A new UN report says that both Israel and Palestinian armed groups likely committed war crimes during the 2014 Gaza conflict. It calls on governments to ensure individual accountability by supporting the ICC’s preliminary examination into the situation.
The report, delivered by the UN Independent Commission of Inquiry on the 2014 Gaza Conflict, describes an unprecedented number of civilian casualties and human suffering.
It cites Israeli airstrikes on homes as potentially disproportionate, and found that Israel’s use of heavy artillery in densely populated areas may have breached international humanitarian law, and may amount to war crimes.
Palestinian armed groups’ use of indiscriminate rocket attacks towards Israel and deliberately targeting civilians could amount to war crimes as well.
The panel criticized both sides for failing to provide accountability for the alleged recurrent violations and crimes and urged authorities to conduct credible investigations and prosecutions, providing remedy to victims, as a condition to deter future violations.
The panel’s report was largely welcomed by civil society, including several members of our Coalition, who urged states to cooperate with the ICC prosecutor’s preliminary examination into the situation in Palestine.
Philip Luther, Middle East and North Africa programme director at Amnesty International:
“The evidence is overwhelming and now the members and observer states of the UN Human Rights Council must give the Commission’s findings and recommendations serious consideration, refrain from politicizing the Commission or its report, and ensure that the Council takes all measures necessary to ensure accountability. Additionally, the Israeli and Palestinian authorities must co-operate with the International Criminal Court examination, opened in January, and all states must actively support the work of the ICC in relation to the Occupied Palestinian Territories, as the Commission recommended.”
Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch:
“Israel and Hamas have a long history of not seriously investigating themselves, and they have made clear that this war is no different. Unless this lack of credible domestic efforts unexpectedly changes, the ICC could step in to reduce the accountability gap.”
The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), and its Palestinian members Al-Haq, Al-Mezan Centre for Human Rights and Palestinian Centre for Human Rights:
“In the face of ongoing impunity for international crimes committed during the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, we reiterate the Commission’s call to all States to cooperate with the International Criminal Court and contribute to its ongoing preliminary examination of the Palestine situation. We also call upon States to effectively meet their obligations to initiate genuine proceedings against alleged perpetrators, on the basis of their extraterritorial jurisdiction.”
The Commission of Inquiry also called on Israel to accede to the ICC Rome Statute.
At the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) in Geneva early this week, Palestine promised to investigate the allegations made in the report. Israel was not present and strongly criticized the report, but an Israeli official told reporters that it would be used as a source for internal investigations.
The report was welcomed by the majority of states present at the HRC, who supported the Panel’s recommendation on the urgent need for accountability and redress for victims.
The need for domestic investigations is made more urgent by the ICC’s preliminary examination. Part of that process—which is used by the prosecutor to decide whether to proceed with a full investigation—includes determining whether credible national proceedings are already investigating or prosecuting crimes under the Rome Statute.
Such urgency was underscored last week, when Palestine delivered a file of alleged Israeli war crimes to the ICC prosecutor.
The ICC prosecutor opened a preliminary examination into the situation in Palestine in January, after the Palestinian government gave the Court jurisdiction over alleged crimes committed on its territory since 13 June 2014. Palestine also acceded to the Rome Statute, becoming a member of the ICC on 1 April.
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