17 January 2011

Amnesty: Justice for victims of the conflict in Gaza and southern Israel

Amnesty International | 17.01.2011

“Until now we don’t understand why. We want… an investigation; we want to know why me and my sisters have been orphaned. Why did they kill our parents, our family?” (Fathiya Mousa, whose parents and siblings, aged between 14 and 28 years, were killed on 14 January 2009 in an Israeli air strike, while in their yard in the Sabra district of Gaza City.)

Between 27 December 2008 and 18 January 2009, Israel’s major military offensive on the Gaza Strip, codenamed Operation “Cast Lead”, caused massive destruction and suffering.

Approximately 1,400 Palestinians and 13 Israelis were killed during the Gaza conflict. Three of the Israelis and the majority of the Palestinian fatalities were civilians. Much of Gaza was razed to the ground.

Both sides violated international humanitarian law. Israeli forces attacked civilian buildings and launched indiscriminate attacks which failed to distinguish between legitimate military targets and civilians.

Another violation was their repeated use of white phosphorus, a highly incendiary substance, in an indiscriminate manner over densely populated residential areas. Hamas’ military wing and other Palestinian armed groups launched indiscriminate rocket and mortar attacks on southern Israel.

In a report published in September 2009, the UN Fact-Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict established by the UN Human Rights Council concluded that both sides had committed war crimes and possibly crimes against humanity. It made detailed recommendations to ensure justice and reparations for the victims.

Two years after the conflict, the authorities in Israel and Gaza are still denying victims justice by their continuing failure to conduct comprehensive and effective investigations. The Hamas authorities have failed to seriously investigate violations by Palestinian armed groups and no one in Gaza has been brought to justice for abuses during the conflict.

Israeli investigations have been undertaken and overseen by the military, including branches which were actually involved in Operation “Cast Lead”, and there are serious concerns that they lack independence, relevant expertise and transparency. Of those investigations already completed, only three people have been convicted for violations, including two low-ranking soldiers who were given three-month suspended sentences for forcing a nine-year-old Palestinian boy to open bags they suspected were booby-trapped.

With the national authorities unwilling to take credible action, Amnesty International is now calling for an international justice solution.

In March 2011, the Human Rights Council will meet again to consider the implementation of the recommendations of its Fact-Finding Mission, including the status of the domestic investigations. Disturbingly, at its last session in September 2010, it avoided taking any meaningful measures to respond to the obvious impunity that continues to exist. It is vital that the Human Rights Council now supports effective action to further international justice.

War crimes, crimes against humanity and other serious human rights violations are crimes against each and every one of us. Demand justice for all victims of the conflict by signing the petition below and circulating it to your family, friends and networks.


I call on the UN Human Rights Council to take action to ensure international justice for all Palestinian and Israeli victims of the 2008-9 conflict in Gaza and southern Israel by adopting a strong resolution at its March 2011 session that:

  • condemns the inadequacies of the investigations conducted by Israel and the Hamas de facto administration;
  • calls on the International Criminal Court Prosecutor to urgently seek a determination from the judges of the Court on whether his office can investigate crimes committed during the Gaza conflict;
  • calls on other governments to fulfil their duty to investigate and prosecute crimes committed during the conflict before their national courts by exercising universal jurisdiction; and
  • refers the situation of impunity to the UN General Assembly for action.

Image: (c) AI Norway (photo: Kristian Hvesser)

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