Gaza: UN Human rights council must ensure justice for victims after Goldstone findings
As the Human Rights Council prepares to consider - on 27 September - a report by a UN Committee of Independent Experts into domestic investigations into the 2008-9 conflict in Gaza and southern Israel, Amnesty International is calling on the UN body to seek an international justice solution for the victims.
The report issued earlier this week supports Amnesty’s evaluation that the domestic investigations carried out by both the Israeli government and the Hamas de facto administration in Gaza into alleged violations of international law committed by both sides have failed to meet the required international standards of independence, impartiality, thoroughness, effectiveness and promptness.
Israel’s investigations, undertaken and overseen by the military - including some involved in the military operation in Gaza - have lacked independence, appropriate expertise and transparency. At least 65 military probes have been closed without opening criminal investigations; they include probes into Israeli attacks on UN facilities, civilian property and infrastructure, medical facilities and personnel, attacks using white phosphorus and other attacks in which many civilians were killed and injured.
In Gaza, Hamas has failed to mount credible investigations into alleged violations by its forces and other Palestinian armed groups, including the firing of indiscriminate rockets into Israel that killed three civilians and injured others during the conflict.
Over a year has passed since Judge Richard Goldstone’ Fact-Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict identified allegations of grave violations of international law, including war crimes and possible crimes against humanity, committed by both sides and recommended that the government of Israel and the relevant authorities in Gaza be given six months to undertake good faith investigations.
Amnesty considers that the domestic authorities have been given more than adequate time and opportunity to ensure justice for victims. Their failure to do so requires an international justice solution.
Although neither Israel nor the Palestinian Authority have ratified the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC), on 22 January 2009 the Palestinian Minister of Justice on behalf of the Palestinian Authority submitted a declaration to the ICC accepting its jurisdiction over crimes “committed on the territory of Palestine since 1 July 2002.” The declaration would potentially cover all crimes documented in the Fact-Finding Mission report in both Gaza and Israel.
Irrespective of the status of the ICC’s jurisdiction, Amnesty notes that under international law all states can and should investigate and prosecute crimes committed during the conflict before their national courts by exercising universal jurisdiction over crimes under international law.
Amnesty International is therefore calling on the Human Rights Council to:
*recognise the failure of the investigations conducted by Israel and the Hamas de facto administration to comply with international standards
*call on the ICC Prosecutor urgently to seek a determination by the Pre-Trial Chamber on whether the ICC has jurisdiction over the Gaza conflict
*call on states to investigate and prosecute crimes committed by both sides during the conflict before their national courts by exercising universal jurisdiction
*refer the Committee’s report to the Council’s parent body, the General Assembly
*request that the UN Secretary-General place the report before the Security Council.