Europe Should Not Have Double Standards in Promoting International Justice
March 16, 2009
The European Union should publicly call for an international investigation into violations of international law during the Gaza conflict...An EU failure to insist on accountability not only for pariahs like Sudan but also for friendly states such as Israel will badly undercut the EU's credibility on behalf of international justice.
Lotte Leicht, European Union director of Human Rights Watch

(Brussels) - The European Union should press for a comprehensive and impartial international inquiry into allegations of serious violations of international law committed by Israeli and Palestinian forces in Gaza and southern Israel, Human Rights Watch said today. Failure to do so would suggest an indefensible double standard in the application of international justice. 

In a letter sent today to EU foreign ministers attending the General Affairs and External Relations Council meeting in Brussels, Human Rights Watch said that "failure to push for accountability in Gaza would undermine the credibility of both the EU as a global voice for international justice and international justice institutions themselves."

"The European Union should publicly call for an international investigation into violations of international law during the Gaza conflict," said Lotte Leicht, European Union director of Human Rights Watch. "An EU failure to insist on accountability not only for pariahs like Sudan but also for friendly states such as Israel will badly undercut the EU's credibility on behalf of international justice."

Both Israel and Hamas have a poor record of conducting impartial investigations and of holding members of their own forces accountable for war crimes, the letter said. Similarly, current and planned international investigations are inadequate to address the apparent violations that occurred on both sides during the conflict. 

The letter presents Human Rights Watch's basic findings on laws-of-war violations committed by both sides. Regarding Israel, Human Rights Watch's primary concerns are: the ongoing closure of Gaza, amounting to collective punishment; the use of high-explosive heavy artillery as well as of air-burst white phosphorus munitions in densely populated areas; the shooting of unarmed civilians holding white flags; the targeting of civilian structures; inadequate warnings to civilians of impending attack; and the wanton destruction of civilian property.

Regarding Hamas, Human Rights Watch's key concerns are: the firing of rockets deliberately and indiscriminately into civilian areas of Israel; the shooting of  rockets and the conduct of military operations from within populated areas in Gaza; and the beatings and killings of Palestinian political opponents and critics in Gaza.