UN rights council mulls 'systematic' abuses probe after Israel's Gaza campaign

AFP , Thursday 27 May 2021

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

Gaza Strip
Palestinians spend the night next to their destroyed homes that were hit recently by Israeli air-strikes in the town of Beit Hanoun, northern Gaza Strip, Wednesday, May 26, 2021 AP

The UN Human Rights Council will on Thursday discuss creating a broad, international investigation into violations surrounding the latest Israel's military campaign on Gaza Strip, 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 Israel's crackdown on 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. 

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 bombarding the coastal enclave from May 10, the health ministry in Gaza says.

Rocket and other fire from Gaza claimed 12 lives in Israel, medics say. Some 357 people in Israel were wounded.

But the draft text goes far beyond Israel's most recent crackdown and military campaign, 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.

"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.

*This story was edited by Ahram Online. 

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