Israel/Gaza: AI report on 22 days of death and destruction

Amnesty International
To date, five months after the end of Operation “Cast Lead”, the Israeli authorities have failed to establish any independent and impartial investigation into the conduct of their forces and actively oppose any such investigations being established.
They have refused to co-operate with and to grant access to the country to an international independent fact finding mission set up by the UN Human Rights Council and headed by Justice Richard Goldstone, undermining its ability to fulfil its mission. They have also rejected the findings of a UN Board of Inquiry, which investigated nine attacks on UN facilities and personnel during Operation “Cast Lead."
The Israeli authorities have rejected allegations of war crimes and other serious violations of international law committed by Israeli forces during Operation “Cast Lead” published by Amnesty International and numerous other human rights organizations and media – international, Israeli and Palestinian – claiming that Hamas prevents any independent investigations and forces people to make untrue allegations. However, such claims do not stand up to scrutiny. Amnesty International’s delegates who visited Gaza during and after Operation “Cast Lead”, as on many other occasions in recent years, were able to carry out their investigations unhindered and people often voiced criticisms of Hamas’ conduct, including rocket attacks.

While in Gaza Amnesty International delegates also investigated crimes and human rights abuses committed by Hamas forces and militias against fellow Palestinians, including deliberate killings, torture, abductions and arbitrary detention. The findings were published on 10 February 2009 in a report entitled: Hamas’ deadly campaign in the shadow of the war in Gaza.10

As of 18 June 2009 the Israeli authorities had not responded to Amnesty International’s repeated requests, first made in early February, for meetings to discuss its findings and concerns, nor to the requests for information concerning many of the cases mentioned in this report.

At the same time the Hamas de facto administration in Gaza has not only failed to investigate rocket attacks by its own and other armed groups, but has persisted in justifying such unlawful attacks.

Amnesty International believes that the deaths of so many unarmed civilians and the manner in which they came under attack demand a thorough, independent and impartial investigation into the conduct of all parties in the conflict, in order to establish the truth and so that those responsible for unlawful attacks against civilians and civilian property can be held accountable and that reparation can be ensured for the victims.

To this end, Amnesty International calls, on the one hand, on the international community to provide full support to the international independent fact-finding mission established by the UN Human Rights Council and, on the other, on the Israeli authorities and the Hamas de facto administration to co-operate with the mission, including by giving its members access to Israel as well as Gaza.

The Israeli authorities need, in addition, to ensure impartial and thorough investigations, at a national level, of the evidence indicating that its forces committed serious violations of international human rights and humanitarian law during the conflict and to provide full reparations for the consequences of its unlawful acts and omissions. At the international level, individual states should exercise universal jurisdiction wherever there is sufficient evidence of war crimes or other crimes under international law on either side.

Finally, both the Israeli authorities and the Hamas de facto administration need to take a series of additional measures to prevent civilian deaths in the future. The Israeli military must, for instance, comply fully with the duty to take precautionary measures when carrying out attacks and publicly commit not to use artillery, white phosphorus and other indiscriminate weapons in densely populated areas.

The Hamas de facto administration, for its part, must ensure that no armed group operating in areas under its control carries out unlawful rocket attacks against civilian population centres in Israel. (See Conclusions and Recommendations for a fuller set of Amnesty International’s recommendations to the international community, the Israeli authorities and the Hamas de facto administration.)

Read the full AI report here: