17 February 2009
Time for accountability for human rights abuses in Gaza and southern Israel
"The [Israeli] soldiers shelled the house and killed my mother, my father, my baby girl and 25 other members of my family.  Why? We are not Hamas, we are not fighters. Why did they do this to us?" – Salah Sammouni, Gaza – January 2009

"My five-year old son always asks where the closest bomb shelter is. Little children shouldn't have such worries; they should worry about what to play next." – Geut Aragon, whose house in Sderot was hit by a Palestinian rocket – December 2008

Some 1,300 Palestinians, most of them civilians, including more than 300 children, and 13 Israelis, three of them civilians, were killed during the recent three-week conflict in the Gaza Strip and southern Israel. Israeli military operations also devastated Gaza’s infrastructure and created a humanitarian catastrophe.

Amnesty International researchers who visited both Gaza and southern Israel during the fighting and in its immediate aftermath found compelling evidence of war crimes and other serious violations of international humanitarian law.

This included direct attacks by Israeli forces on Palestinian civilians and civilian objects in Gaza, attacks which breached the prohibition on disproportionate attacks and the use of weapons, such as white phosphorus, which have indiscriminate effects when used in densely populated civilian areas.

In the same period, Hamas and other Palestinian armed groups fired hundreds of indiscriminate rockets into civilian population centres in southern Israel.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon announced on 12 February 2009 that a UN Board of Inquiry had begun its work “to review and investigate a number of specific incidents that occurred in the Gaza Strip between 27 December 2008 and 19 January 2009 and in which death or injuries occurred at, and/or damage was done to, United Nations premises or in the course of United Nations operations."

Amnesty International has described the move as "welcome, but insufficient" since most of the unlawful attacks for which evidence is available will fall outside the scope of the UN's Board of Inquiry, and is therefore calling on the UN, and the Security Council in particular, to comprehensively address all instances of violations of international law during the conflict.

"The UN's investigation must not be so limited as to look only at recent attacks by Israeli forces on UN schools, staff and property in Gaza. It is not only the victims of attacks on the UN who have a right to know why their rights were violated and who was responsible, and to obtain justice and reparation.

"What is needed is a comprehensive international investigation that looks at all alleged violations of international law - by Israel, by Hamas and by other Palestinian armed groups involved in the conflict."
– Irene Khan, Secretary General of Amnesty International -- 10 February 2009
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Message for H.E. Mr Ibrahim Dabbashi

I am concerned by the devastation inflicted on civilians in Gaza and southern Israel in the recent conflict.
Amnesty International researchers in Gaza have found evidence of war crimes and other serious violations of international humanitarian law and other abuses of human rights committed by all parties to the conflict.
I welcome the call of the United Nations Security Council for the unrestricted provision of humanitarian assistance and the re-opening of Gaza’s crossing points as called for by resolution 1860.
I also welcome the investigation of the attacks on UN facilities announced by Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon on 10 February 2009. However, this investigation does not address most of the attacks.
It is not only the victims of those attacks who deserve to know the truth and see justice done for the crimes committed against them. I am concerned that the Security Council has not addressed the question of accountability for all abuses of human rights and international humanitarian law, without which there can be no sustainable peace or security.
I urge you to ensure that the Security Council addresses the question of accountability for all international crimes by establishing an independent international inquiry into all allegations of violations of international humanitarian and human rights law by Israel, Hamas and other Palestinian armed groups participating in the conflict.
An international fact-finding team of qualified experts must be sent to the region to carry out comprehensive investigations and, where there is sufficient evidence, persons suspected of perpetrating crimes under international law must be prosecuted in proceedings that meet international standards of fairness.

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