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[Statement] Gaza Conflict: Statement on the adoption of the UNGA resolution on February 26, 2010 "Further action of the international community required, Japanese and European votes encouraged for the UNGA resolution"

1.        New UNGA resolution and delay on achieving full accountability


On February 26 2010, the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution requesting the Secretary-General to report on the progress of investigations of Israel and the Palestinian side to the General Assembly within a period of five months.


Almost 1400 people including civilians died during the Gaza Conflict which lasted from between December 2008 to January 2009. However, accountability for the violations of international humanitarian and international human rights law has still not been achieved, although more than a year has passed since the conflict.


In November 2009, the U.N. General Assembly adopted a resolution calling for both Israel and the Palestinian side to undertake investigations that are "independent, credible and in conformity with international standards" within a period of three months, following the release of the report of the U.N. Fact-Finding Mission, (also called the Goldstone Mission, which was mandated by the U.N. Human Rights Council) which found that both sides of the conflict violated international humanitarian and human rights law. However, both parties have failed to conduct the required investigations during the period and a new resolution was adopted to extend the deadline by five months.


Human Rights Now (HRN) is concerned that the delay of the investigations goes against the hope of victims, which may lead to the acceptance of the situation of impunity. Therefore, HRN requests the U.N. General Assembly to take further action immediately, rather than waiting five months for the results of the investigations.


2. Unsatisfactory results of the investigations


Prior to the due date, February 5 2010, the Israeli government, the Palestinian Authority and Hamas submitted answers to the Secretary General for the UNGA resolution. Neither demonstrated that they had conducted independent and impartial investigations.


In the investigation report of Israel, which was published on January 29, 2010, Israel announced that it had investigated 150 cases. However, the entire contents of those investigations have not been disclosed to the public and transparency in the investigation process has not been adequately ensured.


Moreover, the investigations have been conducted in a decidedly one-sided manner, the details of which are as follows:


No field investigations in Gaza were conducted,

No hearings from victims or witnesses were conducted,

Fact-finding was based on confidential briefings which took place inside the military, and

Investigations were targeted only at soldiers who were engaged in the military operations, the legality of the military orders and plans themselves or the accountability of superior officers in the chain of command was not examined


Further, the organization which conducted the investigations was not independent of the military. Therefore, the credibility and independence of Israel's investigation are doubtful. The investigation also concluded that the use of weapons containing white phosphorous in a densely populated area is not a violation of international humanitarian law, which deviates considerably from the international humanitarian law standards.


With regard to the investigation carried out by Hamas, the letter submitted by the Palestinian Authority on January 29, 2009 to the Secretary General was a notice regarding the establishment of an independent investigation committee by the Palestinian Authority but did not detail any substantial content of the investigation. The summary of the internal investigations submitted by Hamas on February 2, 2010 noted that the rocket attacks, which the Goldstone report concluded amounted to war crimes, did not have the objective of killing of civilians, but only military targets. No other details were disclosed.


Given this situation, there is no guarantee that the mere extension of the deadline will lead to the implementation of good-faith investigations in conformity with international humanitarian and international human rights law.


HRN requests the U.N. Secretary General to seek the opinions and advice of the U.N. High Commissioner of Human Rights and experts of international humanitarian and international human rights law on this matter and to monitor and assess the proceedings of investigations independently of Israel and Palestinian in order to make recommendations on the independence, impartiality and transparency of the investigations that Israel and Palestine have carried out.


3. HRN welcomes the votes in favor of the UNGA resolution by the Government of Japan and other governments, and requests the international community play further roles.


Since the Gaza conflict, Japan, which had abstained from voting at the U.N. General Assembly and Human Rights Council, voted in favor of the UNGA resolution along with other European countries including the UK and France. HRN considers these votes in favor as positive progress.


HRN has been working on this matter, especially with regard to the Japanese government, by holding meetings at the Diet and making requests for the cooperation of Japanese civil society. HRN welcomes the Japanese government's vote. HRN further urges the Japanese government to take more initiatives at the U.N. General Assembly, the Human Rights Council and the Security Council, with regard to the situation in Palestine, so that international humanitarian and international human rights law may be respected, and the culture of impunity is ended in Gaza.


The U.N. Security Council, which has not taken an active role in this matter, should display more active initiatives in this new phase. This is because three permanent members (the UK, France and China) have voted in favor of the UNGA, and also because both parties within the conflict have failed to implement appropriate investigations.


Given the recommendations of the Goldstone report to the Security Council last September, HRN requests the U.N. Security Council to create an opportunity to discuss this matter intensively without waiting for the due date of the five-month extension and to assess whether the investigations would be implemented in a credible and independent manner in conformity with the international humanitarian and international human rights law. In the absence of good-faith investigations, HRN requests the U.N. Security Council to consider further measures including the referral to the International Criminal Court and also requests the Japanese government, a non-permanent member of the Security Council, to take more initiative in the future.