The UN human rights chief on Monday sharply criticized Israel, calling recent killings by its soldiers during Palestinian demonstrations along the Gaza border fence “shocking” and saying that living conditions inflicted by Israel’s 11-year blockade of the territory are “grossly inadequate.”
The situation in Gaza has escalated dramatically in recent months with “the potential to generate threats to peace across a far broader region,” UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein said in a video address to the UN Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People.
Zeid said that it is essential for all parties to cooperate with the independent, international commission of inquiry into the recent deadly events in Gaza that his office is helping to establish.
It was authorized by the Geneva-based Human Rights Council on May 18 “to advance accountability” for the killings and violations of international humanitarian and human rights law, he said.
There are “serious concerns” that Israeli accountability mechanisms do not comply with international standards of “independence, impartiality, and effectiveness,” Zeid said.
“Very few investigations ever occur,” he said. “In the rare cases where an investigation has led to an indictment, the sentence has been extremely lenient in light of the gravity of the crime committed.”
It is vital to address the root causes of the Gaza demonstrations, which have resulted in the deaths of over 100 Palestinians, including 17 children, and the wounding of more than 4,100 others with live ammunition since March 30, he said.
In addition to “grossly inadequate living conditions” caused by Israel’s blockade for the residents of Gaza, most of whom are refugees, restrictive measures have also been imposed by Egypt, Zeid said, adding that the move has “exacerbated these conditions.”
Israel’s detention of hundreds of Palestinian children, some without charge, under a system of “administrative detention” was a “fundamental human rights violation,” he said.
“It should be absolutely clear that international law requires detention only be used for children as a last resort,” he added.
Whether for children or adults, detention without trial “contravenes Israel’s obligations under international law,” Zeid said.
“An estimated 440 Palestinians are being held in ‘administrative detention,’ according to the latest figures,” he said. “Israel should immediately charge, or release, all of them.”
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