Skip to main content

Israel/Palestinian Authority: Letter to Security Council

Human Rights Watch is writing to you, as the current president of the United Nations Security Council,
to urge that the Security Council move quickly to set up an international observer mission to monitor
and report on violations of international human rights and humanitarian law in connection with the
continuing violence in Gaza and the West Bank.

The government of Mali tabled a draft resolution on November 30 that would establish a United Nations Monitoring Force (UNMOF) comprising approximately 2,000 unarmed military observers. This force, to be deployed throughout the West Bank and Gaza, would have a mobile capability to be able to respond to threats and potential threats to the Palestinian population. It would report on its activities and on specific cases to the Secretary-General, who would then issue public reports every thirty days.
While we regard this draft resolution as providing a useful start for the Council's consideration, we hope that the Council will consider the following suggestions in the course of its discussions and debates.

First, we believe it is important that the observer mission needs to have human rights at the heart of its mandate. For this reason, the observer mission must include a high proportion of persons with expertise in monitoring violations of human rights and international humanitarian law. It should also include persons with expert knowledge of international law enforcement standards and their proper application in conditions of protracted civil disturbance.

Second, the reports of the mission concerning violations of human rights and international humanitarian law should be made available publicly and periodically. This is crucially important, in order that the monitoring function have the intended protective function, particularly when corrective steps by the relevant authorities are not forthcoming.

Third, the mission's mandate should be to report on threats to the safety and security of all civilians. Palestinian civilians have suffered the overwhelming majority of fatalities and serious injuries in these clashes, and thus will likely be the primary beneficiaries of the greater protection that this observer mission should bring to the situation. It is nevertheless crucial that the mission indeed provide protection impartially by including all civilians within its scope.

These recommendations reflect our letter to the Council on November 14 urging the establishment of such an observer mission. Several members of the Council, in public comments or in response to our earlier letter, have stressed that deployment of an observer mission must have the consent of all relevant parties, including Israel. We fully understand the need for such agreement, but we believe that the members of the Council, particularly those countries closest to Israel, have a responsibility to endorse the establishment of such an observer mission and to use available diplomatic means to secure Israel's assent and cooperation.

The position to date of the Israeli government has been that it would only consent to such a force once a peace agreement has been reached. While international monitoring arrangements under the aegis of the Security Council may indeed be appropriate once an agreement has been reached, the proposal here is for a mission that can contribute to safeguarding civilians from serious and persistent violations of fundamental rights and humanitarian law while violent clashes continue.

The need for such a monitoring and reporting mission is immediate and acute. In that connection, Human Rights Watch welcomes the trip report released on November 27 by Mary Robinson, the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, which called for an international monitoring presence. Her report further stressed the need for the High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilians in Time of War to "assume their responsibility" under Article 1 of the Convention "to respect and to ensure respect " of its provisions "in all circumstances."

We urge you, in this spirit, to act without delay to secure the assent of all relevant parties to the authorization of an international observer mission to monitor and report on human rights and international law violations in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and to provide the necessary resources for its earliest possible deployment.

Your tax deductible gift can help stop human rights violations and save lives around the world.