A chorus of statements from human rights organizations has determined that both Israel and Palestinian authorities have failed to conduct independent, impartial investigations into alleged war crimes committed during last year’s Israeli assault on Gaza.
The United Nations’ Goldstone report called on both sides to conduct independent investigations in accordance with international standards over the war crimes allegations. A U.N. resolution that was adopted in November implored Israel and Hamas to undertake these investigations within three months—and that time frame is up now.
Both the Israeli and Palestinian reports were given to the United Nations in late January, and they both denied wrongdoing. Much of the Israeli report focuses on the capacity of the military to investigate itself.
Below are excerpts from some of the human rights organizations’ statements concerning Israel’s and the Palestinians’ investigations.
From Human Rights Watch: “Israel has failed to demonstrate that it will conduct thorough and impartial investigations into alleged laws-of-war violations by its forces during last year’s Gaza conflict. An independent investigation is needed if perpetrators of abuse, including senior military and political officials who set policies that violated the laws of war, are to be held accountable.”
From B’Tselem: “No system can investigate itself. The [Israeli] report emphasizes the independence of the military justice system in interpreting the law. However in all other matters, it is an integral part of the military… B’Tselem again urges Israel to immediately establish an independent investigative apparatus composed of persons from outside the military. The investigation must examine not only the conduct of the soldiers in the field but also the orders given them and the policy that was set by the senior military echelon and the political echelon.”
The Palestinian Center for Human Rights, in addition to criticizing the Israeli undertakings, has said that the investigations carried out by Hamas and by officials in Ramallah are not credible, as has Human Rights Watch.
Human Rights Watch called the Hamas claim that their rocket attacks into Israel are not war crimes “factually and legally wrong.”
In addition, a coalition of Israeli human rights groups sent an open letter to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu 4 days before the Israeli response was released to the U.N., calling on Israel to “establish, without delay, an independent and impartial investigation mechanism to thoroughly examine the allegations raised regarding violations of international law during Operation Cast Lead.”
Secretary-General of the United Nations Ban Ki-moon’s only statement on the responses has been to say that, “no determination can be made on the implementation of the (UN) resolution by the parties concerned.”
The Palestinian Center for Human Rights said they were “shocked and appalled by this lack of responsibility,” by Ban, saying that Israel has not conducted credible investigations and that the United Nations has a responsibility to ensure accountability for war crimes.