UN report calls for accountability for violations of international law in Israel and Palestine News
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UN report calls for accountability for violations of international law in Israel and Palestine

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights published a report on Friday calling for accountability for Israel and Palestinian militant groups for numerous violations of international law over the course of the Israel-Palestine conflict and occupation. The report said that the ongoing human rights violations “cannot be permitted to continue” and called for immediate adherence with mechanisms of international law, including the International Criminal Court (ICC) and International Court of Justice (ICJ).

The report was submitted pursuant to the Human Rights Council resolution 52/3, which requested a report on the “human rights situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and the obligation to ensure accountability and justice” and covers the period from November 1, 2022 to October 31, 2023.

The report detailed the background of the extensive occupation and the violations by Palestinian militant groups and Israel, saying:

For over 56 years, the Occupied Palestinian Territory – the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and Gaza – has remained under occupation by Israel, affecting all rights of Palestinians, including the right to self-determination. The human rights situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory drastically worsened during the reporting period. There was an escalation of the use of lethal force in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and May 2023 also saw an escalation of hostilities in Gaza.

The report elaborated the concerning human rights violations committed by both parties, including the October 7 attacks on Israeli civilians orchestrated by Al Qassam Brigades and Al Quds Brigades, Hamas’s armed wings. It says that these armed groups committed a series of war crimes, including: “attacks directed against civilians, willful killing and mistreatment of civilians, wanton destruction of civilian objects, and taking of hostages.” It noted that there are accounts of these groups committing other serious crimes including rape, sexual assault and torture.

It also said that Israel had committed war crimes and violations of international law, including unlawful killings, “wanton destruction of civilian property,” collective punishment, punitive and deliberate sieges and restrictions, strikes on civilian infrastructure, “deprivation of essential services” such as water, humanitarian aid, fuel, and telecommunications, and forced displacement.

The human rights situation in the West Bank prior to October 7 was already deteriorating and “grave,” exacerbated by Israel’s “settler violence to facilitate de facto annexation of the West Bank” and “increased use of military tactics and weapons in law enforcement operations.”

The civilian casualties before October 7, 2023 included 30 Israelis in the West Bank, and 1 Israeli woman killed in Israel “by a rocket launched from Gaza.” Israeli security forces killed 338 Palestinians in the West bank, including 251 men, 3 women and 84 children. At the height of the escalation between October 7 and 31, 2023, following Hamas’s attacks and Israel’s response, an estimated 1,200 Israelis were killed in Israel and at least 8,525 Palestinians were killed in Gaza.

In a press release, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Türk, said that, “The entrenched impunity reported by our Office for decades cannot be permitted to continue. There must be accountability on all sides for violations seen over 56 years of occupation and the 16 years of blockade of Gaza, and up to today.” He went on to add that, “Justice is a pre-requisite for ending cycles of violence and for Palestinians and Israelis to be able to take meaningful steps towards peace.”

The Geneva Conventions 1949 prohibit the torture, cruel treatment, taking of hostages, degrading treatment, extrajudicial killings, and harm to any civilians in times of war and armed conflict.