GAZA: INTERNATIONAL INVESTIGATION OF FLOTILLA DEATHS NEEDED
* Israel should assist UN experts in fact-finding mission
* Blockade should be lifted
Amnesty International is calling for a prompt and credible international inquiry into the deaths caused by Israel’s military action against the aid flotilla in international waters outside Gaza on 31 May. This, the organisation insists, is necessary to ensure accountability. Amnesty emphasised that those individuals selected to conduct the inquiry should be recognised for their impartiality, competence and expertise, and Israel should cooperate fully with it. The organisation is also urging the immediate lifting of the Israeli military blockade on the Gaza Strip. Yesterday (2 June) the UN Human Rights Council adopted a resolution that provides for the dispatch of an independent international fact-finding mission to investigate violations of international law, including international humanitarian and human rights law, arising from Israeli actions against the flotilla of ships on 31 May. The resolution authorises the President of the Human Rights Council to appoint members of this international fact-finding mission, adding that they should report their findings to the Council at its 15th session in September 2010. Amnesty is urging the President of the Council to ensure that those appointed to the mission are appropriately qualified to carry out the task, in order to ensure that the investigation is comprehensive, thorough, credible and independent and thus provide a basis for establishing full accountability. Meanwhile, Amnesty has reiterated its condemnation of the blockade of Gaza as a form of collective punishment in contravention of international law and called on the Israeli government to lift it without delay. In an oral intervention to the Human Rights Council before the resolution was adopted, Amnesty said that the Israeli authorities have the primary responsibility to investigate the conduct of their forces, including their use of lethal force and the circumstances in which it was used, and to hold to account those responsible for human rights violations. However, the international nature of the incident and Israel’s continuing failure to conduct credible, independent investigations into alleged war crimes and other serious violations of international humanitarian and international human rights law by their forces in Gaza during the Israeli military operation “Cast Lead” (27 December 2008 to 18 January 2009), underscores the need for an immediate international investigation. Consequently, the Israeli authorities should invite the relevant UN experts, the Special Rapporteurs on the situation of human rights on Palestinian territories occupied since 1967 and on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, to visit Israel to investigate the events of 31 May. Israel should then ensure full cooperation with them, including by enabling their unfettered access to all relevant information, documentation and officials and military personnel as well as those aboard the ships who were witnesses to what occurred or may have relevant information. Israel should in turn take full account of their findings and recommendations. Background
Resolution A/HRC/14/L.1 regarding “The Grave Attacks by Israeli Forces against the Humanitarian Boat Convoy” was passed on 2 June 2010 by the Human Rights Council (HRC) in its 14th session. In addition to its decisions regarding an independent international fact-finding mission to investigate violations of international law, the HRC also called on Israel to fully cooperate with the International Committee of the Red Cross to seek and provide information on the whereabouts, status and condition of the detained and injured persons from the Convoy. The resolution also called on Israel, as the occupying power, to immediately lift the “siege on occupied Gaza and other occupied Territories… [and] ensure the unimpeded provision of humanitarian assistance, including of food, fuel and medical treatment to the occupied Gaza Strip”. A total of 32 member states of the Human Rights Council voted in favour of the resolution and three voted against it (USA, Netherlands and Italy). Nine states abstained (France, UK, Ukraine, Slovakia, Belgium, Burkina Faso, Republic of Korea, Japan and Hungary) and three states were absent from the vote (Cameroon, Madagascar and Zambia).