|Date published: 28th June 2009
Source: Al-Jazeera English
A public hearing organised by a UN team investigating alleged war crimes by Israel and Hamas during the Gaza war is under way.
As part of its investigations into the December 2008 – January 2009 Gaza conflict, the UN fact-finding mission will listen to testimony from victims of the conflict for two days in Gaza City and hold a second round of public hearings on July 6 and July 7 in Geneva.
During the Gaza hearing, which began on Sunday and is being screened live for the public and the media, the mission will hear from victims of alleged violations and from experts on the context and impact of the Israeli siege and military operations.
The public hearings, which are a part of the information-gathering work of the fact-finding mission, will enable victims, witnesses and experts from all sides in the conflict to speak directly to the international community.
In Geneva, the mission will hear from victims of alleged violations in Israel and the West Bank, as well as from experts on a variety of military and legal issues.
Geneva has been chosen as the venue of the second round of hearings since the fact-finding mission has so far not received permission to enter Israel to hold the sessions in southern Israel and the West Bank.
“The purpose of the public hearings in Gaza and Geneva is to show the faces and broadcast the voices of victims – all of the victims,” Goldstone said on Thursday, at the end of a four-day fact-finding trip to Gaza.
“The hearings are limited in time and scope”, he said.
“The fact that not all important incidents and events are the subject of the public hearings should in no way be interpreted as meaning that the other incidents are of lesser importance or of less concern to the mission”.
The hearings are only one aspect of the mission’s investigative work.
Al Jazeera’s Sherine Tadros, reporting from Gaza, said: “The aim of this mission, according to Goldstone, is to broadcast the voices and to show the faces of the victims.”This is not about compensation or legal recourse. What the victims want is an opportunity to tell the world what happened in the hope that people will remember their story and the killings of their loves ones will not go unnoticed,” she said.
The mission is due to complete a report with its findings in August.
Israel launched its 22-day offensive against Gaza’s Hamas rulers and the Gazan people on 27 December.
The operation killed more than 1,400 Palestinians, including more than 900 civilians, among them scores of children, according to Palestinian officials and human rights groups.
It also destroyed thousands of homes and heavily damaged Gaza’s infrastructure.
Israel claims the death toll was lower and most of the dead were Hamas fighters.Thirteen Israelis were also killed during the fighting.
Gaza’s reconstruction is being hampered by Israel’s blockade of Gaza which dates back to June 2007 when Hamas took control of the territory.
Since then, Israel and Egypt, which control Gaza’s only border crossing that bypasses Israel, have kept the territory of 1.5 million aid-dependent people sealed to all but essential humanitarian supplies.
Israel has insisted that the blockade is necessary to prevent Hamas from arming itself, but human rights groups say it is a collective punishment.
The fact-finding mission is mandated by the UN to investigate all violations of international human rights and humanitarian laws that might have been committed at any time in the context of the military operations conducted in Gaza.
During the public hearings, witnesses and experts will speak about incidents and experiences regarding loss of life, attacks on physical integrity, destruction of industry and livelihood, and the effects of prolonged conflict on mental health, among others.
Archive for Israeli war crimes
Interview from The Real News to Phyllis Bennis on the importance of history in understanding what’s going on in Gaza and historical amnesia as a powerful weapon.
Where you decide to start the clock determines how you define the crisis.
Published on 3rd April 2009
Source: Haaretz (original source: REUTERS)
Richard Goldstone, a South African Jewish judge, will head an international fact-finding mission into allegations of war crimes by Israeli soldiers and Palestinian militants in Gaza, the United Nations said on Friday.
The former war crimes prosecutor will head a four-member team whose mandate stems from a resolution adopted by the United Nations Human Rights Council at a special session on January 12.
“It is in the interest of all Palestinians and Israelis that the allegations of war crimes and serious human rights violations related to the recent conflict on all sides be investigated,” Goldstone said in a statement.
Goldstone served as chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda.
Goldstone will investigate conduct by both sides in Israel’s 22-day offensive in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip. According to a Palestinian rights group, 1,417 people including 926 civilians were killed in the fighting.
Israel has disputed Palestinian claims that most of the people killed in the recent offensive in Gaza were civilians, stating that the vast majority of the dead were in fact Hamas militants. Thirteen Israelis were also killed in the hostilities.
