War on Gaza:
Call for creation of United Nations War Crimes Commission
Vienna, 8 January 2009
I.P.O. Information Service
In a statement issued today, the President of the International Progress Organization, Dr. Hans Koechler, called upon the United Nations Organization to establish a War Crimes Commission with the mandate to investigate war crimes and crimes against humanity committed on the territory of occupied Gaza (Palestine), to record them and help prepare indictments in conformity with the mandatory provisions of the Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War of August 12, 1949 (Fourth Geneva Convention).
Since the beginning of the attack on Gaza on 27 December 2008, numerous and grave breaches of international humanitarian law by Israeli forces have been reported by witnesses on the ground, such as:
the repeated shelling of United Nations (UNRWA) school compounds, designated as places of refuge for the civilian population, with dozens of casualties;
the repeated targeting of ambulances, causing death and injury to medical personnel and the victims of war they were trying to rescue;
repeated attacks on mosques causing the death of people during prayer time;
the systematic targeting of family homes, resulting in the indiscriminate killing of women, children and elderly people;
indiscriminate attacks on densely populated areas where it is impossible to distinguish between civilian and military targets;
the disproportionate use of force against a defenseless civilian population that is subjected to a total siege, making it impossible for the people to flee from the fighting.
All these acts combined make up a situation in which the civilian population is forced to live under ghetto-like circumstances and endure an onslaught of apocalyptic proportions.
Art. 147 of the Fourth Geneva Convention describes acts of this nature as grave breaches which the States Parties to the Convention have committed themselves to prosecute:
Each High Contracting Party shall be under the obligation to search for persons alleged to have committed, or to have ordered to be committed, such grave breaches, and shall bring such persons, regardless of their nationality, before its own courts. (Art. 146)
The President of the International Progress Organization stated that a United Nations War Crimes Commission on the War in Gaza should be set up by the United Nations General Assembly on the basis of Art. 22 of the UN Charter. He recalled historic precedents such as the creation of a Commission on the Responsibility of the Authors of War and on Enforcement of Penalties after World War I or of the United Nations War Crimes Commission (UNWCC) in the course of World War II.
Dr. Koechler reiterated his position that, because of the paralysis of the concerned regional organization, the League of Arab States, the United Nations General Assembly should be convened on the basis of the Uniting for Peace Resolution and consider emergency measures including the creation of a War Crimes Commission.
Since the UN Security Council, due to an effective "veto" of the occupying power in Palestine (via the United States as permanent member), will not make use of the provision of Art. 13(b) of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court and refer the situation in Gaza to that Court and the judiciary of the occupying power itself will not properly investigate and prosecute war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by its armed forces , there will be no other avenue for the prosecution of international crimes committed on the territory of Gaza except by invocation of the obligations of UN member states under the Fourth Geneva Convention and the joint initiative of a majority of states for the establishment of an UNWCC for Gaza.
Neither the United Nations Organization nor the International Committee of the Red Cross can tolerate the continued and systematic violation of international humanitarian law in Gaza. There can be no peace without justice and there must be no impunity for the perpetrators of international crimes.
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