The UN Human Rights Council on Friday adopted a report condemning Israel’s “apparent intentional use of unlawful lethal and excessive force” against civilian protesters in the besieged Gaza Strip.
The report was released by the UN Independent Commission of Inquiry that was formed after more than 60 Palestinians were killed during a single day of Great March of Return protests in May last year.
The report affirmed that 183 Palestinian protesters were killed by Israeli forces, including 35 children, during March of Return rallies staged along the Gaza border.
It also said that the majority of protesters killed by Israeli forces, 154 out of the 183, had been unarmed.
The commission has found that Israel’s use of lethal force against protesters warrants criminal investigation and prosecution and may amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity.
The Human Rights Council’s resolution regrets Israel’s lack of cooperation with the commission of inquiry and failure to implement previous recommendations made by the UN, particularly after Israel’s 51-day military offensive in Gaza in 2014.
The resolution also notes the lack of meaningful Israeli investigations into human rights abuses by its forces, as well as the “numerous legal, procedural and practical obstacles in the Israeli civil and criminal legal system contributing to the denial of access to justice for Palestinian victims and of their right to an effective judicial remedy.”
While calling for strengthened UN monitoring in Gaza, the resolution falls short of recommending specific actions towards accountability, only urging cooperation with an existing preliminary examination by the International Criminal Court.
However, the commission of inquiry report adopted by the Human Rights Council does urge UN member states to consider sanctions, travel bans and asset freezes on those responsible for crimes and to arrest or extradite “persons alleged to have committed, or who ordered to have committed, the international crimes.”
23 states voted in favor of the Human Rights Council resolution. Eight countries opposed and 15 abstained, including the UK, which had initially called for an independent UN inquiry into Gaza protest deaths.
Of the 10 European Union countries on the Human Rights Council, four voted against the resolution and five abstained. The fact that Spain was the only EU country to back the resolution underscores the bloc’s ongoing complicity in Israel’s crimes and belies official propaganda that defending human rights is a fundamental EU value.