PRESS RELEASE: Secretariat, Partners Hold Workshop on UN Commission of Inquiry

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PRESS RELEASE

20 August 2013

Secretariat, Partners Hold Workshop on UN Commission of Inquiry

On 19 August 2014, the Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law Secretariat

– in cooperation with the Institute of Law at Birzeit University and the Ibrahim Abu Lughod Institute of International Studies – held a workshop titled “The United Nations (UN) Commission of Inquiry to investigate violations of international humanitarian and human rights law in the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt).” The workshop was attended by a wide range of participants from civil society, public officials, students and others.

Dr. Mustafa Mari, Secretariat Manager, opened the workshop by welcoming the speakers and participants, while highlighting the importance of the discussion. He explained that the workshop was organized to address the needs of civil society working on defense of human rights in the oPt, especially related to the latest developments (in Gaza). In light of the establishment of the independent commission of inquiry established by the UN to investigate violations of international humanitarian and human rights law, he explained that the workshop was to discuss ways of working with the commission by the relevant parties concerned, as with the 2009 UN Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict.

Mr. Matthias Behnke, Head of Office, oPt, Office of the High Commission for Human Rights, discussed the UN Human Rights Council resolution establishing the commission, its mechanisms and its implications, and its most relevant content. He explained that the resolution calls on Switzerland, in its capacity as depositary of the Fourth Geneva Convention, convene a conference of the High Contracting Parties on measures to ensure respect for the Conventions in the oPt, including East Jerusalem. It also calls for all relevant special procedures mandate holders to gather information about human rights violations in the oPt. Mr. Behnke explained that the commission of inquiry, to be appointed by the President of the UN Human Rights Council, was established with a mandate to investigate from the violations in the oPt, especially in the Gaza Strip from 13 June 2014 and to submit its report to the Human Rights Council session in March 2015. He pointed out that the Commission will come out with recommendations, while stressing the independence of the Commission and its non-judicial nature. He also mentioned that the possibility of Israel denying access to the Commission will be its biggest obstacle, therefore hindering its work.

Mr. Shawan Jabarin, Director, Al-Haq, stressed the importance of documentation efforts by NGOs and the mandate of the Commission to identify perpetrators of war crimes and crimes against humanity, whereas the previous UN Fact Finding Commission on the Gaza Conflict was not provided a mandate to identify those responsible. Jabarin stressed the responsibility by Palestinians to ensure a successful report, particularly in its followup. He mentioned that the recommendations must include a recommendation on joining the International Criminal Court (ICC), otherwise the situation will remain in a vicious circle. Justice for victims and punishment for criminals requires such a recommendation on the ICC, otherwise there is no significance in the importance of creating a commission of inquiry.

The workshop concluded with a series of questions and interventions from the audience, which included exploring alternatives available to the committee in the event of Israel’s refusal to cooperate with the commission and allow it access to the oPt. In addition, the responsibilities of the State of Palestine were also discussed, especially its possible accession to the ICC and alternatives available in the event that Palestinian leadership chooses not to join the Court.

-Ends-

Ramallah
Ras Al-Tahouneh ST, near Al-Muqata'a
Al-Bireh, Palestine
Phone: 02 297 4563/4
Fax: 02 297 4565
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Gaza
Tomouh Building (Jawwal), Al-Jala'
Gaza City, Palestine
Phone: 08 288 3115
Fax: 08 288 3114
Email:
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Disclaimer
The views expressed in this publication
are those of the author(s) and do not
necessarily reflect the views of the
Secretariat, Niras NATURA AB, Birzeit University,
or the donor governments.