Monday, 28 September 2009

Getting Away with Murder: Is the UK Government complicit in Gaza War Crimes?

Amnesty have just sent this information out to supporters. I feel ashamed of the UK government's stance.

There is a real danger that the best chance for accountability and justice for civilians in Gaza and Israel could be lost in the next few days - we need as many people as possible to email David Miliband right now to prevent this from happening.

An independent UN fact-finding mission into the Gaza conflict has just published its findings. This major report outlines powerful evidence of war crimes and other violations of international law on both sides, consistent with the results of Amnesty's own investigations.

And the UK Government is reviewing it right now. The UN Human Rights Council will debate the report next Tuesday (29 September), when a vote will be taken on how its recommendations should be acted upon.

Alarmingly, we understand that the UK Government (a member of the council) is not planning to support key recommendations, which Amnesty believe offer the best chance of ensuring justice and accountability, as a well as a deterrent to future conflicts.

Instead, they appear to be taking a lead from the US Government in dismissing the findings. War criminals are literally getting away with murder.

Act now There can be no long-term peace and security in the Middle East without an end to impunity - please email David Miliband today and urge him to support the Goldstone Report.

During the 22-day conflict from 27 December 2008 to 18 January 2009, some 1,400 Palestinians and nine Israelis were killed. Most of the Palestinians killed by Israeli forces were unarmed civilians, including some 300 children. Indiscriminate Palestinian rocket attacks killed three Israeli civilians and six soldiers.

The UN-mandated International Independent Fact Finding Mission, headed by Justice Richard Goldstone, has published its findings on the 22-day conflict in Gaza and southern Israel in December 2008-January 2009.

The carefully argued report, which is consistent with the findings of Amnesty International, concludes that both the Israeli forces and Palestinian armed groups committed grave violations of international law including war crimes and, possibly, crimes against humanity.

Background information

The President of the Human Rights Council, which mandated the UN Mission, made it unequivocally clear that it was "to investigate all violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law" during the conflict. In carrying out that broad mandate, Justice Goldstone went to great lengths to ensure that both the Israeli and Palestinian sides were heard, despite Israel's refusal to cooperate, and that alleged violations of international law by both sides are comprehensively addressed in his report. The UK government is reviewing this major report, and for the sake of justice and accountability, we are calling on them to welcome the report and support its recommendations.

It is of crucial importance that the report's pertinent recommendations to UN bodies to establish accountability for these grave crimes are acted upon. Amnesty International is convinced that ending prolonged impunity for serious violations of international humanitarian and human rights law by the Israeli and the Palestinian side is essential: not only for human rights and justice, but also if long term peace and security is to be achieved in the Middle East. As a member of the Human Rights Council, we seek the UK Governments support to make that happen by ensuring that Justice Goldstone's recommendations are acted upon. Simply put, they offer the best hope for justice and accountability in the Middle East conflict.

Despite powerful evidence of war crimes and other serious violations of international law which emerged during and in the aftermath of the conflict - including that gathered and published by Amnesty International and now detailed in the UN Fact Finding report - both Israel and Hamas have to date failed to carry out credible investigations and to prosecute those responsible. The UN report also reaches this conclusion but argues that the Israeli and the Palestinian side must be given a last chance to ensure justice for the victims and accountability for the perpetrators. As a last resort, the report recommends, the Security Council should refer the situation in Gaza to the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) if no credible investigations have been conducted by both the Israeli government and the authorities in Gaza within a set time period. State Parties to the Geneva Conventions are urged to exercise universal jurisdiction where there is sufficient evidence that grave breaches of the 1949 Geneva Conventions have been committed. Amnesty International fully supports these recommendations.

Read Amnesty's press release on the Goldstone report

Call on the UK government to spare no efforts to ensure war criminals do not get away with murder