His Excellency Ambassador, Martin Uhomoibi
UN Human Rights Council
The Egyptian Organization for Human Rights (EOHR) and the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS) continues to follow the situation in Gaza and the increased attacks on Civilians in Gaza Strip by the Israeli military with great concern. These attacks are ongoing and reached a new peek with the land invasion on the eighth day.
We hereby, the undersigned organizations, stress our condemnation of the ongoing Israeli military operations by air, sea and land, which have included the widespread use of disproportionate and indiscriminate force, including illegal killings of a great number of civilians including women, children and elderly people. These Israeli assaults have now resulted in the deaths of more than 520 and wounding of 2500 Palestinians.
The ongoing siege and closure of the Gaza Strip by the Israeli military is preventing the entry of essential goods, limiting it to a list of 17 kinds of food, while 1.5 million people, are suffering from acute shortages of fuel and medical supplies, adding to those who have almost no electricity.
Due to the economic blockade; the unemployment rate has reached 68%. And reportedly three thousand factories were closed by the Israeli occupation forces. The result of these actions is that 90% of Gazans are living under the poverty line. In addition there are widespread epidemics and diseases in the Strip due to poor medical conditions given that Gaza health system is overwhelmed by the more than 2,500 injured and have no supplies.
Surprisingly, the terrible humanitarian situation in Gaza and the Israeli violations of International Law are taking place under a state of international silence! Moreover, some have expressed deeply worrying bias in favor of Israel suggesting that this attack comes as a result of Israel’s right to defend itself against Hamas”!
In this regard, given the high number of illegal killings and injuries in the Gaza Strip, EOHR and CIHRS profoundly believe that Israeli ground, sea and air aggression in Gaza can not be described as “self defense”.
However, although the right of Israel to defend itself is a component of the Charter of the United Nations, this does not change the fact that under international humanitarian law all parties to a conflict are strictly obligated to adhere to the principle of proportionality and to take all necessary precautions to prevent the loss of civilian lives when carrying out an attack. While Israel and Palestinian militants have violated these standards in the past, the most recent Israeli bombardment of the Gaza Strip demonstrates a wanton disregard for humanitarian and human rights standards on an unprecedented level.
EOHR and CIHRS also confirms that within the same scope, the right of the Palestinian people for self determination and establishing their independent State is also an inherent legal right. This was also confirmed by the President of the General Assembly of the United Nations Migueal D’Escoto Brockmann saying that “Israel has to defend itself as a right but so does Palestine have a right. And what is really responsible, I think, for all of this situation is the unfulfilled resolution of the Security Council.” The President of the General Assembly farther stated “If that had been fulfilled – the fact that for 60 years we have a Jewish state but not a Palestinian state – than the occupation of territories in 1967 remain occupied. In spite the fact that there have been very clear resolutions from the Security Council but also with the protection of the United States, that does not allow for mechanisms that the United Nations has to put pressure so that there will be compliance”.1
The recent attacks by Israeli armed forces represent an unprecedented and dangerous escalation of the use of attacks on civilians and extrajudicial killings by Israel in the Occupied Palestinian Territories OPTs. With the civilian death toll continuing to increase; we would like to emphasize a number of facts:
1- The Israeli practices in Gaza Strip are considered war crimes pursuant to the provisions of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court which stresses that war crimes are: “directing attacks intentionally against civilian population or against individual civilians who do not engage directly in hostile acts” as well as “directing attacks intentionally against civilian targets” (Act 8 (2) (B).
2- The Israeli crimes are in stark contradiction to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and Articles 33, 146 and 147 of the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949.
3- The Israeli aggression also took place in complete disregard to the last paragraph of Article 85 of the additional Protocol I (1977) to the IV Geneva Convention (1949) which states that gross violations of the conventions and this protocol are considered as a war crime, as well as the covenants combating racism and racial discrimination, the Genocide Convention of 1949 and Article V of the International Convention for the Suppression of the Crime of Apartheid.
Stressing the importance of your honorable position as President of the Human Rights Council; the undersigned organizations call on the Human Rights Council to fulfill General Assembly Resolution 60/251, under which the Human Rights Council is to: “address situations of violations of human rights, including gross and systematic violations and make recommendations thereon”. Therefore in order to stop civilian casualties you must take immediate steps to respond to the crisis and call for an immediate halt to all forms of violence in the OPTs.
Your Excellency, in the light of the deteriorating humanitarian situation which is a real threat to peace, security and stability in the region, any Special Session on the situation in Gaza should provide:
1- The immediate establishment of a fact finding mission to assess the human rights and humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip, as well as violations committed by Israeli forces
2- The urging of the Security Council to adopt a resolution to compel Israel to an immediate cease-fire.
3- The urging of the Security Council to act under the provision of Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter and by ordering the dispatch of United Nations Peace Keeping Forces to provide international protection for Palestinian Civilians.
Bahey El-Din Hassan
Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies
Hafez Abu Seada
Egyptian Organization for Human Rights
This post is also available in: العربية