Navi Pillay, Chair, Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and Israel
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Statements | HRC

HRC 56 - Commission of Inquiry on the Occupied Palestinian Territory

Statements from:

  • Navi Pillay, Chair, Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and Israel
  • Meirav Leshem-Gonen, Israel
  • Ibrahim Khraishi, Permanent Observer of the State of Palestine to the UN Office at Geneva
Thank you, Mr President Excellencies,
The commission will just take a second pause in
remembrance of all the victims who lost their lives
and the survivors who have suffered injuries
in both Israel and Palestine.
So let me greet your Excellencies with good morning
and and to begin by saying that in the eight months since
the seventh of October, tens of thousands of Children,
women and men have been killed and injured
Palestinians, Israelis and citizens of other states.
Thousands of Palestinians have been detained
and are being held in Communicado,
and 120 Israeli hostages are still being held in Gaza.
The enormity of this tragedy overwhelms us,
and we are deeply disturbed by the immense human suffering.
We come to this council today to present our report.
The mission of this council, as you know, is to promote and protect human rights.
And that remains more important now
than ever before
on the 7th October
attack in Israel and Israel's subsequent military operation in Gaza
have not occurred in a vacuum.
They were preceded by decades of violence and retribution, dispossession
and lawful occupation and denial
of the Palestinians' right to self determination.
Now, since 7th October,
our commission has carried out two parallel investigations, first
into attacks by Hamas and other Palestinian groups in Israel on seven
and 8 October,
and second
into Israeli military operations and attacks in
Gaza between 7th October and 31st December.
The findings of these investigations are summarised
in the report presented to you today,
but they are detailed in two conference room papers.
So as you are aware,
the report we delivering is limited by word numbers to 10,700.
And this is violations of such a vast scale and ongoing
that we devise this method of putting in
all the details in the two conference papers.
So I do encourage you to read
this short report
in conjunction with those two long conference papers.
These reports, however,
do not even begin to describe all the crimes and all the atrocities
of the last eight months
and focus on some.
And so we are going to be focused on some of the most egregious events and incidents.
We will be reporting on additional findings and a follow up after 31st December
to the General Assembly as mandated by you in October.
International law
has strict and clear regulations on the conduct
of war and the conduct of self defence.
A fundamental principle of international law, which underscored our findings,
is that unlawful action by one party to an armed conflict does not justify
unlawful action by another party.
Israel has a right to protect its
citizens from violence by Palestinian armed groups,
but in doing so it must comply with international law.
Hamas and the Palestinian armed group must also comply with international law
in relation to Israel's military operations and attacks in Gaza.
From 7 October, we conclude
that Israeli authorities are responsible for war crimes,
crimes against humanity and violations of international humanitarian
and human rights law,
including extermination.
Intentionally directing attacks against civilians and civilian objects,
or wilful killing,
using starvation as a method of war, forcible transfer,
gender persecution targeting Palestinian men and boys,
sexual and gender based violence amounting to torture
and cruel or inhuman treatment.
Israel's total siege of the Gaza Strip
has weaponized the provision of life sustaining necessities
for strategic and political gains, including
through cutting off supplies of water, food, electricity,
fuel and other essential supplies,
including humanitarian assistance.
It constitutes collective punishment disproportionately impacting
pregnant women and persons with disabilities
and is causing grave harm to Children,
including starvation related deaths.
We found
that the immense numbers of civilian casualties in Gaza
and widespread destruction of civilian objects and infrastructure were
the inevitable result
of an intentional strategy
to cause maximum damage.
the legal obligations of distinction,
proportionality and adequate precautions,
Israel also forcibly transferred almost the entire population
into small enclosures
are unsafe and uninhabitable.
The deliberate use of heavy weapons with
large destructive capacity in densely populated areas constitutes
an intentional
and direct attack on the civilian population.
Although Israeli officials have repeatedly stated that their
operations in Gaza are intended to destroy Hamas
