been made.


On the 22nd of July, a resolution of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) ordered a fact-finding mission to investigate possible war crimes committed by Israel specifically regarding Operation Protective Edge. The resolution was accepted during a special meeting called for by a number of Arab states and the Palestinian Authority, which has been recognized as a non-member observer state of the United Nations since 2012. The resolution called for a Commission of Inquiry to look into “purported violations of international humanitarian law and human rights law in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East-Jerusalem.”


The resolution was followed by a complaint filed at the International Criminal Court by Gilles Devers, a lawyer based in Paris on behalf of Palestinian Justice Minister Saleem al-Saqqa and Gaza Public Prosecutor Ismail Jabr. The complaint regards “war crimes committed by the Israeli army in June and July 2014 in Palestine,” specifically in relation to Operation Protective Edge. 


The UNHRC Special Meeting


Before the Council voted on the resolution, the Chair of the UNHRC Navi Pillay stated that there were “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.” She specifically pointed to the incident in which four children were killed while  playing on the beach, noting the “disregard for (…) the right to life was shockingly evident.”


Israeli Representative to the UNHRC Eviatar Manor denounced the meeting and the resolution, stating the Israeli military “makes great efforts” to minimize civilian casualties and instead blamed Hamas of war crimes. He also called the meeting “counterproductive” to the ceasefire efforts. 


The Palestinian Foreign Minister, Riad Malki, talked about the deprivation of the right to live and the right to freedom of movement of Palestinians throughout the occupied Palestinian territories. He warned the faith of the Palestinian people in the international system is at stake, arguing that the impunity enjoyed by Israel jeopardized its credibility.


29 states voted in favor of the investigation, 17 abstained and one vote against. Among the abstaining states were all eight European Union (EU) members of the UNHCR. In an explanation of their vote, the EU criticized the resolution of being “unbalanced (and) inaccurate.” The statement emphasized a need to include violations committed by Hamas and other militant groups. 


Only the United States voted against the formation of a Commission of Inquiry. 


Previous Fact-Finding Missions on Gaza


In 2009 the Goldstone Report was presented to the UNHRC after a fact-finding mission investigated alleged war-crimes during Operation Cast Lead. The 574-page report found both Hamas and Israel committed war crimes. The Israeli government refused to cooperate with the process, making it impossible to conduct research in Israel. 


Neither Israel nor Hamas has prosecuted persons that designed and oversaw the operation. The Israeli government has conducted over 400 investigations, of which 52 led to criminal investigations. By 2011, two years after the report, only two investigations had led to prosecutions: one person was convicted to seven months in prison for stealing a credit card and two persons were convicted to a suspended sentence of three months for using a Palestinian child as a human shield. 


Amnesty International Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa Ann Harrison stated “Israel’s military investigations into Operation 'Cast Lead’ (…) did not meet international standards: they lacked independence, impartiality, transparency, appropriate expertise and sufficient investigatory powers.”


A UNHRC fact finding mission on the legality of Israeli settlements in the West Bank resulted in 2012 in a recommendation to cease all settlement activities “without preconditions” and to “initiate a process of withdrawal of all settlers” from the Occupied Palestinian Territories. The Israeli government decided not to cooperate with the fact-finding mission. Settler activity had grown by almost seventy per cent in the first half of 2013, directly following the Mission, according to Israeli NGO Peace Now.  


The International Criminal Court in The Hague

According to Van Esveld, the only way to “international justice with teeth” is for the Palestinian leadership to join the ICC. This would mean that the PA has to ratify the Rome Statute, which they have not done. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has stated several instances that he intends to do so.


Diana Buttu, a Palestinian Human Rights lawyer and former peace negotiator for the PA, says there is “great deal of fear” for ratifying the document. Pressure from both Israel and the USA is mounting. The latter are claiming that ratification would harm further peace negotiations. Joining the ICC would also mean that Palestinian armed groups are up for investigation, most importantly Hamas.


The complaint filed by Devers on Friday will not be accepted before the ICC has ruled whether it has jurisdiction within the PA or not. The observer-status to the UN may be enough to sign up for the ICC, but the process of admission has not been completed. Mattia Toaldo, policy fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations, therefore says he would be “surprised” if the ICC accepts the complaint, calling it “more of a symbolic thing”.


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