Welcoming the news that the UN Human Rights Council has today announced it will hold a special session to address the rapidly deteriorating situation across Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT) on May 27, Amnesty International’s representative to the UN in Geneva, Kevin Whelan said:
“Within a matter of weeks, the situation in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories has escalated from a crackdown by Israeli forces against peaceful Palestinian demonstrators in East Jerusalem to a full-scale armed conflict between Israeli forces and Palestinian armed groups in Gaza.
“As the death toll continues to mount – with more than 230 killed in Gaza and 12 killed in Israel – it is vital that the perpetrators of human rights violations, including unlawful attacks and crimes under international law are not permitted to commit abuses unchecked.
“A UN Human Rights Council special session can help to ensure accountability for violations even in the case of a ceasefire and after an end to the current hostilities. It must address possible war crimes in Gaza, including deadly attacks on Palestinian homes and deliberate destruction of civilian property, as well as the indiscriminate rocket fire from Palestinian armed groups into Israeli population centers. The session must also tackle the root causes of the conflict including the Israel’s illegal settlements, the blockade of Gaza and the forced eviction and dispossession of Palestinian families such as those in Sheikh Jarrah in occupied East Jerusalem.
“Even if the UN Security Council – which has so far failed to respond due to US opposition – manages to pass a resolution, it is unlikely to address the crucial issue of accountability.
“The Human Rights Council should use a special session to establish an investigative mechanism that can collect and preserve evidence of crimes and violations, that would support and coordinate with the ongoing investigation by the International Criminal Court. Together these institutions must do everything in their power to break the decades-long cycle of impunity that pervades the crisis in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories.”