September 27, 2010

Nearly two years ago, war raged in Gaza and southern Israel, resulting in a high number of civilian deaths.  Today, despite ample evidence of serious laws-of-war violations during the conflict, those responsible remain unpunished, and the victims go without redress.

The Human Rights Council has a responsibility to demand accountability from the parties to the conflict and to ensure that those who violated the laws of war are held to account.

The UN Committee of Independent Experts report before you today should be endorsed.  It impartially analyzes the domestic investigations conducted thus far, highlighting serious failures, to different degrees, in the investigations by Israel and Hamas. 

According to Human Rights Watch's research, Israel's investigations thus far are not thorough and impartial, while Hamas has conducted no serious investigations at all.

We urge you to refer the experts report to the General Assembly, which has twice called for good-faith domestic investigations, and will be reviewing the matter again in its coming session.  The report before you will provide the assembly with an independent assessment of the investigations conducted thus far.

A failure to refer the report to the General Assembly will undercut the unprecedented momentum for accountability achieved thus far.

The Human Rights Council should also urge the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court to determine in a prompt manner whether he believes the court has jurisdiction over the Gaza conflict.  Such a determination will clarify the avenues of international justice available.

Domestic investigations in Israel and Gaza are the preferred course.  But, as noted, the parties to varying degrees have thus far not shown a willingness to conduct investigations up to international standards, so international prosecutions may be required.

Members of the Council, the peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians currently under way in no way lessen the need for accountability.  On the contrary, justice for serious violations should be part of the discussion.  Trying to move on without addressing the unlawful deaths of civilians and other serious crimes will undermine efforts to reach a sustainable peace.

Thank you.