Justice for all Gaza victims, accountability for all war criminals
Neither Israel nor Hamas have conducted credible, independent investigations into the 2008-2009 Gaza conflict. Both parties have also failed to prosecute perpetrators of war crimes and other grave human rights abuses.
While this is, of course, unfortunate, it is by no means surprising. What IS surprising – not to mention disappointing – is that the UN’s Human Rights Council (HRC) has so far failed to outline a clear plan for accountability.
Already in January 2009, Amnesty International called for a thorough, independent and impartial investigation of war crimes and abuses of international human rights and humanitarian law in Gaza. However, the HRC has failed to take any concrete action to ensure that such an inquiry actually takes place. We cannot let it fail again.
The ghost of war crimes past
The truth is said to be the first victim of all wars, and it certainly was in Gaza. All victims of the conflict – both Palestinian and Israeli – deserve to finally know the truth of how and why their lives were ruined. However, this is not just about the truth. Neither is it solely about justice, even though war criminals on both sides must of course be prosecuted. This is not just about what has happened in the past, but about what must not happen in the future.
Without the deterrent effect of credible accountability for war criminals, war crimes will most likely be commonplace in future conflicts, as future leaders feel they can literally get away with murder. We cannot let that happen. A Human Rights Council meeting is now in session in Geneva (28th February – 25th March). Amnesty International has representatives in Geneva right now. The organization is lobbying for the HRC to refer the matter to the International Criminal Court (ICC).
This is an opportunity not to be missed. US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton plays a critical role in leading the HRC. If the US demands accountability for Hamas and Israel, just as it did with Libya recently, the HRC will be hard-pressed not to follow.
Ending the impunity for serious violations in this bloody conflict is absolutely crucial for achieving justice and a sustainable peace in the region. Now is the time to put human rights ahead of politics!
UPDATE: According to Amnesty International, the UN Human Rights Council passed a resolution during its March session urging the UN General Assembly to refer the Gaza accountability issue to the International Criminal Court (ICC). The next General Assembly takes place in September 2011.