Collective punishment in Gaza must end: UN Special Rapporteur

Staff of United Nations Observer Mission in GeorgiaLast year, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the state of affairs on human rights in the Palestinian Territories occupied by Israel since 1967, Richard Falk, called on Israel to end its siege of the Gaza Strip (“Collective punishment in Gaza must end: Israel’s blockade enters its 7th year – UN Special Rapporteur,” United Nations Human Rights, 14 June 2013).

“The human suffering of the land, sea and air blockade imposed on the 1.75 million Palestinians living in one of the most densely populated and impoverished areas of the world has been devastating,” said the UN press statement.

“The people of Gaza have endured the unendurable and suffered what is insufferable for six years. Israel’s collective punishment of the civilian population in Gaza must end today,” said the Special Rapporteur.

Falk’s report was rejected by Israel, but it remains an important statement of the international law pertaining to the siege of Gaza.

Meanwhile, last week the United Nations Human Rights council launched an independent inquiry into the alleged violation of human rights and international humanitarian laws in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem (“As civilian casualties rise in Gaza, UN Rights Council agrees probe into alleged ‘war crimes’,” UN News Centre, 23 July 2014).

International law requires Israel to take all measures to ensure that its actions are proportional, distinguish between military and civilian objects, and avoid civilian casualties, says UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay.

The right of self-defence can never justify breaches of international humanitarian law.  Nor can alleged breaches by one side ever be used as a justification for breaches by the other side.  To put this plainly, alleged war crimes by Hamas cannot be used as justification for similar or worse actions by Israel.

“In Gaza, 443 or 74 per cent of the killed are civilians,” Kyung-Wha Kang, Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and UN Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator said. “One third of civilians killed so far are children. One child has been killed each hour in Gaza over the past two days.”

The UN Human Rights Commissioner also reiterated her own calls for the blockade on Gaza to be lifted.

For more information on the UN High Commission for Human Rights investigation into alleged war crimes by Israel, click here.

For more detail on United Nations Special Rapporteur Richard Falk’s call for Israel to end its siege on Gaza, click here.

Photo credit: United Nations

Tags: Gaza, Human rights, International Humanitarian Law, Israel-Palestine, UN, United Nations, United Nations Human Rights Council, United Nations Special Rapporteur