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Endorsing Gaza war report, UN Human Rights Council condemns Israel

16 October 2009 – The Human Rights Council today strongly condemned a host of Israeli measures in the occupied Palestinian territory and called on both sides to implement the recommendations of a United Nations commission that found evidence that Israel and the Palestinians committed serious war crimes in the three-week Gaza war nine months ago.

The commission, led by Justice Richard Goldstone, recommended that the Security Council require Israel and the relevant Palestinian authorities to launch appropriate independent probes into the alleged crimes, monitor their compliance, and refer the matter to the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) if these did not take place.

In a resolution, adopted by 25 votes in favour, six against, and 11 abstentions, the Council recommended that the General Assembly consider the Goldstone report during the main part of its current session, requested Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to submit a report on the implementation of its recommendations to the Council in March, and condemned Israel’s refusal to cooperate with the commission.

The Goldstone report concluded that, while the Israeli Government sought to portray its operations as a response to rocket attacks in the exercise of its right to self defence, the Israeli plan had been directed, at least in part, at the people of Gaza as a whole.

It highlighted the treatment of many civilians detained or killed while trying to surrender as one manifestation of the way in which the effective rules of engagement, standard operating procedures and instructions to the troops on the ground appeared to have been framed to create an environment in which due regard for civilian lives and basic human dignity was replaced with a disregard for basic international humanitarian law.

The destruction of food supply installations, water sanitation systems, concrete factories and residential houses had been the result of a deliberate and systematic policy by the Israeli armed forces and not because those objects had presented a military threat, it said.

It also found that Palestinian armed groups caused terror within Israel’s civilian population through the launch of thousands of rockets and mortars into Israel since April 2001, determining that both sides may thus have committed serious war crimes and possible crimes against humanity.

Much of today’s resolution was devoted to other Israeli activities, particularly in Jerusalem, including condemnation of limits to Palestinian access to properties and holy sites based on national origin, religion, sex, age or other grounds, calling this a grave violation of the Palestinian people's civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights.

It condemned recent Israeli violations of human rights in occupied East Jerusalem, particularly the confiscation of lands and properties, the demolishing of houses, the construction and expansion of settlements, the continuing construction of the separation Wall built in part on land Israel occupied in the 1967 war, and the continuous digging and excavation works in and around Al-Aqsa mosque and its vicinity.

The Council demanded that Israel allow Palestinian citizens and worshippers unhindered access to their properties and religious sites in the occupied Palestinian territory, cease immediately all digging and excavations beneath and around the mosque, and refrain from any acts may endanger the structure or change the nature of Christian and Islamic holy sites.

It requested that UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay report periodically on Israel’s implementation of its human rights obligations in and around East Jerusalem.

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