UN human rights body to send fact-finding mission to Gaza

12 January 2009

The United Nations Human Rights Council today adopted a resolution strongly condemning the ongoing Israeli military operation in Gaza, and decided to dispatch a fact-finding mission to investigate human rights violations committed in the territory.

Canada cast the only negative vote for the non-binding resolution, which received the support of 33 of the Council’s 47 members, while 13 countries abstained.

In adopting the text, the Geneva-based body demanded that Israel – which launched the latest offensive 17 days ago with the stated aim of ending Hamas rocket attacks into Israel – immediately end its attacks and withdraw its military forces from Gaza.

The Council’s action came as it wrapped up a special session begun last Friday to consider “the grave violations of human rights in the occupied Palestinian territory, including the recent aggression in the occupied Gaza Strip.”

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay stressed to the Council on Friday that international human rights law must apply in all circumstances and at all times, and strongly urged the parties to the conflict “to fulfil their obligations under international humanitarian law to collect, care for and evacuate the wounded and to protect and respect health workers, hospitals, and medical units and ambulances.

“Accountability must be ensured for violations of international law,” she said, suggesting that the Council consider a mission to assess violations committed by both sides in the conflict in order to establish the relevant facts and ensure accountability.

The latest casualty figures according to the Palestinian Ministry of Health are 883 Palestinians killed since the operation began on 27 December, including at least 85 women and 284 children, as well as 4,057 wounded.

In addition, the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) reports that some 21,555 people have been displaced by the conflict.

In its resolution today, the Council also requested Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to investigate the latest targeting of UNRWA facilities in Gaza, including schools, which have resulted in the killing of tens of Palestinian civilians, including women and children.

Mr. Ban begins a visit to the region on Wednesday as part of his ongoing diplomatic efforts to bring about an end to the hostilities.


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