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UN rights envoy says Israel Gaza offensive breaches 'fundamental norms'

[JURIST] UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in the Palestinian Territories John Dugard [official website; Wikipedia profile] told an emergency session [announcement] of the UN Human Rights Council [official website] Wednesday that Israel's military offensive in the Palestinian-populated Gaza Strip [CIA backgrounder] launched Tuesday in response to the seizure of an Israeli soldier [JURIST report] by militants, violates "fundamental norms" of human rights and humanitarian law. According to a UN summary of proceedings, Dugard said that

In Gaza, people were without water, food was scarce and medicines were running out. Operation “Summer Rains”, as Israel had cynically labeled its siege of Gaza, offended the prohibition on collective punishment. It likewise violated the prohibition on “measures of intimidation and terrorism” contained in Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, while the arrest of Hamas Cabinet ministers and legislators seemed to constitute the “taking of hostages” prohibited in Article 34.
The session was called by Tunisia [PDF letter], the leader of the Arab Group, with the support of Russia and 21 other Arab nations, which has drafted a resolution [PDF text] condemning the arbitrary arrests of Palestinian citizens and the occupation of the Gaza Strip in general. On Monday Switzerland similarly accused Israel of violating international law [JURIST report; statement], saying that the offensive is a disproportionate response to Israel's grievance, and could be a form of collective punishment, a practice forbidden by the Geneva Conventions [ICRC backgrounder]. Switzerland retains the right to call special meetings on the implementation of the Geneva Conventions as the original host state of the monumental codification of the international law of war.

Israel's UN ambassador told the press Wednesday that the special session was one-sided and predicted it would ignore the concerns of his country. BBC News has more.

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