GENEVA (21 May 2021) – UN human rights experts* today called on all parties to the conflict in Gaza and Israel to respect a ceasefire, and for an investigation by the International Criminal Court into the attacks on civilian populations and other gross violations of human rights.
The experts pointed to the forced evictions of Palestinian families living in Sheikh Jarrah and Silwan in Occupied East Jerusalem as the spark that set off a full-blown war. At least 222 people, including 63 children, were killed in Gaza and 12 people died in Israel as a result of the fighting. More than 450 buildings in the Gaza Strip were completely destroyed or damaged by missiles. Among them were six hospitals, nine healthcare centres and a water desalination plant, supplying around 250,000 Palestinians with clean drinking water, as well as a tower housing media offices such as Al Jazeera and Associated Press.
“Owing to the vast asymmetry of power, the victims of this conflict are disproportionately Palestinians in Gaza, of whom over 74,000 have been forcibly displaced and made homeless, mostly women and children,” the experts said.
“The conflict has led to a new wave of unprecedented mass destruction of civilian homes and infrastructure, including electrical grids in Gaza, and indiscriminate or deliberate missile attacks on civilians and residential areas in Israel and Gaza, that violate not only international human rights standards, but amount as well to crimes under international law for which there is individual and State responsibility.
“The indiscriminate or deliberate bombardment of civilians and towers housing civilians in Gaza and Israel, as well as media organizations and refugee camps in Gaza, are war crimes that are, prima facie, not justified by the requirements of proportionality and necessity under international law. All parties who engage in such attacks must bear individual and State responsibility as appropriate.
“We urge Israel and the authorities in Gaza to restore electrical, fuel, water and food supply to Gaza, and to ensure that humanitarian aid assistance can enter into the Gaza Strip. There is an immediate need to offer emergency housing and restore homes that have been destroyed or rendered unusable.
“We call on all States, especially those who support Israel or the Palestinian authorities materially, to cease the export of all military weapons that fuel this conflict and condition all other assistance on compliance with human rights and humanitarian law.
“We urge all sides to commit to a credible process of negotiation that will aim for a durable peace in the framework of international law and human rights, end the occupation of Palestinian territories, forced evictions and housing demolitions, arbitrary displacement and unlawful transfer of population, and the construction of illegal settlements in the occupied territories.
“We also call on them to address discrimination and segregation experienced by residents in the occupied territories as well as by many Palestinian citizens within Israel, including in education, housing, the freedom of movement and choice of place of residence and other domains.”
The experts urged the ICC to investigate acts by all parties which violate the Rome Statute, especially war crimes, including targeting of civilians, the massive and indiscriminate violations of the right to adequate housing, and to investigate acts and policies that have taken place during the conflict, or have contributed to it, that may amount to the crime of apartheid and crimes against humanity.
“We also urge Israel, the State of Palestine and other States to investigate and prosecute these crimes according to their national law or based on the principle of universal jurisdiction, to begin the process of ending impunity,” the experts concluded.
* The experts: Mr. Balakrishnan Rajagopal, Special Rapporteur on adequate housing as a component of the right to an adequate standard of living, and on the right to non-discrimination in this context; Mr. S. Michael Lynk, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian Territory occupied since 1967; Mr. Pedro Arrojo Agudo, Special Rapporteur on the human rights to safe drinking water and sanitation; Ms. Koumbou Boly Barry, Special Rapporteur on the right to education; Mr. Michael Fakhri, Special Rapporteur on the right to food; Ms. Cecilia Jimenez-Damary,Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Internally Displaced Persons; Ms. Irene Khan, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression; Ms. Fionnuala Ní Aoláin, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights while countering terrorism; Mr. Morris Tidball-Binz, Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions.
The Special Rapporteurs, Independent Experts and Working Groups are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council's independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures' experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.
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