Ref: 452009

Date: 31 March 2009

Time: 11:30 GMT 

 

Israel Closes Investigation into Alleged War Crimes Committed in the Gaza Strip

On Monday, 30 March 2009, Military Advocate-General Avichai Mandelblit closed Israel’s inquiry into Israeli soldiers accounts of alleged crimes committed in the Gaza Strip. Soldiers had made serious allegations that included war crimes, and grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions (1949). However, the inquiry was closed after just eleven days.

The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) believes that the speed with which this inquiry was concluded illustrates the consistent failure of the Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) to genuinely investigate crimes perpetrated against Palestinian civilians. Investigations of this nature do not meet international standards of independence and transparency, and obstruct justice.

PCHR’s investigations have revealed that over the course of the offensive many IOF attacks amounted to war crimes, and grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions. In addition, the widespread and apparently systematic violations of customary international humanitarian law (IHL) may also amount to crimes against humanity. The seriousness of these allegations demand effective judicial redress.

Israel’s 23-day military offensive on the Gaza Strip claimed the lives of 1,417 Palestinians, including 926 civilians, and 255 non-combatant police officers. Over 5,300 Palestinians were injured.

PCHR remind the State of Israel of its legally-binding obligation – as codified in Article 146 of the Fourth Geneva Convention – to effectively investigate and prosecute all those suspected of committing grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions. Should Israel prove unable or unwilling to do so, as is evidently the case, then in accordance with the principle of universal jurisdiction, all High Contracting Parties to the Geneva Conventions are obliged to search for and prosecute persons accused of committing grave breaches, irrespective of where theses crimes occurred. There is no valid pretext, legal or otherwise, for not respecting the Conventions in their entirety.

PCHR calls on the international community, including representatives of the international media, to expose Israel’s failure to investigate these alleged crimes and to pressure Israel to ensure its compliance with international law.

PCHR:

1.      Calls for the opening of an independent, impartial investigation into Israel’s 23-day military offensive on the Gaza Strip; 

2.      Reminds the international community, including the State of Israel, of their legally-binding obligations with respect to the Geneva Conventions of 1949, particularly common Article 1, and Article 146 of the Fourth Geneva Convention;

3.      Notes that the interests of justice demand effective judicial remedy. Should Israel continue to undermine the effective pursuit of justice, the individual States of the international community must fulfill their obligation to prosecute those accused of committing war crimes, and grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions. The rule of law must prevail. Impunity must not be allowed to persist.