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Israel is aided by ‘powerful states’ that violate the rights of Palestinians – Global Issues

When tensions erupted in East Jerusalem at the start of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan in April 2021, daily clashes between Palestinians, Israeli settlers and Israeli forces led to a spiral of violence and death. In response, the Human Rights Council established a top panel of independent rights experts to investigate reports of violations of international law.

Today, more than ever, amid the ongoing war in Gaza, this independent commission of inquiry has its work cut out for it. We took a closer look at its role and spoke with the President, former UN Human Rights Commissioner and Judge Navi Pillay, who provided new insight into the evolving situation and what is happening in the field of international law.

“Every country and every member of the United Nations is equal in their obligations to comply with international law,” she said UN news.

An injured man is helped by rescuers in Ramallah, West Bank, in May 2021.  (file)

© UNOCHA/Tanya Habjouqa

An injured man is helped by rescuers in Ramallah, West Bank, in May 2021. (file)

Background of the ‘Day of Anger’

In 2021, the imminent threat of forced eviction of Palestinian families from their homes – initiated by Israeli settler organizations – caused unrest in and around the Old City of Jerusalem.

This later expanded to the wider occupied West Bank, culminating in a “Day of Rage” on May 14, 2021, when Israeli forces killed ten Palestinians, the highest number recorded by the UN in a single day at the time.

These tragic events prompted the Human Rights Council to “urgently establish a continuing, independent, international commission of inquiry to investigate all alleged violations of international humanitarian law and violations of international human rights in the occupied Palestinian territories, including East Jerusalem, and in Israel.” to research. law in the run-up to and since April 13, 2021”.

A tower block lies in ruins in Gaza City after an Israeli airstrike in May 2021. (file)

© UNRWA/Mohamed Hinnawi

A tower block lies in ruins in Gaza City after an Israeli airstrike in May 2021. (file)

Extensive investigation into complicity

Three years later, the Commission’s mandate has broadened, especially since the Hamas-led terror attacks on southern Israel on October 7, which killed some 1,200 people and took more than 250 hostage, leading to the intense bombing of Gaza by the Israeli army.

More than 34,500 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza and more than 77,700 Palestinians have been injured so far, according to the enclave’s health authorities, as deadly clashes have resumed in the occupied West Bank.

The Commission’s mandate now includes additional issues, including reporting on states transferring military and other weapons to Israel, raising questions about possible complicity in violations of international law.

The chair brings years of experience. Ms Pillay previously served as the first non-white female judge of the Supreme Court of South Africa, a judge at the International Criminal Court and president of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda.

Machetes and bullets in Gisenyi, Rwanda, July 26, 1994.

UN photo/John Isaac

Machetes and bullets in Gisenyi, Rwanda, July 26, 1994.

Rwanda memory

Ms Pillay said a unique aspect of the current situation in the Middle East is that evidence of war crimes is being collected in real time, meaning the world is aware of events as they unfold.

“I have experience of apartheid-era crimes in my own country,” she said. “I was a judge and chairman of the Rwanda Tribunal. The Rwandan genocide lasted more than 100 days and the world didn’t even know it was happening. So in court we were very dependent on the memories of what had happened.”

She said this is not the case with the ongoing situation in Gaza.

“Here, things are very different, and that’s why it’s so much more shocking,” she insisted.

Navi Pillay, Chairman of the Commission of Inquiry on the Occupied Palestinian Territories.

UN News/Daniel Johnson

Navi Pillay, Chairman of the Commission of Inquiry on the Occupied Palestinian Territories.

The first to call for a ceasefire

No one could have predicted what happened on October 7 and what happened next, the rights expert continued, noting that on October 10 the Commission was “the first” to issue a statement calling for a cessation of hostilities.

This was “long before other UN bodies spoke out,” she said, “long before the UN political bodies responded. Even now we have the Security Council resolution, the last calling for a ceasefire, and yet the representative of the United States believes that this resolution has no validity whatsoever.”

It is disturbing, she continued, when a country continues to violate international law with the help of powerful states that say they support human rights.

“It is very disturbing when one country gets away with this.”

Suggested caption: Large parts of Gaza are in ruins in May 2024 after seven months of Israeli bombardments.

Large parts of Gaza are in ruins after seven months of Israeli bombardments in May 2024.

© UNOCHA/Ismael Abu Dayyah

Large parts of Gaza are in ruins after seven months of Israeli bombardments in May 2024.

Growing need for a rule of law

The veteran human rights expert believes there is a revival of – and a growing need for – the rule of law, a trend highlighted by an unprecedented number of applications to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) since its creation in 1945.

She said South Africa’s recent petition to the International Court of Justice, alleging that Israel’s actions in Gaza violate the Genocide Convention, signals an important development in the application of universal jurisdiction. It is also the first time that a third country has filed an application with the International Court of Justice, she noted.

“How is it that only now that the occupation itself is being challenged has the International Court of Justice not been asked to provide legal advice on the legality of the occupation itself and (on) the responsibilities of states vis-à-vis an unlawful enterprise?” asked Mrs. Pillay.

Destruction in northern Gaza in March 2024. (file)

© UNRWA

Destruction in northern Gaza in March 2024. (file)

Influx of accusations of genocide

“The call to rely on the rule of law has been around for a long time,” she said. “I now see that we are seeing a wave of this – countries making accusations of genocide against other countries because of their military support. We have not seen this before and questioning the legality of the occupation is also new, and I hope that trend spreads.”

Earlier this month, Nicaragua brought a case to the UN Supreme Court to halt German military and other aid to Israel, alleging the country is facilitating genocide and violations of international humanitarian law in Gaza. The court ultimately denied the request.

“Israel would not have been able to continue this level of actions against Palestinians (and) violations of Palestinian rights if they had not had the assistance of other states in terms of military assistance,” Ms. Pillay said.

Above all, she emphasized, is the obligation on all countries to uphold international law.