Spain, Ireland seek EU check on Israel's human rights record in Gaza

AFP , Wednesday 14 Feb 2024

Spain and Ireland have asked the European Union to "urgently" examine whether Israel is complying with human rights obligations in Gaza under an accord that links rights to trade ties.

People march during a protest in support of Palestinians and calling for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza in downtown Madrid, Spain, Saturday, Jan. 2024. AP


The Spanish and Irish prime ministers Pedro Sanchez and Leo Varadkar sent a letter to the European Commission urging it to "act urgently on the Gaza crisis".

"Given the critical situation in Rafah, Ireland, and Spain have just requested the European Commission urgently review whether Israel is complying with its obligations to respect human rights in Gaza," Sanchez wrote on X, formerly Twitter.

More than 1.4 million Palestinians are trapped in the southern city of Rafah as Israeli troops ready a full-scale ground operation that has triggered international alarm over the potential for mass casualties in Israel's four-month war on Gaza.

In the letter, the two leaders demand "an urgent review of whether Israel is complying with its obligations, including under the EU/Israel Association Agreement, which makes respect for human rights and democratic principles an essential element of the relationship," it says.

The association agreement is the main basis for the bloc's trade ties with Israel. Signed in 1995, it came into force in 2000.

"If it considers that (Israel) is in breach", the Commission should propose "appropriate measures to the Council to consider," the letter said.

The European Commission confirmed receiving the letter and would "look into it", spokeswoman Arianna Podesta told reporters.

Foreign affairs spokeswoman Nabila Massrali was not immediately able to say how the Commission would review the human rights element of the agreement, but said there "must be accountability for any violation of international law".

The EU, she said, consistently stressed the importance of protecting civilians and deplores the loss of life, with such messages passed on "in its contacts with the Israeli authorities".

Spain, Ireland, and Belgium have been among the most critical in Europe of the way Israel has conducted its military offensive on Gaza.


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