OPT: The fact-finding mission mandated by the League of Arab Nations to investigate Israeli war crimes concludes its works in Gaza on Friday
The mission consists of 6 international experts in the field of international law and humanitarian law: John Dughard, Former UN Rapporteur for the Occupied Palestinian Territories; Finn Lenghjem, a judge and legal expert; Paul De Waart, an international legal expert; Gonzalo Boye, a lawyer and representative of PCHR in Spanish courts; Raeleene Sharp, an international lawyer; and Francisco Corte Real, an expert in forensic medicine. The mission is also accompanied by 3 members of the secretariat general of the League of Arab Nations: Radwan Ben Khader, Legal Advisor of the Secretary General; 'Aliaa Al-Ghussain, Director of Palestinian Affairs Department; and Ilham al-Shajani, First Secretary of Demography and Immigration Policies Department.
PCHR has hosted the fact-finding mission in coordination with the League of Arab Nations. PCHR has prepared an integrated schedule for the visit, which has continued from 22 to 27 February 2009. It has also coordinated field visits and provided logistic support for the mission. During their visit to the Gaza Strip, members of the mission have met with dozens of victims of Israeli crimes, their relatives and eyewitnesses. They have also met with representatives of civil society organizations, human rights organizations, representatives of international organizations, officials, members of the Palestinian Legislative Council and political leaders.
The mission started its activities once entering the Gaza Strip through Rafah International Crossing Point. PCHR staff provided detailed information to the mission on Israeli violations of human rights during the offensive on the Gaza Strip. In the evening, the mission met with the ICRC Director in Gaza; Dr. Bassem Naim, Minister of Health in the Gaza government; Counselor Mohammed Awadh, Secretary of the Council of Ministers in Gaza; and Khaled Abdul Shafi, Director of UNDP in Gaza.
On the second day, the mission met with Ms. Karen Abu Zayed, UNRWA Commissioner, and visited UNRWA warehouses that were burnt by Israeli bombs during the offensive. Members of the mission then had a field tour in GazaCityand the northern Gaza Strip, where they watched the destruction to property left by IOF. They also heard testimonies from victims and their relatives. On the same day evening, the mission met with representatives of the Palestine Red Crescent Society; Union of Health Works Committee; Medial Relief Committees, Union of Agricultural Work Committees; and Union of Agricultural Relief Committees at offices of the Palestinian NGOs Network in Gaza. They also met with Dr. Eyad al-Sarraj, from Gaza Community Mental Health Programme; Suhaila Tarazi, Director of the Arab National Hospital in Gaza; Constantine al-Dabbagh, Director of the Middle East Council of Churches in Gaza; and 'Eissa Saba, Director of Cana'an Pedagogical Institute.
On the third day of the visit, members of the mission visited al-Wafaa Rehabilitation Hospital and the industrial zone in the east of GazaCity, where they were briefed on the detruction incurred to both of them. They then visited 'Izbat Abed Rabbu area in the east of Jabalya town in the northern Gaza Strip, watched the destruction incurred to the area and heard testimonies from families of victims. On the same day, the mission met with Dr. Bassem Naim, Minister of Health in his office in Gaza, who briefed them on the health situation and violations of human rights during the offensive.
They then visited ShifaHospitalin GazaCity, where they were detailed by Dr. Hussin Aashour, Director of the hospital, and Dr. Subhi Skaik, Director of the Surgery Department, on the difficulties they faced during the offensive. At PCHR's office in Gaza City, the mission met with representatives of political factions: Khaled al-Batash, from the Islamic Jihad; Ahmed Helles, from Fatah movement; Khaled Nasser, from the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine; and Kayed al-Ghoul, from the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. At the office of al-Mezan Center for Human Rights, the mission met with Essam Younis, Director of the Center; Mahmoud Abu Rahma, from the Center; Samer Mousa and Wa'el al-Qarra, from al-Dameer Association of Human Rights; Jameel Sarhan, Director of the Palestinian Independent Commission of Human Rights in Gaza, and Lawyer Subhiya Joma'a, from the Commission.
On the fourth day of their visit, members of the mission met with a number of members of the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) from the Change and Reform Bloc, who detailed them on attacks against the PLC and its members and the impacts of such attacks on their works. Members of the mission also visited offices of the Committee for the Documentation of War Crimes in Gaza, whose members provided details about the committee's activities. They then met with representatives of FAO, WHO, OHCHR, WFP and UNICEF at UNICEF's office. In the evening, members of the mission met with PCHR lawyers at PCHR's office in Gaza. The lawyers briefed the mission on the most significant cased that are being followed up by PCHR. Members of the mission also heard testimonies from a number of victims. Later, the mission met with a delegation of Palestine Bar Association headed by Samla Bsaisu, Deputy Chairman of the Bar Association, consisting of: Sharhabeel al-Zaim, UNRWA Legal Advisor; Islah Hassaniya, 'Ali al-Dan; hisham al-Karzoun; and Ziad al-Najjar.
On the last day of the visit, members of the mission met with 3 Palestinian journalists who covered the Israeli offensive on Gaza: Mohammed al-Baba, from France Press; Zakaria Abu Harbeed, a cameraman of Ramattan News Agency; and Thou al-Faqqar Sergio, Director of al-Shaab Radio. The journalists briefed the mission on the difficulties they faced while covering the offensive on Gaza. They also met with Michael Kingsley, Director Executive Officer, UN. Members of the mission then were briefed by Mark Buswell, Technical Director of MAG, at PCHR's office in Gazaon the weapons and bombs used by IOF during the offensive on Gaza. On the same day, members of the mission met with representatives of a number of women's organizations at the office of Women's AffairsCenterin Gaza, who briefed them on violations of women's rights during the Israeli offensive and their impacts. In the afternoon, members of the mission visited the Islamic University in Gaza, where they were briefed by Dr. Kamalin Shaat on the Israeli bombardment of the campus. At UNRWA headquarters, the mission met with John Ging, Director of UNRWA Operations. In the evening, the mission held a press conference at PCHR's office. Members of the mission talked about their work and their first impressions and emphasized the independence of the mission. They also expressed willingness to receive any testimonies or documents that may contribute to their final report.
The mission is going to conclude its visit to the Gaza Strip tomorrow with a field tour in Rafah to watch the destruction incurred to the town and the border area between the town and Egyptby Israeli air strikes. They will then leave the Gaza Strip towards Egyptthrough Rafah International Crossing Point.
In the coming weeks, the mission will prepare a report on the conclusions of their investigations to be submitted the secretariat general of the League of Arab Nations.
For more information please call PCHR office in Gaza, Gaza Strip, on +972 8 2824776 - 2825893