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 In this issue...
  1. As UN Officials Express Outrage Over Potential War Crimes, Calls Mount for Accountability
  2. ICRtoP Releases New "Crisis in Iraq" page 

Since ICRtoP’s last listserv on the Gaza Crisis was published on 17 July 2014, the crisis has only deteriorated. At least 1717 Palestinians (including 1,176 civilians) and 67 Israelis (including three civilians) have been killed. Populations fleeing the destruction have found their temporary UN shelters under attack, part of no fewer than 7 strikes on UN shelters during the fighting. Gaza’s sole power plant was destroyed and rendered inoperable, leaving Gaza City and other areas without electricity, piling further misery onto a population now under fire for over four weeks. Multiple ceasefires have been proposed and promptly ignored—the most recent mutual truce, on 31 July, lasted a mere two hours. As the International Committee for the Red Cross (ICRC)lamented, with the death toll steadily climbing higher, how much more destruction “does it take before everybody opens their eyes to the gravity of the situation?”
 
On 31 July 2014, U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay stated that Israel is deliberately defying international law in its military attacks on homes, schools, hospitals and U.N. premises. Pillay further notes that such attacks mean Israel’s actions are in apparent violation of the Geneva Conventions, and that world powers should hold the State accountable for possible war crimes. UNRWA Commissioner-General Pierre Krähenbühl echoed this sentiment in a 30 July 2014 statement condemning the Israeli military for its 29 June 2014 attack on a UN school, which was serving as a refuge for 3,300 people. “Last night, children were killed as they slept next to their parents on the floor of a classroom in a UN designated shelter in Gaza,” Krähenbühl writes. “Children killed in their sleep; this is an affront to all of us, a source of universal shame.” In an emotionally-charged speech at the UN Security Council on 31 July, Krähenbühl urged theinternational community to take action, noting that if the crisis continued, “it will have to assume direct responsibility to assist these people.” Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon also professed his “profound dismay” at another Israeli attack on a school providing shelter in Rafah on 2 August 2014, asserting that it was “a moral outrage and a criminal act.” The UN revealed that it had informed the Israelis that the school was sheltering civilians no fewer than 33 times, and declared the need for an investigation into such attacks.
 
On 24 July 2014, Special Advisers of the Secretary-General on the Prevention of Genocide, Mr. Adama Dieng, and on the Responsibility to Protect, Dr. Jennifer Welsh released a statement highlighting that the high number of civilian casualties, particularly among the Palestinians, “could demonstrate disproportionate and indiscriminate use of force by the Israeli Defense Forces.” At the same time, the launching of rocket attacks by Hamas and Palestinian armed groups into Israeli residential areas constitutes indiscriminate use of force. Therefore “both parties are in violation of international humanitarian law and international human rights law” and Israel, as the Occupying Power, the Palestinian Authority, and Hamas share a responsibility to protect populations in Gaza. 
 
The Special Advisers further denounced the blatant use of hate speech, particularly against the Palestinians—some of which have called for killing members of this group—warning that incitement to commit atrocities is a violation of international law. The advisers end the statement with a call for accountability, noting that “impunity for crimes committed in the past has had a lingering negative effect in this region.”
 
Civil society leaders and academics have also criticized both Hamas and Israel for endangering civilians and humanitarian organizations, emulating the UN Special Advisers’ call for accountability. Alex Bellamy, of the Asia-Pacific Centre for the Responsibility to Protect, argued on 30 July that—though no consensus by the international community to take decisive action is foreseeable—the Human Rights Council’s investigation into war crimes committed in Gaza is one way to break “the cycles of escalation and impunity”, while Amnesty International insisted that the Human Rights Council’s commission “must, this time, lead to those responsible for crimes under international law being brought to justice.” Dr. Simon Adams of the Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect concurred, declaring that "There is unquestionably a need for a full and impartial investigation of possible war crimes that may have been committed. The UN should ensure that this happens."

In this regard, Palestinian authorities filed a complaint to the International Criminal Court on 25 July, accusing Israel of war crimes, but they are yet to accede to the Rome Statute, in part due to pressure from key member state sponsors of the now stagnant peace negotiations. In the meantime, the ICRC implored for an end to the “inhumanity of war” on 29 July, noting that they were “not just invoking the law now” but invoking “the humanitarian imperative – stop the killing, stop the destruction."
 
For more on information on the situation in Gaza and RtoP see:
  • The 17 July 2014 ICRtoP listserv
  • “Palestine, Israel and R2P” online symposium co-hosted by Justice in Conflict and the LSE Middle East Centre;
  • Valerie Amos’ statement on the humanitarian situation in Gaza;
  • Prevention and Protection Working Group: Letter to President Obama on Civilian Protection in Gaza

In light of reports of the crimes against humanity being perpetrated in Iraq by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) as they attempt to create a permanent Islamic State--as well as the ongoing need for the Iraqi government and the international community at large to address the root causes of conflict between Sunnis, Shias and Kurds--the ICRtoP has published a new "Crisis in Iraq" page. The page covers developments and analysis on the peaceful protests in 2012-2013, the  ISIS offensive, humanitarian consequences, international responses, and more. 

In its recent history Iraq has been subject to an array of destabilizing forces, including sanctions, occupations, civil unrest, and thirty years of war; but it is only now—after over a decade of sectarian violence in the wake of the 2003 US invasion—that deep political, social, and ethno-religious cleavages within Iraqi society raise the very tangible possibility of complete state collapse. One of the ongoing precipitating factors of the Iraqi crisis has been Sunni political exclusion following the US overthrow and dismantling of Saddam Hussein’s Baathist regime. Despite being a part of what is nominally a coalition government, Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki’s Shia-dominated government has been accused of excluding the Sunni minority from political life as part of a backlash against the favoured position that Sunnis enjoyed under former President Saddam Hussein. As the International Crisis Group outlines in an August 2013 report, the administration of Prime Minister al-Maliki has employed a divide-and-conquer strategy, characterized by the marginalization of Sunni leaders and the disproportionate deployment of security forces in Sunni areas. (...)

Read the full crisis page here
 
 

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