UN's Pillay says Israel may be committing war crimes

Published: July 23, 2014
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 UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay arrives for the 21st Special Session of the Human Rights Council on the human rights situation in the Palestinian Territories at the United Nations Office in Geneva. PHOTO: REUTERS

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay arrives for the 21st Special Session of the Human Rights Council on the human rights situation in the Palestinian Territories at the United Nations Office in Geneva. PHOTO: REUTERS

GENEVA/JERUSALEM: Israel may have committed war crimes by killing civilians and shelling houses and hospitals during its two-week-old offensive in the Gaza Strip, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said on Wednesday.

Pillay, opening an emergency debate at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, also condemned the indiscriminate firing of rockets and mortars by Palestinian militants into Israel.

Citing cases Israeli air strikes and shelling hitting houses and hospitals in the coastal enclave, she said, “These are just a few examples where there seems to be a strong possibility that international humanitarian law has been violated, in a manner that could amount to war crimes.”

“Every one of these incidents must be properly and independently investigated,” Pillay said in some of her strongest comments on the conflict.

The Geneva rights forum convened the special one-day session at the request of the Palestinians, Egypt and Pakistan. Israel, which accuses the Council of bias, boycotted the Geneva forum for 20 months, resuming cooperation in October. Its main ally the United States, a member state, has also said Israel is unfairly singled out.

Pakistan’s stance

During the session at the UN Human Rights Council, Pakistan called for the intensification of international diplomatic efforts for an immediate ceasefire and revival of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks aimed at addressing the root cause of the Middle East conflict.

“The relentless bloodshed must be stopped and peace talks initiated,” Ambassador Masood Khan, Pakistan’s permanent representative to the UN, told the Security Council on Tuesday while condemning Israeli aggression in Gaza.

Expressing solidarity with the Palestinian people, he said that a political solution must be achieved.

“International diplomacy initiated by Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, (US) Secretary of State John Kerry and Egyptian leadership must be intensified,” he said.

Khan added that a ceasefire proposal should not be spurned and the two-state solution should be pursued.

“An independent, viable and geographically contiguous Palestinian State, on the basis of the pre-1967 borders, with Al Quds Al Sharif as its capital, living side by side with Israel, is the only way to guarantee peace and stability in the region,” Khan suggested.

Furthermore, he demanded the immediate cessation of Israeli attacks, end to the blockade of Gaza, opening of its border and release of Palestinian prisoners.

Gaza truce efforts

US Secretary of State John Kerry said on Wednesday some progress had been made in efforts to bring an end to 16 days of fighting between Israel and Hamas.

“We have certainly made some steps forward. There is still work to be done,” Kerry said shortly after arriving in Jerusalem for a meeting with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

He declined to give any details.

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Reader Comments (15)

  • Stranger
    Jul 23, 2014 - 4:14PM

    Apart from uncle San , Israel seems to be having zero friends . I am yet to see anyone support Israel .

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  • shah
    Jul 23, 2014 - 4:26PM

    sure UN take your time to decide whether they “may be” or “actually are” committing war crimesRecommend

  • Ch. Allah Daad
    Jul 23, 2014 - 5:17PM

    Congratulation to our Palestinian Brothers and Sisters. You cannot lose when great Human rights protectors (Pakistan and Egypt) are on your side.

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  • Bewildered
    Jul 23, 2014 - 5:48PM

    @Stranger:

    “Apart from uncle San , Israel seems to be having zero friends . I am yet to see anyone support Israel.”

    You are gravely mistaken. India and Indian Hindus are the staunch supporters of Israel. Perhaps you don’t read the comments of Indians on ET forums on this issue and also don’t know either that the motion presented in Indian parliament to condemn Israel for her brutalities against Palestinians has recently been rejected by the house.

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  • Turbo
    Jul 23, 2014 - 5:48PM

    lol @ may be

    ridiculous!

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  • G. Din
    Jul 23, 2014 - 6:01PM

    @Stranger:
    “. I am yet to see anyone support Israel .”
    That is poor consolation to the beleaguered Gazans who continue to bear the brunt of Israel’s rage. This is a periodical cleansing by Israel of Gazan bowels in the hopes for a couple of years of peace. In the next two years Gazans will have accumulated enough shi* for the Israelis to be forced to come in and beat it out of their system. Cycle of Nature. Gazans can’t help it. They have to depend on Israel for this “service”. This is what is called a “symbiotic relationship” between Israel and Gazans.

