The United Nations Human Rights Council today labelled Israel’s response to recent rocket attacks from Gaza a war crime and “collective punishment against the civilian population” in a resolution that also called for an end to such military actions and to the “firing of crude rockets by Palestinian combatants.”
The resolution, submitted by Pakistan, received 33 votes in favour and one against (Canada), with 13 abstentions. The vote followed a general debate on the human rights situation in Palestine and other occupied Arab territories, which was preceded by statements from High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour, as well as representatives of Israel, Palestine and Syria.
“I am deeply alarmed about the death of civilians,” Ms. Arbour said, repeating her condemnation of rocket attacks by Palestinians as well as what she called Israel’s disproportionate use of force.
She urged all parties to conduct law-based, independent, transparent and accessible investigations into the killings of civilians, to make the findings public and to hold any perpetrators accountable.
“All human rights are equal for all human beings and no party can claim that, in defending its own population, it is allowed to disavow the rights of others,” Ms. Arbour stressed. “On the contrary, all parties have obligations not only towards the rights of their own people, but for the rights of all.”
Introducing the resolution, Mahsood Khan of Pakistan said that the serious situation caused by the incessant Israeli military attacks in Gaza required an instant response by the Human Rights Council.
Israel’s representative Itzhak Levanon said that Hamas had fired 671 missiles at civilians, women and children since January; it was committing war crimes and collectively punishing a population of a quarter of a million citizens living in Ashkelon, Sderot, Negev and Netivot.
He added that one-sided resolutions would not intimidate Israel, which he said had the fundamental right to live and the essential right to self-defence.
Palestinian representative Mohammed Abu-Koash said the number of Palestinians killed had rendered the Israeli claims of combating militants null and void. Urgent international intervention was required to end murder and provide protection to the Palestinian civil population, he maintained.
The seventh session of the Human Rights Council, which replaced the Human Rights Commission in 2006, opened on Monday and will run through 28 March.