Israel & Palestinians fail to prosecute war crimes – UN

Israel & Palestinians fail to prosecute war crimes – UN
The UN high commissioner for human rights has accused Israeli and Palestinian authorities of failing to fully investigate alleged violations of international humanitarian law and human rights, in a new report released on Monday.

The paper evaluated compliance with 64 previous reports and some 929 recommendations from the Human Rights Council, the UN secretary general and UN rights investigators from 2009 to 2016.

“Impunity for violations of international humanitarian law and international human rights law in the Occupied Palestinian Territory has been a long-standing concern articulated by the United Nations and civil society,” the report by High Commissioner Zeid Ra'ad al-Hussein stated.

Recommendations made by the UN for the introduction of international human rights standards remain “largely unimplemented by Israel and by Palestinian authorities,” the paper went on to say.

More Palestinian civilians died as a result of the conflict with Israel in 2014 than in any year since 1967, according to a UN report from March 2015,  which called for restraint on both sides. Back then, the paper called the summer 2014 hostilities in the Gaza Strip, known as Operation Protective Edge, the “worst escalation of hostilities” since the Six-Day War in 1967. The latest UN report presented by the high commissioner noted that the Israeli accountability system “remains limited for violations in the Occupied Palestinian Territory” due to several shortcomings, including “physical, financial, legal and procedural barriers that restrict the ability of Palestinians, particularly those living in Gaza, to gain access to justice,” and the failure to investigate all allegations of human rights breaches.

It stressed that there had been a "general absence of higher-level responsibility" in Israel for violations in the 2008-09, 2012 and 2014 conflicts in Gaza, “with only a handful of convictions, if any, issued for minor violations, such as theft and looting.”

Zeid's report also highlighted "Palestine’s non-compliance with the calls for accountability and urges the State of Palestine to conduct prompt, impartial and independent investigations of all alleged violations of international human rights law and all allegations of international crimes."

The UN high commissioner said that apart from a “lack of accountability for violations of international humanitarian law by Palestinian armed groups, there are continuing concerns over accountability for alleged human rights violations by Palestinian authorities.”

Recommendations to Palestinian authorities in the West Bank and Gaza called for “ending arbitrary arrests, administrative detention, torture and ill-treatment and for compliance with international standards to be ensured.” The report said, however, that in 2016 “arbitrary arrests and detention by Palestinian security forces continued.”

Meanwhile, Israel is a “key driver” of Palestinian humanitarian suffering, according to a separate UN report which cited the country’s occupation of the West Bank and the blockade of Gaza. The ‘Fragmented Lives’ report, published by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) late last month, said that Israel's occupation "denies Palestinians control over basic aspects of daily life, whether they live in the Gaza Strip or in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem."

Referring to the "prolonged occupation," now in its 50th year, the report said such an occupation "cultivates a sense of hopelessness and frustration that drives continued conflict and impacts both Palestinians and Israelis." The report also said that the number of Palestinians forcibly displaced from their homes reached a record high last year, affecting some 1,601 people, including 759 children. 

In March 2016, the Human Rights Council adopted a resolution entitled “Ensuring accountability and justice for all violations of international law in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem.” Israel, which is not a member of the council, said it is being unfairly targeted.