From the Embassy: Israel and the UNHRC

September 28, 2010 Agencies
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Israel counters the claims of the UN Human Rights Council.

The UN Human Rights Council [HRC] is an entity which is controlled by an automatic majority of OIC [Ogranization of the Islamic Conference] and the NAM [Non-Aligned Movement] states. Since its inception, the Council has been dealing with Israel obsessively and to a disproportionate extent. The resolutions by the Council in the Israeli context are politically motivated, and their entire objective is to denigrate Israel and to isolate it within the international arena.

2.    In this context one must consider the hasty and regrettable resolution passed by the HRC in Geneva Council to establish the commission headed by Goldstone, to investigate the events of Operation “Cast Lead”, and subsequently, to establish the an ‘expert committee’ led by Christian Tomuschat to examine the investigations by the parties and their implementation of the Goldstone report’s recommendations.

3.    It is fitting and proper to recall the chain of events which led to Operation “Cast Lead”. These events included:

a.    relentless attacks by Hamas, which launched mortar shells and artillery rockets from the Gaza Strip against the civilian population of Israel (approximately 12,000 launches took place in the eight years which preceded Operation “Cast Lead”) and the continually and consistently increasing scope and intensity of threat involved in those attacks;

b.    the kidnapping in 2006 of an Israeli soldier, Corporal Gilad Shalit, who is still being held hostage, with no contact with him whatsoever;

c.    and numerous attempts by Israel to deal with the problem of the terrorist threat from Gaza by non-military means, including diplomatic initiatives and urgent appeals to the United Nations.

4.    In late December, having no other option, Israel was forced to conduct a determined military operation against the Hamas terrorist organization in the Gaza Strip, under extremely complex conditions The Israel Defense Forces [IDF] took pains to uphold the laws of armed conflict throughout Operation “Cast Lead”, notwithstanding the many operational challenges with which the IDF was forced to cope as a result of the tactics adopted by Hamas. Especially grave was the organization’s deliberate use of the civilian Palestinian population and civilian infrastructures as hiding places for rocket and mortar shell launches, shelters for Hamas combatants and caches of arms.

5.    Israel is a democratic country governed by the rule of law, which upholds international law and which, when necessary, is capable of investigating itself.

6.    Notwithstanding a certain degree of criticism, the Tomuschat Commitee itself recognized the fact that Israel has a judiciary system with the ability to conduct investigations with regard to allegations of war crimes. It also agreed with Israel’s argument that a military establishment is capable of holding investigations of this type in compliance with international standards.

7.    Following Operation “Cast Lead”, Israel held more than 150 debriefings. As a result of these debriefings, 47 investigations were opened by the Israel Military Police, which led to the filing of four indictments. In other criminal investigations, the IDF Advocate-General found that there was no reason to file indictments or to initiate disciplinary measures, after arriving at the conclusion that the investigations in question did not disclose any violations of the laws of armed conflict or of IDF orders. A number of additional allegations against IDF operations are still under investigation.

8.    Israel has published three reports (July 2009, January 2010, July 2010) which update the status of the investigations which it has been and is conducting in the context of the operation in Gaza, and the measures which were taken as a result of the conclusions derived from the operation. These reports were made available to the general public and were included in the reports by the UN Secretary-General on the subject.

9.    The reports set forth in detail, among other facts, the legal framework for the use of force and the rules – including the principles of distinction and proportionality – which apply to armed conflict under international law. They also include a description of the Israeli system for investigation of the alleged violations of the laws of armed conflict, and the findings of the principal investigations conducted by the IDF following the operation, including investigations of many cases which appear in the Goldstone report.

10. Also published was detailed information on the various mechanisms in Israel for examination of the alleged breaches of the laws of armed conflict; a comparison between the systems which are customarily used in Israel for the investigation of military activity and similar systems in other democratic countries; and details on the manner in which Israel handles individual complaints regarding violations of the laws of armed conflict during Operation “Cast Lead”. The reports also describe the many control mechanisms which are intended to ensure that the investigation will be exhaustive, unbiased and independent.

11. The IDF has also implemented operational changes in its standing orders and combat doctrine, with a view to reducing even further the harm to civilians and civilian property in the future. The IDF has adopted important new procedures which are intended to improve the defense of civilians during combat operations in built-up areas – for example, additional emphasis on the fact that protection of civilians is an integral part of the mission of every IDF commander.

12. The new procedures call to expand even further the comprehensive protection of the civilian population, such as the integration of a Humanitarian Affairs Officer at all levels of combat units, from the battalion and up.

13. Israel has made great efforts to conduct exhaustive and independent investigations of allegations of unworthy conduct by IDF troops during Operation “Cast Lead” and to overcome the challenges inherent to the investigation of combat activity in times of belligerency, including the difficulty in locating witnesses in the Gaza Strip and handling their complaints.

14. The State of Israel is fully confident that the investigative structure handling violations of the laws of armed conflict conducts exhaustive, independent investigations without prejudice. However, in light of criticism expressed in various international reports against these bodies, the Government of Israel has recently decided to empower an independent public commission to determine the extent to which the existing mechanisms in Israel for the investigation of complaints regarding breaches of the laws of armed conflict comply with its duties under international law. The Commission, known as the Turkel Commission, is headed by retired Supreme Court Justice Jacob Turkel and is composed of three independent, renowned experts and two well-known international observers.

15 As stated above, the investigative methods used by Israel comply with all international standards and are themselves examined by the Turkel Commission, an independent commission whose members include foreign observers. It is a known fact that the Turkel Commission has not yet completed its work. It would be fitting and proper to wait for the conclusions of the Turkel Commission and, if and as necessary, to implement its recommendations.

16. Negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians are currently under way. The prolongation of this saga by the HRC is poisoning the atmosphere of that process, precisely when the parties require a positive and supportive atmosphere. The emphasis by the entire international community should be on encouraging the parties involved toward cooperation and dialogue, rather than toward the kind of extremism produced in Geneva.

17. Israel therefore believes that the Goldstone process and all of its embellishments have exhausted themselves. Israel objects to any further output by the Human Rights Council on this subject. With the publication of the present report, the handling of this matter should come to an end.

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