The UK Government has been urged to vote against anti-Israel resolutions at a session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva this week, amid concern that arrests warrants could be issued for Israeli soldiers.
On Monday, the UN Independent Commission of Inquiry on the Protests in the Occupied Palestinian Territory presented its findings following an investigation into IDF snipers’ “excessive use of force” along the Gaza border.
Critics say there have been seven separate reports into Israeli actions ahead of this week’s UNHRC session, with five resulting resolutions. By contrast Iran, North Korea and Syria will be the focus of one each.
Investigators this week urged Israel to revise its rules of engagement during protests, after a year in which 189 protesters were killed, 183 from live-fire. More than 6,000 have been injured, which has tested the Gaza Strip’s stretched medical facilities. Of the dead, 32 were children, three were paramedics and two were journalists.
Israel’s rules of engagement allow IDF snipers to target “key inciters” or “key rioters” and shoot these targets in the lower limbs. The UN said 4,903 “unarmed persons” had been shot in the legs since March 2018, “many while standing hundreds of metres from the snipers”.
On Tuesday, Conservative Friends of Israel chair Stephen Crabb MP and president Lord Pickles wrote to Prime Minister Theresa May to “vote against bias” at the UNHRC this week, saying the Commission had “failed to examine the role of terrorist instigators during the protests”.
Santiago Canton, the Argentinian chair of the Commission, acknowledged that “demonstrations were at times violent, with many protesters hurling stones, cutting through the separation fence at points, and launching kites and balloons with burning coals and rags attached to them”.
However, he said: “A senior Israeli official recently stated to international media that each and every bullet received authorisation by an experienced commander.” He added that the Commission “found that application of lethal force was in the majority of cases authorised unlawfully… This inevitably led to arbitrary deprivation of life”.
Kenyan Commissioner Kaari Betty Murungi said IDF violations “may constitute war crimes or crimes against humanity, and must be immediately investigated by Israel”.
B’Tselem, an Israel non-governmental organisation which “documents Israeli violations of Palestinian human rights,” said Israel’s internal investigations into the border killings were “a whitewashing mechanism” and urged Canton to “reject the tapestry of lies Israel has woven while killing more unarmed protesters”.
Crabb and Pickles said the Commission’s report “accuses Israeli soldiers of crimes against humanity and calls for their arrest and indictment in the International Criminal Court… This is a gross misrepresentation of the facts and any such ‘accountability’ resolution must be struck down”.
The UNHRC was created in 2006 as the principle UN entity for dealing with human rights, and the council comprises 47 elected member states, including the UK, but last year the US withdrew after the UN announced its probe into the Gaza border.
Human Rights Watch accused the US of “protecting Israel from criticism of its abuses over all else,” but the UK also called out the UN’s anti-Israel bias, saying: “Unless things change, we will adopt a policy of voting against all resolutions concerning Israel’s conduct.”