UN rights commissioner rebukes Israel, Palestinians

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay rebuked both Israel and the Palestinians for failing to carry out independent investigations into human rights abuses in Gaza last winter, as demanded by the Goldstone Report. In a report to be delivered this week to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, she says that neither the Israeli army’s “criminal or command investigations are adequate…. All of the command investigations, special and ordinary, appear to rely predominantly if not exclusively on information provided by those potentially implicated in the violations. They do not appear to meet the standards required for practical independence.”

Pillay notes the Palestinian Authority’s creation of a five-member independent committee to examine the Gaza violence, as well as the two committees formed by the “de facto authorities in Gaza.” But she states that “the late launching of these initiatives brings into question the commitment of responsible Palestinian authorities to satisfying the criterion that a remedy be prompt.” (Jerusalem Post March 21)

Violence continues even as Pillay hands in her report. A rocket fired by Palestinian militants from the Gaza Strip killed a Thai agricultural worker inside Israel March 18, the same day that European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton was in Gaza City for a visit. It was the first death from such an attack since Israel’s Gaza offensive last year. (Today Online, March 19)

On March 21, Israeli soldiers shot dead two young Palestinian villagers near Nablus in the northern West Bank. Both were from the Awarta village, southeast of Nablus, and were en route to farmland carrying agricultural tools and herbicide when they were killed. Israeli military sources said the two attempted to stab a soldier who was on a “routine patrol” near the Awarta military checkpoint. “In response, forces opened fire and identified a direct hit,” an army spokeswoman said. Israeli forces had reportedly declared the area a “closed military zone.”

These were the third and fourth killed in 24 hours in the northern West Bank. A teenager died early March 21 from injuries sustained at a protest a day earlier, where another boy was shot dead in Iraq Burin, another village south of Nablus. The Israeli military said its forces opened fire with “riot-control means” (presumably rubber bullets), denying allegations its soldiers used live ammunition. Medical officials and human rights advocates dispute the army’s version of events, pointing to photographic evidence and an X-ray they say proves the army used live fire. (Maan news AGency, March 21)

See our last posts on Israel/Palestine, Gaza and the West Bank.

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