Published On: Sat, May 29th, 2021

UN Human Rights Council: Historic Resolution Opens Ongoing Deep Probe Into Systemic Abuses, Violations Against Palestinians

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By Janet Ekstract

GENEVA (TURKISH JOURNAL) – In a historic decision last Thursday, the United Nations Human Rights Council passed a resolution to begin an ongoing international investigation surrounding violations and “systematic” abuses in Palestinian territories and inside Israel. UN rights chief Michelle Bachelet opened the special one-day council session on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) with text presented by Pakistan that focused on Bachelet’s grave concerns about what she said are a “high level of civilian fatalities and injuries” from attacks on Gaza. Bachelet warned the council that Israeli attacks on Gaza “may constitute war crimes.” She also labeled Hamas rocket firing as “indiscriminate” and “a clear violation of international humanitarian law.”

While the Palestinian foreign ministry lauded the decision, Israeli leader Benjamin Netanyahu condemned the resolution, calling it “shameful.” A statement from the Palestinian foreign ministry said that the decision “reflects the determination of the international community to move forward in the path of accountability, law enforcement and protection of Palestinian human rights.” The resolution orders an investigation to begin into violations and into what the council referred to as “systematic” abuses, leading to a repetitive cycle of violence over the decades. With this resolution, the council agreed to create “an ongoing, independent, international commission of inquiry…in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem and in Israel.” Investigators said the text should probe “underlying root causes of recurrent tensions and instability, including systematic discrimination and repression based on group identity.” They also highlighted that it should focus on establishing facts and gather evidence for legal proceedings while identifying perpetrators to ensure they are held accountable. The resolution also urges nations to “refrain from transferring arms when they assess…that there is a clear risk that such arms might be used in the commission or facilitation of serious violations or abuses.”

Meanwhile, prior to the council vote, during debate on the issue, a wide range of nations condemned the violence in the latest Gaza conflict, pointing out the need for urgent aid to Gaza and resuming talks that ultimately lead to a lasting, peaceful two-state solution. The 14-year blockade on Gaza was of main concern as are settlement expansion along with evictions and demolitions of Palestinian homes that were highlighted among the root causes igniting current tensions between Palestinians and Israelis. Israel’s Ambassador to the UN in Geneva, Meirav Eilon Shahar condemned the session and its text. Shahar said that the resolution “had nothing to do with reality, has nothing to do with human rights” and urged countries not to back the resolution. While she insisted that Israel “took all measures to protect civilians,” the press and residents on the ground in Gaza during the 11-day conflict, reported that Israel’s military gave no warning to residents prior to sudden strikes that mainly hit after midnight, killing entire families. Countering Shahar, Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki accused Israel of instituting “an apartheid system.” He said: “The right to self-defense and the right to resist occupation is a right we have as the Palestinian people.”

Shahar said that backing the resolution will “embolden and reward Hamas” which she labeled as a “racist, genocidal, terrorist organization.” She blamed Hamas for civilian deaths in the conflict by claiming that Hamas purposely hid “beneath residential buildings, maternity wards and mosques.” Contrasting what Shahar said, Bachelet commented that her office saw no evidence that buildings targeted in Gaza, including medical facilities and media offices, were “hosting armed groups or being used for military purposes.” Netanyahu in a statement to the council, said: “Today’s shameful decision is yet another example of the UN Human Rights Council’s blatant anti-Israel obsession.” The historic vote will create the council’s first ever open-ended commission of inquiry (COI) which is the highest level of investigation that can be ordered by the UN Human Rights Council since other COIs need their mandates renewed annually. This is the first investigation with a mandate to examine “root causes” of the conflict and that will investigate in-depth into systemic abuses committed within Israel. The UN Human Rights Council was compelled to call for such a resolution as the council and a host of countries denounced Israel’s military tactics, widespread civilian deaths and injuries as well as the shocking airstrikes that included destroying a major media outlet high-rise. What precipitated this month’s conflict in Gaza were protests against evicting Palestinians from their homes to replace them with Jewish settlers in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah. The situation reached a breaking point because the evictions have been ongoing for decades and include Palestinian families being forced to sign over the deed to their property to Jewish settlers which is in violation of international law.

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