Top UN human rights expert group deplores high price paid by civilians in Gaza and Israel
GENEVA (23 November 2012) – The largest body of independent experts in the United Nations Human Rights system today expressed their deep dismay at the high price paid by civilians in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and Israel during the recent escalation of violence. Welcoming the cease fire announced in Cairo, they called for the protection of civilians to be prioritised at all times.
“We utterly condemn all attacks against civilians, and now that calm has been restored, our immediate thoughts go to the Palestinian and Israeli victims, especially women and children,” said Michel Forst, who currently chairs the Coordination Committee set up by the independent experts charged by the UN Human Rights Council to address specific country situations and thematic issues in all parts of the world.
“The current situation shows once again that it is crucial for all parties to refrain from using force. Violence must not restart,” the human rights expert stressed.
“We deplored that, as the result of the aerial and naval bombings in Gaza, over 100 civilians were killed and hundreds injured. We condemn the killings of journalists and targeting of media outlets. Furthermore, we deeply regret the destruction or damaging of houses, religious sites, schools and infrastructure,” Mr. Forst said on behalf of all the independent experts of the Human Rights Council Special Procedures. “This results in additional suffering for Palestinians in Gaza.”
“We condemn the launching of indiscriminate rockets on Israeli neighbourhoods which resulted in the killing of 3 confirmed Israeli civilians and in many being injured. The attack carried out in a bus in Tel Aviv amounts to a gross disregard for human life. Plainly stated, there is no possible justification whatsoever for this attack,” he emphasised.
The group of experts underscored that accountability for any violations of international human rights and humanitarian law must be ensured, including prompt, impartial and thorough investigations into allegations of violations. “These investigations should shed light on what happened, including by clarifying responsibilities, and take account the need to provide reparations to victims,” Mr. Forst noted.
“We will continue to closely monitor the human rights situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and Israel to report on violations, through joint action when necessary,” he said, urging all parties to comply with their obligations under international law and to fully cooperate with the UN protection and monitoring mechanisms.
“What happened over the past few days has again alerted us to the imperative to find a lasting and peaceful solution to this conflict. All parties should make every effort to reach that goal, otherwise we will witness further grave human rights violations” the human rights expert said “The international community has a key role to play and should use all leverage at its disposal to put the peace process back on track.”
“Special procedures” is the general name of the independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms of the Human Rights Council that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Currently, there are 36 thematic mandates and 12 mandates related to countries and territories, with 72 mandate holders. The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights provides these mechanisms with support for the fulfilment of their mandates.