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Friday, March 20, 2009

UN sees grave war crime in Gaza war

Fri, 20 Mar 2009 08:18:42 GMT | PressTV

Richard Falk is an American
law professor at Princeton University
A United Nations human rights investigator says the Israeli military action on densely populated Gaza Strip constitutes grave war crime.

Richard Falk, UN special rapporteur on human rights in the Palestinian territories, said under the Geneva Conventions if warring forces cannot distinguish between military targets and surrounding civilians, "launching the attacks is inherently unlawful and would seem to constitute a war crime of the greatest magnitude under international law."

"On the basis of the preliminary evidence available, there is reason to reach this conclusion," said Falk's annual 26-page report to the UN Human Rights Council.

He accused Israel of a "massive assault on a densely populated urbanized setting" and subjecting the entire civilian population to "an inhumane form of warfare that kills, maims and inflicts mental harm". He also gave the same death toll from Israel's offensive -- 1,434 Palestinians, including 960 civilians -- as the Palestinian human rights center.

Falk further noted the blockade of the coastal sliver (imposed by Israel and reinforced by Egypt ) added to the severity of the onslaught as the sealed borders did not allow for the civilians to "escape from the orbit of harm." This denial of people's right to flee the war zone as refugees may also constitute a crime against humanity, he said.

UN investigator called for an independent experts group to probe possible war crimes committed by Israeli forces and look into Israeli allegations against the Islamic Hamas movement, which runs the Gaza Strip.

During the 23-day war, Israel targeted schools, mosques and ambulances while many experts and medics voiced fears that Israel used internationally banned weapons including white phosphorus and depleted uranium, in response to Hamas's firing of rockets at southern Israel.

Falk said that Israel's blockade of the coastal strip-- which started after Hamas took control of the Gaza Strip in June 2007 and has been affecting some 1.5 million people-- violated the Geneva Conventions and this suggested further war crimes and possibly crimes against humanity.

An independent investigator for the UN Human Rights Council and a law professor at Princeton University, Falk said the aggression was not legally justified and may represent a "crime against peace" -- a principle established at the Nuremberg trials of Nazi war criminals.

He said the Security Council might set up an ad hoc criminal tribunal to establish accountability for war crimes in Gaza because Israel has not signed the Rome Statute establishing the International Criminal Court (ICC).

Jewish Falk was denied entry to Israel two weeks before the attack started on December 27 and had to abort a planned mission to Gaza, what he called an "unfortunate precedent" for treatment of a special rapporteur.

On Monday, he will formally present his report to the Human Rights Council, a 47-member forum comprising of Islamic and African countries backed by China, Cuba and Russia. Neither Israel nor its closest ally the United States are members

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