The BADIL Resource Center for Palestinian Residency and Refugee Rights condemns in the strongest possible terms Israel’s refusal to permit access of the United Nations Independent Commission of Inquiry on the 2014 Gaza Conflict (UN Commission of Inquiry) to the occupied Palestinian territory. This refusal is not an isolated incident, but rather the latest event in what has become a pattern of Israeli non-compliance regarding independent investigations into grave human rights abuses within the oPt.
Prominent examples include the denial of entry to the West Bank of the United Nations Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict following Operation Cast Lead in 2009,[i] and the complete refusal – since 2007[ii] - to allow access to Israel and the oPt by all Special Rapporteurs on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories – including the current incumbent, Makarim Wibisono, in September 2014.[iii]
The citing of an “obsessive hostility towards Israel” within the UN Human Rights Council as justification for its refusal to cooperate with the Commission of Inquiry represents a cynical reapportioning of blame, designed to distract from the state’s entirely unacceptable obstruction of due legal process. In the interests of justice and a durable peace, full access and transparency must be a minimum requirement for any effective investigation into crimes of such magnitude. Independent, first-hand review of facts on the ground and direct access to witness testimony are central tenets of any criminal investigation, and Israel’s actions severely compromise the ability of the Commission of Inquiry to effectively perform its mandated mission.
Furthermore, Israel will use its own lack of cooperation as a basis to reject in principle any subsequent findings of the Commission. Instead, Israel has initiated its own unilateral investigation of war crime accusations made against it in relation to the events of operation “Protective Edge”. Not only does this investigation disregard accusations of grievous rights abuses perpetrated by the occupying power in the West Bank, but - contrary to Israeli assertions that such review is to be conducted “in accordance with the highest international standards” - these investigations are being overseen by members of Israel’s own armed forces. Placing the investigative function in the hands of those to be investigated represents a brazen conflict of interests, rendering the entire process redundant.
As such, Israel’s continued refusal to engage with independent human rights investigations simultaneously deprives the victims of rights abuses of their collective voice, and erodes the key legal concepts of transparency and accountability. This, in turn, undermines the relevance of formal international bodies and mechanisms which exist to protect fundamental human rights, and creates a dangerous precedent with potentially far-reaching implications.
1) Calls upon the international community to denounce Israel’s continued refusal to permit the access of investigative human rights bodies to the occupied Palestinian territory;
2) Calls upon international community - in particular the United Nations Security Council and United Nations Secretary General - to take immediate, practical measures to bring Israel into compliance with its international obligations, including its commitment to facilitate the investigation process in accordance with international standards;
3) Stresses that Israel’s refusal to cooperate shall not hinder international efforts to achieve full accountability for any violations of international humanitarian law and international human rights law committed within the oPt;
4) Pledges its full cooperation and support to the Commission of Inquiry in the performance of its mandate
[i]UN Human Rights Council, Report of the United Nations Fact-Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict, September 25, 2009, para. 8–9, A-HRC-12-48, http://www.un.org/en/ga/search/view_doc.asp?symbol=A/HRC/12/48.
[ii]UN OHCHR News, “New UN Special Rapporteur Requests Access to Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory,” August 26, 2014, http://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=14964&LangID=E.
[iii]UN OHCHR News, “New UN Special Rapporteur on Palestine Launches First Official Mission,” September 18, 2014, http://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=15059&.