Hina Jilani, senior lawyer at the Supreme Court in Pakistan and human rights activist, was a member of the UN Fact Finding Mission on Gaza in 2009 led by Richard Goldstone. Jilani served on the panel alongside Christine Chinkin and Desmond Travers. The Mission issued the Goldstone report following its conclusion. In exclusive comments to the Middle East Monitor she tells us that Israel needs to be held accountable for its violations of international law.
“Gaza has come under attack for the third time in six years, and gross violations of international law continue with impunity, taking their toll on respect for the rule of law. Mechanisms for accountability were created at the international level to ensure the respect for the rule of law, when it is evident that national governments are either unwilling or unable to hold genuine accountability. If the international community shies away from the use of these mechanisms, it becomes complicit in the denial of justice to the victims. It is the inability of the international community to make these mechanisms effective that is, to a large extent, responsible for the repeated cycle of violence in Gaza.”
On the 2009 Mission Jilani said, “the 2009 UN Fact Finding Mission on Gaza had concluded that the IDF had committed serious violations of international law that amounted to war crimes and possibly crimes against humanity. It had also found that rocket and mortar attacks, launched by Palestinian armed groups from Gaza into Israel to be indiscriminate, amounting to commission of a war crime. The report of that Mission recommended that proper investigations and judicial processes should ideally be carried out first of all at the domestic level, with monitoring by the United Nations. If these proved inadequate, it laid down a roadmap for the continuation of such processes at the international level, including referral of the situation to the ICC.”
“Five years after the presentation of that report, there is no real accountability and the recommendations remain unimplemented. Neither Israel nor the Gaza authorities have taken any meaningful measures for accountability for gross violations resulting in killing of civilians, deliberate targeting and destruction of UN buildings and other places protected under the Geneva Conventions, and destruction of civilian infrastructure in Gaza. As far as Israel is concerned, the record shows its contempt for real accountability in the manner it has dealt with incidents during the 2009 offensive, about which the Mission had given findings of serious human rights and humanitarian law violations.”
Jilani went on to welcome the new commission, saying “the newly established Commission of Inquiry on Gaza established by the Human Rights Council at its Special Session on 23 July 2014 is certainly welcome. However, its efforts can only be fruitful if accountability of those responsible for any violations they find, is ensured. That would not be possible unless the international community has an unequivocal resolve to end impunity as well as tolerance for any acts that violate international law, especially those causing deliberate harm to civilians at times of war.”
“I cannot comment on the likely outcomes of the findings. That is firmly a matter of the facts that the Commission observes, and is able to confirm, and their factual and legal analysis of the situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and Gaza. I would, nevertheless, point out the relevance of Gaza’s status as an Occupied territory and, in addition to other obligations under international law, Israel’s legal obligations as an occupying power. I am also convinced of the necessity and the urgency of convening an international conference of the signatory states of the Geneva Conventions, to renew and reaffirm pledges by the state parties to comply with their obligations. I would also draw attention to the devastating effects of the continuous blockade against Gaza imposed by Israel, and the serious violations of human rights that the Gaza population continues to suffers, even while it has a respite from the repeated military offensives by Israel.”
She concluded,”that the occupation of Palestinian Territory must end and lasting peace must come to the region goes without saying. Before this latest offensive against Gaza, peace seemed nearer in sight with two important developments – Palestine obtaining the UN Non-member Observer status in November 2012 and the signing of the Geneva Conventions and other important human rights treaties by Palestine in April this year, and the unity agreement between PLO and Hamas in May.”
“No one must be allowed to sabotage or divert efforts towards peace. Nor must these be de-linked from imperatives of accountability and justice. The rule of law must prevail and impunity for international crimes and gross violations of international law must end. The 2009 report of the Gaza Fact Finding Mission had observed that, “justice and respect for the rule of law are the indispensable basis for peace.”
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.