Top UN rights official urges probe over Gaza civilian killings

The top U.N. human rights official called on Friday for credible and independent investigations into any violations of international humanitarian law in the Gaza conflict which may constitute war crimes.

Top UN rights official urges probe over Gaza civilian killings

Navi Pillay, U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, also said that U.N. human rights monitors must be deployed in Israel as well as Gaza and the West Bank to document violations and their perpetrators.

"The vicious cycle of provocation and retribution must be brought to an end," she said.

Pillay was addressing a special session of the U.N. Human Rights Council a day after the Security Council adopted a resolution calling for an immediate ceasefire in the 14-day-old bombardment and a withdrawal of Israeli troops from Gaza.

"Accountability must be ensured for violations of international law. As a first step, credible, independent and transparent investigations must be carried out to identify violations and establish responsibilities," she said.

"Violations of international humanitarian law may constitute war crimes for which individual criminal responsibility may be invoked," said Pillay, a former International Criminal Court judge from South Africa.

Civilian massacre

The masscare in Gaza, where civilians including children are among the hundreds killed, has attracted mounting international condemnation.

The United Nations said on Friday that 30 Palestinians were killed in the Zeitoun neighbourhood in central Gaza earlier this week when the Israeli army sheltered 110 civilians in a house which was later hit by shells.

Pillay said both Israel and Hamas authorities were obliged to respect three cardinal principles of international humanitarian law, embodied in the 1949 Geneva Conventions.

These were proportionality, distinction between combatants and civilians as well as military targets and civilian infrastructure, and feasible precautions to avoid or minimise incidental loss of civilian life.

Diplomats said that the Geneva rights forum was expected to adopt a draft resolution censuring Israel at the talks, which may continue into Monday.

The emergency session was called at the request of Islamic and developing countries backed by Russia, China and Cuba. The bloc enjoys a majority in the 47-member forum, in which the United States has virtually stopped participating.

Both the Palestinian and Israeli ambassadors to the U.N. in Geneva were due to address the talks.

Last Mod: 09 Ocak 2009, 17:22
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