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UN must urge Israel and Palestinians to carry out Gaza investigations

Amnesty International urges the Human Rights Council to call on Israel and the authorities in Gaza to immediately open investigations into alleged war crimes, possible crimes against humanity and other serious violations of international law reported during the conflict in Gaza and southern Israel. The Human Rights Council, which is holding a special session on the issue today,   should also call on Israel and the Palestinian authorities in Gaza to report on their investigations and related prosecutions to the Council at its thirteenth regular session in March 2010. This would allow the Council to assess whether appropriate action is being taken to ensure justice for victims of violations and accountability for the perpetrators. The Human Rights Council should mandate the UN Secretary-General to establish a committee to monitor the steps taken by Israelis and Palestinians to bring those responsible for international crimes committed in Gaza and southern Israel to justice. In a letter sent to all General Assembly members on Monday in anticipation of the Security Council’s open debate, Amnesty International said the committee must be made up of independent and impartial experts in international law. Amnesty International welcomes statements by permanent members of the Security Council and by the UN Secretary-General yesterday calling for domestic investigations by Israel and Hamas. However, the UN needs to go further and ensure that such investigations meet international standards. A UN-appointed committee of experts would fulfil this task by monitoring and assessing the progress and effectiveness of the domestic investigations and related prosecutions by Israel and the Hamas de facto administration in Gaza. It should report its findings to the Human Rights Council for its March 2010 session and to the Security Council and other appropriate UN bodies. The Security Council should review the reports to the Human Rights Council and the committee’s findings to determine whether the Israeli government and the authorities in Gaza have made real progress in ensuring accountability, failing which the Security Council should refer the situation in Gaza to the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court. Amnesty International also reiterates its call on Israel and Hamas to immediately open thorough, independent and impartial investigations into all violations of international law that took place during the 22-day conflict in Gaza and southern Israel and to prosecute those found responsible. Their investigations must be in line with the recommendations made in the report of the United Nations Fact-Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict headed by Judge Richard Goldstone. That report, also known as the Goldstone report, was made public in New York on 15 September 2009 and presented to the Human Rights Council on 29 September 2009. It concluded that Israel as well as Hamas and other Palestinian armed groups in Gaza committed grave violations of human rights and international humanitarian law, including war crimes and possible crimes against humanity. Its findings are fully consistent with those of Amnesty International and other human rights organizations that carried out similar investigations. The report recommended that both Israel and the authorities in Gaza launch independent investigations in conformity with international standards into serious violations of human rights and international humanitarian law. No credible investigation has so far been conducted by either Israel or the Palestinians.