UN rights council mulls 'systematic' abuses probe after Gaza conflict

·3-min read
The draft resolution was drawn up by the Organization of Islamic Cooperation

The UN Human Rights Council will on Thursday discuss creating a broad, international investigation into violations surrounding the latest Gaza violence, but also of "systematic" abuses in the Palestinian territories and inside Israel.

The proposal before the United Nations' top rights body calls for an unprecedented level of scrutiny on abuses and their "root causes" in the decades-long Middle East conflict.

The draft resolution presented by the Organization of Islamic Cooperation will be debated during a special one-day council session focused on the surge in deadly violence between Israelis and Palestinians this month.

The session of the 47-member council, called for by Pakistan on behalf of the OIC and the Palestinian Authority, will kick off at 0800 GMT with a statement by UN rights chief Michelle Bachelet.

Palestinian foreign minister Riyad al-Maliki was among those expected to address the session, as was Meirav Eilon Shahar, Israel's ambassador to the UN in Geneva. On Wednesday, she attacked both the session and the draft resolution.

Their "sole purpose", she said, was "to blame Israel, whitewash the crimes committed by Hamas, and for the Palestinian Authority to avoid assuming its responsibilities towards its own population".

- 'Root causes' -

The text, expected to be voted on Thursday afternoon, calls for the council to "urgently establish an ongoing independent, international commission of inquiry... in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem and in Israel".

The investigators, the text said, should probe "all alleged violations and abuses" of international law linked to the tensions that sparked the latest violence.

Before a truce took hold last Friday, Israeli air strikes and artillery fire on Gaza killed 253 Palestinians, including 66 children, and wounded more than 1,900 people in 11 days of conflict from May 10, the health ministry in Gaza says.

Rocket and other fire from Gaza claimed 12 lives in Israel, including one child and an Arab-Israeli teenager, an Israeli soldier, one Indian national and two Thai workers, medics say. Some 357 people in Israel were wounded.

But the draft text goes far beyond the most recent conflict, also calling for investigators to probe "underlying root causes of recurrent tensions and instability, including systematic discrimination and repression based on group identity".

The investigation should focus on establishing facts and gather evidence and other material that could be used in legal proceedings, and as far as possible should identify perpetrators to ensure they are held accountable, it said.

- 'Systemic impunity' -

"Long-standing and systemic impunity for international law violations has thwarted justice, created a protection crisis and undermined all efforts to achieve a just and peaceful solution," the draft text said.

If the resolution passes, it would create the council's first ever open-ended commission of inquiry (COI) -- the highest-level investigation that can be ordered by the council.

Other COIs, like the one on Syria, need their mandates renewed every year.

And while the council has previously ordered eight investigations into rights violations committed in the Palestinian territories, this would be the first one with a mandate to examine "root causes" in the drawn-out conflict, and also to probe systematic abuses committed within Israel.

Khalil Hashmi, Pakistan's ambassador to the UN in Geneva, told reporters Wednesday that the recent violence was only the latest in a long cycle, and stressed the need for the investigation to have "standing status".

Twenty of the council's 47 members were among the 66 countries that backed holding the special session.

The rights council holds three regular sessions each year, but can hold special sessions with the backing of at least a third of members.

Thursday will mark the 30th extraordinary meeting since the council's creation 15 years ago.

It will be the ninth focused on Israel, which has long complained it faces bias in the council. Ambassador Eilon Shahar said this latest special session marked a "further tarnishing (of) the moral values it is supposed to uphold."

She called on all member states "to assume their moral responsibility and oppose the resolution".

nl/rjm/jj

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting