The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Ms. Navanethem
Pillay, has presented her fourth report on the human rights situation in the
occupied Palestinian territory (oPt) to the UN Human Rights Council which is
holding its 19th session in Geneva, Switzerland.
The report reiterates the applicability of
international human rights and humanitarian law in the oPt which are
particularly relevant in the context of Israel’s policies and practices
enforced in the Gaza Strip, including its illegal closure and military operations.
In effect, Israel is under a legal obligation
to respect and ensure respect for the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949, which
includes an obligation to search for and prosecute before its courts
individuals suspected of grave breaches of international humanitarian law (i.e., war crimes), such as those
committed in the context of the Israeli military operations in the Gaza Strip
of December 2008-January 2009.
In this regard, and in addition to individual
criminal responsibility, state civil responsibility concurrently applies since
under customary international humanitarian law (and human rights law) any state
“responsible for violations of
international humanitarian law is required to make full reparation for the loss
or injury caused”. Reparation is also a core-component of the right to
justice under human rights law and must therefore be available to all civilian
victims of Israel’s military operations in the Gaza Strip.
Despite the clear legal framework, the
situation in the oPt, and particularly in the Gaza Strip, evidences a complete
disregard for Palestinian civilians’ human rights and rights under customary
international humanitarian law, and total impunity for Israel, and its military
and political establishment.
In effect, the UN High Commissioner for Human
Rights has acknowledged the lack of accountability in the Gaza Strip and the
physical and monetary obstacles to justice for Gazans
(para 40), calling on Israel to duly
investigate and compensate victims (para 53), without discriminations in regard to justice (para 56).
The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR),
which has widely documented
Israel’s violations of Palestinians’ right
to justice, welcomes the UN High Commissioner’s report and calls upon the
international community, including UN member states and bodies, to enforce the
rule of law in the oPt and ensure Palestinians’ human rights, including
The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights’
report is available here.