UN rights body calls for Gaza war crimes trials

AFP , Friday 3 Jul 2015

Palestinians walks past the ruins of houses, that witnesses said were destroyed by Israeli shelling during a 50-day Israeli assault last summer, in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip July 2, 2015 (Photo: Reuters)

The United Nation's Human Rights Council called overwhelmingly Friday for those responsible for war crimes during last summer's Israeli offensive on Gaza Strip to be brought to trial.

Forty-five countries, including France, Germany and Britain supported the resolution, with only the United States voting against.

Israel's representative Eviatar Manor lambasted the decision, accusing the council of being an "agent provocateur", while his Palestinian opposite number Ibrahim Khraishi was jubilant.

The vote comes in the wake of a scathing UN report detailing "possible war crimes" during the 51 days of fighting.

The head of the UN's inquiry Mary McGowan Davis said investigators had found "serious violations of international humanitarian and human rights law by Israel and Palestinian armed groups, in some cases amounting to war crimes."

The resolution did not point the finger at those responsible but said they should face justice in either national or international courts.

Although the council does not have the power to order that suspects be brought before the International Criminal Court (ICC), it urged both Israel and Palestinian authorities to "cooperate fully" with any criminal inquiries that may be opened.

Human Rights Watch welcomed the resolution saying it "sends a strong message that the perpetrators of serious violations should be held to account. Israel and Palestine, as well as Hamas, should respect the resolution's call to cooperate with the International Criminal Court."

Palestinians have been trying to bring criminal proceedings against Israel at the ICC as part of an increased focus on diplomatic manoeuvring and appeals to international bodies.

More than 2,140 Palestinians were killed during the Israeli offensive in July and August 2014. Of the 73 deaths on the Israeli side, most were soldiers.

The UN report criticised the "huge firepower" Israel used in Gaza, particularly against residential buildings and UN schools, and questioned whether a policy of civilian attacks had been "approved at least tacitly by decision-makers at the highest levels of the government of Israel."

It also condemned the "indiscriminate" firing of thousands of rockets and mortars by Palestinian forces at Israel, which it said appeared to have been intended to "spread terror" among Israeli civilians.

Five countries including India and Kenya abstained from Friday's vote.

*This story was edited by Ahram Online. 

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