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Call for impartial investigation of war crimes in Gaza

January 22, 2009

As evidence of war crimes and crimes against humanity mount in Gaza, the international community must call for a thorough, independent and impartial investigation of war crimes and abuses of international human rights and humanitarian law in Gaza.

Les mer på norsk hos Amnesty International Norge.

Hours before the Israeli government announced a ceasefire in Gaza, an Amnesty International fact-finding team arrived in Gaza City.The team has found evidence of multiple war crimes and abuses of international human rights and humanitarian law, including the use of white phosphorus by the Israeli army in densely populated areas .  When white phosphorus  artillery shells burst, they deploy more than 100 wedges impregnated with white phosphorus which  can scatter, depending on the height at which it is burst, over an area at least the size of a football pitch.

– Artillery is an area weapon; not good for pinpoint targeting. The fact that these munitions, which are usually used as ground burst, were fired as air bursts increases the likely size of the danger area said Christopher Cobb-Smith, a weapons expert who is part of the  Amnesty International team in Gaza.

White phosphorus ignites on contact with oxygen, and burns deeply through muscle and into the bone if it lands on skin. Wedges from phosphorus artillery shells continue to burn until deprived of oxygen, posing a grave threat to the Palestinian children playing in the street.

Call for justice

Amnesty International UK now calls for an independent fact finding mission  to carry out a prompt, thorough, impartial and independent investigation of the conduct of hostilities by all parties.  Accountability must not be bargained away for short-term political gains. Where there is sufficient admissible evidence, persons suspected of crimes under international law must be prosecuted in proceedings which meet international standards of fairness.

This is not about taking sides – it is  about calling for justice, for both Palestinian and Israeli civilians. Without the deterrent effect of credible accountability for those guilty of war crimes, such crimes will most likely be commonplace in future conflicts, as  future leaders feel they can literally get away with murder. Therefore, Amnesty is calling for the UK Government,the US and other state actors and relevant international bodies to establish a thorough, independent and impartial investigation of abuses of international human rights and humanitarian law on the Gaza Strip and in Israel.

Do not let army commanders and guerrilla leaders get away with murder. Push for the deterrent effect of credible accountability for those guilty of war crimes: sign Amnesty International’s petition for an independent investigation of war crimes in Gaza, and  send an e-mail urging US Secretary of state Hillary Clinton and US Representative to the UN Susan Rice to push for such an investigation.

Photo: Al Jazeera

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