Lebanon

Report of the Commission of Inquiry on Lebanon pursuant to Human Rights Council resolution S-2/1

Source
Posted
Originally published

Attachments

Summary

1. On 11 August 2006, at its second special session, convened to address the ongoing conflict in Lebanon, the Human Rights Council adopted resolution S-2/1, entitled "The grave situation of human rights in Lebanon caused by Israeli military operations", in which it decided to "establish urgently and immediately dispatch a high-level commission of inquiry". The Commission, according to paragraph 7 of resolution S-2/1, was mandated: "(a) to investigate the systematic targeting and killings of civilians by Israel in Lebanon; (b) to examine the types of weapons used by Israel and their conformity with international law; and (c) to assess the extent and deadly impact of Israeli attacks on human life, property, critical infrastructure and the environment."

2. On 1 September 2006, the President of the Human Rights Council, Luis Alfonso de Alba, announced the nomination of Jo=E3o Clemente Baena Soares, Mohamed Chande Othman and Stelios Perrakis as members of the Commission of Inquiry. The Commission assembled in Geneva, together with its Secretariat, and began its work on 11 September. It agreed to report to the Council within two months.

3. In Geneva, the Commission held meetings with the President of the Human Rights Council, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, the Permanent Missions of Lebanon and Israel, United Nations agencies and non-governmental organizations (NGO). The Commission visited Lebanon from 23 September to 7 October, and from 17 to 21 October. It met with the President and Prime Minister of Lebanon, members of the Government and other senior officials, members of parliament, local authorities, representatives of the private sector and hospitals, victims and witnesses, as well as representatives of NGOs, United Nations agencies, United Nations representatives, United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) and United Nations Truce Supervision Organization (UNTSO). The Commission visited the suburbs of South Beirut, the Bekaa Valley, Byblos, and made an extended tour of southern Lebanon.

4. The report describes the terms of reference, methodology, approaches and activities of the Commission. It provides an overview of the 33-day long conflict with an historical background and addresses the qualification of and the law applicable to the conflict. The report then concentrates on the various substantive issues the Commission considered it should address in detail in accordance with its mandate. The report further provides an analysis on the various aspects of the impact of the conflict on life in Lebanon. Finally, the report presents the conclusions of the Commission and its recommendations.

5. It is not for the Commission to comment on the political-legal context of the adoption of resolution S-2/1, nor to make judgment on the content of its mandate. It is clear that the mandate of the Commission has limits ratione personae (actions by the Israeli military) and ratione loci (on Lebanese territory) and does not allow for a full examination of all of the aspects of the conflict, nor does it permit consideration of the conduct of all parties. The Commission is bound by the mandate given to it by the Human Rights Council (hereafter "the Council") which it interprets broadly, in the light of the principles and rules of international law, international humanitarian law and international human rights law, and having in mind the need for the respect for human life and dignity in the face of the complex challenges posed in the context of armed conflict.

6. A fundamental point in relation to the conflict and the Commission's mandate as defined by the Council is the conduct of Hezbollah. The Commission considers that any independent, impartial and objective investigation into a particular conduct during the course of hostilities must of necessity be with reference to all the belligerents involved. Thus an inquiry into the conformity with international humanitarian law of the specific acts of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) in Lebanon requires that account also be taken of the conduct of the opponent.

7. That said, taking into consideration the express limitations of its mandate, the Commission is not entitled, even if it had wished, to construe it as equally authorizing the investigation of the actions by Hezbollah in Israel. To do so would exceed the Commission's interpretative function and would be to usurp the Council's powers.

8. The hostilities that took place from 12 July to 14 August constitute an international armed conflict to which conventional and customary international humanitarian law and international human rights law are applicable.

9. In analysing the characteristics of the conflict, the Commission highlights its sui generis nature in that active hostilities took place only between Israel and Hezbollah fighters. While the Government of Lebanon claimed that it was not responsible for and had no prior knowledge of the operation carried out by Hezbollah inside Israeli territory on 12 July 2006, the Government of Israel has officially stated that responsibility lies with the Government of Lebanon. It is the view of the Commission that hostilities were in fact and in the main only between IDF and Hezbollah. The fact that the Lebanese Armed Forces did not take an active part in them neither denies the character of the conflict as a legally cognizable international armed conflict, nor does it negate that Israel, Lebanon and Hezbollah were parties to it.

10. The Commission stresses that, generally, respect for the principle of humanity and humanitarian considerations (Martens clause) was absent during the conflict.