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  • Solomon2
    Jul 23, 2014 - 6:34PM

    In other words, there is no supporting evidence that Israel has committed even one war crime. Meanwhile, there is no doubt at all that Hamas’ actions DO constitute war crimes: purposely bombarding civilians, employing civilians as shields, concealing fighters in civilian and women’s garb among the most prominent.

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  • Naeem Khan Manhattan,Ks
    Jul 23, 2014 - 7:30PM

    If any one thinks that going into Gaza by Israel and shelling hospitals and schools was not given the green light and blessing by the White House are either naive or just ignorant. By the way I don’t see the Trolls from India saying anything about this blatant violation of human rights and yet they claim to be the champions of human rights.

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  • Saleem
    Jul 23, 2014 - 8:32PM

    High Comissioner the zionist entity has been comitting crimes ever since its creation. And the UN is party to these crimes as it created it without providing any safegaurds for the indigenous Palestinian population.

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  • Mirza
    Jul 23, 2014 - 10:52PM

    The problem is continuous occupation of Palestinian land. The size of Israel is increasing with each passing day and it has hegemony in water, land and air. Gaza is a large concentration camp blockaded from all sides including sea and air.
    Those who call the subjects terrorists and not interested in peace talks should know that slaves have no power to talk or not. Nelson Mandela used to be a terrorist however when the occupation govt decided to give him his basic rights and right to vote to the entire problem was solved. They did not continue to talk about talks while not giving basic human rights. Despite the misinformation there has never been a serious offer or a map of proposed Palestinian state. Where are the serious offers and maps that the slaves under occupation have rejected? All Israeli friends want is to tame Gaza residents and continue with their chokehold. If the Gaza residents stop throwing the giant fire crackers which kill no one or do not even pose a threat to the flights and airports (according to Israel) what options do they have. Everybody would go to sleep and the half a century occupation would continue.

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  • Stan Squires
    Jul 23, 2014 - 11:16PM

    I am from Vancouver,Canada and I wanted to say that Navi Pillay should be condemned for not condemning Israel for war crimes against the people of Gaza.When she said that Israel may have committed war crimes Navi Pillay insulted the people of Gaza.It is people like her that is complicit in the massacre that is going on in Gaza.The UN should condemn Israel for its war crimes against Gaza. At the present time the UN is part of the problem.Israel did commit war crimes against the People of Gaza and have did so many times in the last decade or so.

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  • Jul 24, 2014 - 3:17AM

    @Naeem Khan Manhattan,Ks: — What do you expect from Israel when rockets are fired from Hamas into Israel targeting the civilians.? should she sit tight. ? The response received by Palestinians was obvious and right. If Hamas uses densely populated area/ building for firing rockets the same is bound to be their targets for missile leading to some collateral damage. Israel does try to inform the inhabitants by sending a fake missile on the building as to warn them to evacuate. Israel’s defense system though make the rockets ineffective is a different story but that does not absolve Hamas from the war crimes of targeting civilians when they openly declare to eradicate the existence of Israel.
    And Israel does not care about USA or else while dealing with Palestine / Arab countries. Blaming USA gives some solace to the image of USA most Pakistanis have as the root cause of every evil deed affecting them and Muslim countries so have it..

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  • John
    Jul 24, 2014 - 3:24AM

    Israel ‘may’ have committed war crimes.don’t you just love the corporate media?

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  • David
    Jul 24, 2014 - 11:34PM

    More fuzzy misdirected discussion. The Law of Land Warfare is clear that the occupying power is responsible for the safety of non-combatants (some civilians give up this status by their actions and some military are covered). The occupying power can declare an “open City” and cede the ground to the invading power if they cannot protect the non-combatants. In some circumstances it is necessary to warn noncombatants. In others it is not. All non-combatant casualties in Gaza are the legal responsibility of Hamas, until Israeli forces physically occupy the terrain. There is already international law in the Geneva Conventions that applies—vague humanitarian commentary and heartfelt sympathy for the trauma of warfare aside.Recommend

  • Someone
    Jul 25, 2014 - 4:20AM

    @p r sharma: What do you expect from Israel when rockets are fired from Hamas into Israel targeting the civilians.? should she sit tight. ? The response received by Palestinians was obvious and right.

    What do you expect when India commits atrocities and human rights abuses in Kashmir. Should the oppressed sit tight? The response recieved by India is obvious and right. Attacks against Indian occupying soldiers in Kashmir are obvious and right. The Mumbai attacks were also obvious and right. There.

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