“I am confident that the mission will be in a position to assess in an independent and impartial manner all human rights and humanitarian law violations committed in the context of the [Gaza] conflict,” the president of the Human Rights Council, Nigerian ambassador Martin Uhomoibhi, said in a statement.
This is an interesting article from Gideon Levy published in Haaretz 0n 02/04/09 on the (inexistent) rule of law in Israel.
Here you have some excerpts:
Not that anything different could have been expected. From the day the military advocate general announced that unlike in the first intifada, not every killing in the territories would be investigated, battle ethics were condemned. When the killing of 4,747 Palestinians in the second intifada, 942 of them women and children, according to B’Tselem, is followed by 30 indictments, five convictions and only one prison sentence of any considerable length, the IDF is sending a clear message: The killing of Palestinian civilians is of no concern to the military justice system.
The message to soldiers is just as clear: Kill as much as you please, no wrong will come to you, the army won’t even bother to look into it. Now, after 1,300 deaths in Gaza, the military advocate general confirmed this policy. Any adherent of the rule of law in Israel should have been shocked by this rash decision, but our army of lawyers is concerned with other things.
Israel cannot be considered a country of the rule of law if its backyard is occupied by this grotesque show called the military justice system. Only when it is segregated from the IDF and a civil justice system investigates the army will we know we have a legal army and a legal state. Until then, all we can do is look to The Hague.
Written by Helen Pidd
Published 31st March 2009
Source: The Guardian
The Israeli military has concluded that no war crimes were committed during its recent offensive in the Gaza Strip.
Investigation declares Israeli soldiers’ confessions exaggerated stories of civilian casualties in Gaza.
More than 1,400 Palestinians were killed, including more than 900 civilians, according to the Palestinian Center for Human Rights, which published a list of names of the dead. Israel has said the toll was lower, and the “vast majority” of the dead were militants. But it did not publish a list to support the assertion.
In a joint statement, nine Israeli rights groups said the decision to close the investigation without bringing charges “only strengthens the need for the attorney general to allow for an independent nonpartisan investigative body to be established in order to look into all Israeli army activity” in Gaza.
While Richard Falk, the United Nations special rapporteur on human rights in the Palestinian territories, says Israel’s military offensive on Gaza “would seem to constitute a war crime of the greatest magnitude under international law”:
While reports from human rights organisations worldwide talk about an “unlawful war” that has caused many evitable civilian deaths;
Israeli politicians and military repeat the mantra of the use of civilians as human shields by Hamas and challenge the number of death civilians in the Gaza offensive.
And nothing changes but the world is still claiming for justice… How long will we have to wait for an independent investigation to take place??
- In densely populated areas hitting homes, hospitals and UN compounds where civilians were taking shelter.
- On the edges of populated areas therefore not taking all feasible precautions during military operations to minimize civilian harm.
- In open areas along the boundary separating Israel and Gaza, although Human Rights Watch was not able to investigate the extend of the destruction because of the security concerns prohibiting to travel to the area.
White phosphorus munitions are not illegal if they are used properly in open areas, but the Human Rights Watch report “concludes that the IDF repeatedly exploded it unlawfully over populated neighborhoods, killing and wounding civilians and damaging civilian structures, including a school, a market, a humanitarian aid warehouse, and a hospital.”
Israel first denied its use of white phosphorus in Gaza. However, facing mounting evidence to the contrary, it declared it was using all weapons in compliance with international law but announced an internal investigation into possible improper white phosphorus use.
All of the white phosphorus shells that Human Rights Watch found were manufactured in the United States in 1989 and 1991.
The Human Rights Watch report concluded that the IDF had deliberately or recklessly used white phosphorus munitions in violation of the laws of war: “First, the repeated use of air-burst white phosphorus in populated areas until the last days of the operation reveals a pattern or policy of conduct rather than incidental or accidental usage. Second, the IDF was well aware of the effects of white phosphorus and the dangers it poses to civilians. Third, the IDF failed to use safer available alternatives for smokescreens.”
The Human Rights Watch report also reminds the international community that “The laws of war obligate states to investigate impartially allegations of war crimes” and calls for a serious international investigation and the prosecution as appropiate of those who ordered or carried out unlawful attacks using white phosphorus munitions.