and to release hostages.
Yet neither of these aims has been largely achieved at the expense
of thousands of lives.
We found
that Israeli forces committed sexual and gender based
violence with the intent to humiliate and further subordinate
the Palestinian community. Palestinian women
were targeted
and subjected to sexual violence and harassment
online and in person,
men and boys experienced specific persecutory acts, including
sexual and gender based violence amounting to torture
and inhuman and cruel treatment.
The commission concluded
that specific forms of sexual and gender based
violence constitute part of Israeli security forces.
Operating procedures,
excellent seats.
The situation in the Gaza Strip has overshadowed that in the West Bank,
where Palestinian fatalities recorded since 7th October
have exceeded any other recorded period.
This is linked to increasingly militarised Israeli operations, a trend
which we highlighted in our report to the General Assembly last year,
as well as a surge in violent settler attacks on Palestinian communities,
often assisted
or Condoned by Israeli forces.
The blatant disregard for international law
across the entire occupied Palestinian territory
has disproportionately impacted Palestinian Children
in Gaza.
Israeli security forces have killed and maimed tens of thousands of Children,
and thousands more likely remain under the rubble.
Israeli attacks
have also severely impacted
essential for the well being of Children,
including hospitals, schools and basic services.
Excellencies in relation to the attack of 7 October 2023 in Israel,
the commission found
that Hamas and other Palestinian armed groups are responsible
for the war crimes of intentionally directing attacks against civilians
of murder or wilful killing, torture,
inhuman or cruel treatment,
destroying or seizing the property of an adversary
and outrageous upon personal dignity
and taking hostages.
Members of Hamas,
members of Palestinian armed groups and
some Palestinian civilians deliberately killed,
injured, tortured, took hostages including Children,
and committed sexual and gender based violence against
civilians and members of the Israeli security forces,
some of whom
were housed in combat.
Children were killed,
injured and physically and emotionally mistreated and
instrumentals by Attackers for propaganda purposes.
The commission identified patterns
of sexual violence
and concluded that these were not isolated
but perpetrated in
similar ways in several locations by Palestinian perpetrators,
primarily against Israeli women.
I must note
that the exploitation of sexual violence in conflict by all parties
for political propaganda
risks diverting attention from the experience and from the needs of the survivors,
as well as further fueling long standing hostility.
The Security Council passed a resolution last week calling for an immediate,
full and complete ceasefire.
The commission reiterates that call
and calls for the complete cessation of hostilities. We call for the immediate
and for the full end of the siege for the release of all detainees,
including all of the Israeli hostages
and for Palestinian armed groups to stop
the indiscriminate firing of rockets into Israel,
The commission
reminds all parties that they must adhere fully
to international humanitarian law and international human rights law
in protecting civilians and civilian objects.
The attacks
against UN agencies and humanitarian actors must stop.
This commission will continue its investigations into all crimes under
international law with the aim of achieving justice and accountability.
The commission requested Israel
to ensure the commission's immediate access to the Gaza Strip
in order to investigate and preserve evidence.
And we asked for this
in compliance with the order issued by the International Court of Justice
on the 24th May,
specifically ordering access to this commission.
Israel has ignored the request that we have submitted to them.
The commission welcomes and is cooperating with accountability processes in the
International Court of Justice and in the International Criminal Court.
It calls on all states to support those processes in every possible way.
The commission welcomes the listing of all parties to conflict in the 2020
2023 Secretary General's Report on Children and armed conflict for committing
grave child rights violations in the occupied Palestinian territory and Israel.
We call on the listed parties
to immediately end all the grave violations against Children
and in Cooper operation with the UN adopt time bound
commitment to end and prevent grey violations against Children.
In conclusion,
our world faces the biggest threat of
impunity for violations of international law.
Unless perpetrators are held to account
and justice is delivered for all victims,
The protection and promotion of human rights
remains a paramount obligation
of all member states. Thank you, Mr President.