MAP welcomes establishment of Commission of Inquiry into violations of international law in the occupied Palestinian territories

On 27 May, at its 30th Special Session to address the grave human rights situation in the occupied Palestinian territory including East Jerusalem, the UN Human Rights Council adopted a resolution establishing an independent international Commission of Inquiry to investigate all violations of international humanitarian and international human rights law leading up to and since 13 April 2021.

The session came in the aftermath of Israel’s 11-day military offensive on Gaza, in which at least 245 Palestinians including 66 children were killed and nine hospitals and 19 clinics damaged. Nine UN human rights experts have recently assessed that these hostilities were characterised by “war crimes that are, prima facie, not justified by the requirements of proportionality and necessity under international law” including “the indiscriminate or deliberate bombardment of civilians and towers housing civilians in Gaza and Israel, as well as media organisations and refugee camps in Gaza”.

The new Commission of Inquiry will assess “all underlying root causes of recurrent escalations, including systemic discrimination and repression based on national, ethnic, racial or religious identity.” The resolution passed by the Council reflects long-standing efforts by Palestinian human rights advocates and their partners to address the systemic discrimination and widespread human rights abuses against Palestinians that lie at the root of recent hostilities, including continued expansion of illegal settlements in the West Bank and attempts to forcibly expel Palestinians from occupied East Jerusalem; the illegal blockade on Gaza; and the use of excessive force against Palestinian protesters.

MAP’s Director of Programs in Gaza, Fikr Shalltoot, spoke at the session and urged member states to pass the resolution. She described how the latest military offensive had impacted healthcare in Gaza, reflecting “the clear pattern of attacks on Palestinian healthcare personnel and facilities by Israel over many years established in previous investigation mechanisms of this Council.”

Fikr further explained:

“Israel’s illegal 14-year closure, repeated military assaults, and the shooting of thousands of protesters and medical workers in the ‘Great March of Return’ protests in 2018/19, have de-developed Gaza’s healthcare system and caused a chronic lack of essential medicines, equipment, medical specialists and other essential resources.”

The resolution passed with 24 states voting for the resolution and nine states opposing, including the UK and Germany. A further fourteen states abstained, including Denmark, France and the Netherlands. Explaining its vote, the UK stated that the proposed Commission had “an overly expansive mandate, [that] risks hardening positions on both sides,” despite later acknowledging the “urgent need” to address the “drivers of conflict.” MAP welcomes the establishment of this new Commission of Inquiry as a first step towards protecting healthcare and the rights to health and dignity in the occupied Palestinian territory by ending impunity for violations against them. We call on all member states to ensure that the Commission is facilitated to conduct its work independently and free from political interference, and to ensure that the recommendations of previous Commissions of Inquiry are finally enacted.

If you are in the UK, you can urge your MP to take action to protect Palestinians by ending impunity through our campaign here.

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Photo: HC Lynn Hastings visits to Gaza on 22 May 2021, following the ceasefire. (Credit: UN OCHA).

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