GENEVA (Dispatches) – The top United Nations human rights body decided on Thursday to create an open-ended international investigation into the occupying regime of Israel’s treatment of Palestinians, after the UN rights chief said Zionist forces may have committed war crimes in its 11-day war on Gaza this month.
The 24-9 vote, with 14 abstentions, capped a special Human Rights Council session on the rights situation faced by Palestinians. The session and the resolution were arranged by the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, which has strongly supported the Palestinians in their struggle.
The resolution called for the creation of a permanent “Commission of Inquiry” — the most potent tool at the council’s disposal — to monitor and report on rights violations in Occupied Palestine, the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. It would be the first such COI with an “ongoing” mandate.
The occupying regime rejected the resolution, saying it would not cooperate with such a probe.
Zionist PM Benjamin Netanyahu cried foul, attacking the council for the “shameful decision” and accusing it of having a “blatant anti-Israel obsession”.
“The world turned upside down,” the occupying regime’s president Reuven Rivlin said of the decision.
Yisrael Beytenu chairman Avigdor Liberman said that the Zionist regime should end its membership in the Geneva-based body.
The commission is also to investigate “all underlying root causes of recurrent tensions, instability, and protraction of conflict” including discrimination and repression, according to the text.
The text called on states to refrain from “transferring arms” when they
assess “a clear risk” that such weapons might be used to commit serious violations of human rights or humanitarian law. That appeared aimed at countries that sell weapons to the Zionist regime.
China and Russia were among those voting in favor. Only a few countries voted no, among them Austria, the UK, Germany, Bulgaria and the Czech Republic. Many others abstained, including France, Italy, Japan, Poland, Brazil and the Netherlands.
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet, who spoke early in the session, called on the Zionist regime to allow an independent probe of military actions.
The 11-day Israeli war on Gaza martyred at least 253 people, including 66 minors, according to the Health Ministry.
Bachelet said that Israeli “airstrikes in such densely populated areas resulted in a high level of civilian fatalities and injuries, as well as the widespread destruction of civilian infrastructure”.
“Such attacks may constitute war crimes,” she added, if they are deemed to be indiscriminate and disproportionate in their impact on civilians.
The day-long debate involved personal accounts from Palestinians — like one of a young woman journalist from the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood in East Jerusalem Al-Quds, an early flashpoint— as well as the statements from the council’s 47 member states and also observer states.
Bachelet said her office had “not seen evidence” that the buildings targeted in Gaza, including medical facilities and media offices, were “hosting armed groups or being used for military purposes”.
Riad al-Maliki, the Palestinian foreign minister, sought to highlight years of suffering by Palestinians in territories occupied by the Zionist regime.
“The Israeli war machinery and terrorism of its settlers continue to target our children who face murder, arrest, and displacement, deprived of a future in which they can live in peace and security,” al-Maliki said.
He said the Zionist regime has instituted “an apartheid system” in the occupied territories. “The right to self defense and the right to resist occupation is a right we have as the Palestinian people,” he said.
During the debate a wide range of countries decried the Israeli violence. Many highlighted the 14-year blockade on Gaza, settlement expansion, and evictions and demolitions of Palestinian homes among root causes sparking continued tensions.
This month’s flare-up was ignited amid protests against the expulsion of Palestinians from their homes in the East Al-Quds neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah to make way for Zionist settlers.
Tensions culminated in repeated clashes between Palestinian worshippers and Israeli forces inside the Al-Aqsa mosque compound, triggering the initial volleys of retaliatory rocket fire from Gaza towards the occupied territories on May 10.
While the council has previously ordered eight investigations into rights violations committed in the Palestinian territories, this is the first one with a mandate to examine “root causes” in the drawn-out conflict, and also to probe systematic abuses committed within Occupied Palestine.