Time: 11am (+2 GMT)
Al Mezan Center for Human Rights has held a workshop to discuss the report findings of the UN Commission of Inquiry on the 2018 protests in the occupied Palestinian territory (Commission) in the context of continued internal Palestinian division. Public figures and community activists participated in the workshop, held on 25 April 2019 at the South Women Media Forum hall in Rafah.
Mr. Mohammed Abdullah, of Al Mezan’s fieldwork unit, inaugurated the workshop by welcoming participants and briefing them on the significance of the workshop to Al Mezan’s mission in enhancing the protection and promotion of human rights. “The importance of the Commission’s findings underscores the urgent need for a unified Palestinian effort to hold Israel to account,” said Mr. Abdullah.
Mr. Issam Younis, Al Mezan’s director-general, briefed participants on the main findings in the Commission’s report. “The Commission found that Israel did target civilians and deliberately used lethal force and that Palestinian demonstrators were exercising their right to peaceful protest. The Commission concluded that the demonstrations were not violent and did not involve any serious threat to Israeli soldiers, and as such the international human rights law is applicable,” said Mr. Younis. “These findings substantiate the assessment that Israeli forces may well have committed what amounts to war crimes under international humanitarian law, especially considering the documented killing of and infliction of harm on children, women, journalists, and paramedics,” stressed Mr. Younis.
Mr. Younis spoke about difficulties encountered in the data collection process, including access to victims and the field. He further addressed the outstanding challenges to Palestinians’ rights in context of various regional and international developments. “Continued internal division among Palestinians is another challenge,” Mr. Younis added. “Efforts to demand accountability necessitate that Palestinians come together and voice their demands in unity.”
Mr. Younis concluded his remarks with stressing that civilians must be protected and measures be taken to ensure this protection is in place, including through activating accountability. “Impunity, the need for which is cited in the Commission’s report, has empowered Israel to commit more violations,” Mr. Younis said. “The high contracting parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention have a legal obligation to stop this impunity. The violations committed by Israeli forces in context of the Great March of Return demonstrations should be brought to international justice mechanism, especially to the International Criminal Court. As one of the Commission’s recommendations, a formal investigation into these violations should be launched, with the aim of ensuring rule of law as well as delivery of justice for both perpetuators and victims.”
Participants in the workshop meaningfully contributed to the discussion and stressed that perpetuators of human rights violations must be brought to justice. They also discussed proposals to continue internal reconciliation efforts and to defy the complex challenges faced by the population in Gaza.
At the end of the workshop, Mr. Abdullah thanked the participants for their contributions and expressed hope that the civil society would be better engaged in the management of Gaza’s different crises.