Strong evidence indicates that all parties in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, in different ways and with different effects, have committed and continue to commit serious violations of international human rights, a top United Nations official said today.
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay told a special session of the Human Rights Council on the situation in the occupied Palestinian territory that the situation in East Jerusalem and Gaza were matters of concern, with numerous clashes in and around the Al Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem in recent weeks.
The stringent restrictions imposed by Israel on Palestinians wishing to enter the mosque must be lifted for Palestinians to exercise their right to worship, she said, adding that home demolitions in East Jerusalem continued in violation of international humanitarian law and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.
Turning to Gaza, Ms. Pillay reiterated her support for the UN fact-finding mission into the fighting at the start of the year. That probe, led by Justice Richard Goldstone, found evidence that both sides committed serious war crimes and possible crimes against humanity and called for urgent action to counter impunity, with all parties carrying out impartial, independent, prompt, and effective investigations into reported violations.
Ms. Pillay said she was dismayed by Israel’s continued blockade of Gaza that severely undermined the Palestinians’ rights and welfare, with living conditions deteriorating ever further due to restrictions on the import of goods and services, including basic food, fuel and essential building materials for reconstruction of homes and infrastructure destroyed during the Israeli attacks nine months ago.
The 47-member Council earlier this month deferred action until March on a draft resolution endorsing the Goldstone report and condemning organized discrimination and human rights violations in the occupied Palestinian territory and East Jerusalem, but it brought forward the debate after a request from Palestine, co-sponsored by 18 countries.
The reactions from victims, concerned people and organizations to the postponement are compelling evidence that addressing impunity for human rights violations is essential to preventing further violence and shoring up the peace process, Ms Pillay said.
Israeli representative Aharon Leshno-Yaar called the Goldstone report biased and flawed in accusing Israel of war crimes for fighting Hamas, dubbing them war criminals who had openly called for Israel’s destruction and had fired thousands of rockets against it.
Relevant Israeli authorities were investigating mistakes that had been made but regrettably, the report saw no problems with Hamas’ actions in using mosques, homes and hospitals for military purposes, he said, adding that the proposed resolution would be a reward for terror and send a clear message to terrorists everywhere.
Palestinian representative Ibrahim Khraishi said Israel had had imposed a blockade on East Jerusalem, preventing inhabitants from going to their houses and places of worship, arrested and killed scores of people, and continued to Judaize the holy city, altering its cultural identity. It continued to destroy homes and public property, to build the wall, and to hinder movement of the Palestinian people, he added.
The Gaza Strip is still under an unjust blockade in violation of international law, with its residents subject to numerous human rights violations, including the right to life, he declared, adding that Israel as an occupying power constitutes a threat to international peace and security.
Dozens of members are participating in the debate, which continues tomorrow in Geneva.
Meanwhile, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon met with representatives of Syria, Egypt, Morocco, Malaysia and Sudan and with the Permanent Observers of Palestine and the League of Arab States (LAS) to discuss the Goldstone report.
The representatives also relayed “their grave concern with the situation in Jerusalem,” according to information released by Mr. Ban’s spokesperson.
“The Secretary-General expressed his concern regarding the sensitive situation in Jerusalem and reiterated his call on all parties to exercise the utmost restraint.
“He also reiterated his belief as Secretary-General that all violations of human rights and international humanitarian law should be addressed whenever and wherever they occur, expressed his support for the work of the Goldstone fact-finding mission, and said he awaited the outcome of the Human Rights Council’s deliberations.”