UN probe finds Israel may have committed ‘crimes against humanity’ against Gaza protests

Palestinian paramedics and journalists carry a wounded fellow journalist during clashes with Israeli forces in Gaza. (AFP)
Updated 28 February 2019

UN probe finds Israel may have committed ‘crimes against humanity’ against Gaza protests

  • According to the UN probe, there is evidence that Israel committed crimes against humanity in responding to 2018 protests in Gaza
  • The commission said it conducted 325 interviews with victims, witnesses and other sources

GENEVA: A UN probe released Thursday said Israel may have committed crimes against humanity in responding to last year's unrest in Gaza, as snipers "intentionally" shot civilians including children, journalists and the disabled.
The UN Independent Commission of Inquiry on the protests in the Occupied Palestinian Territory investigated possible violations during demonstrations in the Gaza strip between March 30 and Dec.31 last year.
Commission chairman Santiago Canton said Israeli soldiers committed multiple breaches of international humanitarian law while suppressing protesters who were calling for Palestinian refugees to be allowed to return to their former homes now inside Israel.
"Some of those violations may constitute war crimes or crimes against humanity," he said in a statement.
Commission member Sara Hossain told reporters in Geneva that Israeli snipers "intentionally shot children."
"They have intentionally shot people with disabilities. They have intentionally shot journalists," she added.
Health workers were also hit by snipers who shot more than 6,000 "unarmed demonstrators" during weeks of protest, according to the inquiry set up in May by the UN Human Rights Council.
Netanyahu said the rights council, a frequent target of criticism by Israel, had hit "new records of hypocrisy and lies, out of obsessive hatred of Israel."
Among the most contentious questions surrounding the protests was whether the demonstrators presented a threat to Israeli troops.
Netanyahu said on Twitter that "it is Hamas which fires rockets at Israeli civilians, bombs and carries out terrorist activities during the violent demonstrations on the fence."
But investigators pointed to evidence that Israeli troops targeted Palestinians "who were neither directly participating in hostilities, nor posing an imminent threat."
The commission also dismissed claims the protests were aimed to conceal acts of terrorism, describing the demonstrations as "civilian in nature".
"Despite some acts of significant violence, the commission found that the demonstrations did not constitute combat or military campaigns."
The investigators did not have access to the Israeli military's rules of engagement.
But, based on publicly available evidence, the commission said there is evidence that Israeli troops have been instructed that they can use lethal force against those who incite others to violence.
The so-called "main inciters" provision is at odds with international law and must be removed from Israel's rules of engagement, Canton told reporters.
The commission said it conducted 325 interviews with victims, witnesses and other sources, reviewed more than 8,000 documents and looked at drone footage among other material.
Israel did not cooperate with the probe or provide access to Gaza.
Senior Hamas official Bassem Naim told AFP that the panel's findings had proven that Israel "committed clear war crimes" against peaceful protesters and demanded justice.
Israel has however accused Hamas of using the protests as cover for infiltrations and attacks.
Canton told reporters the commission considered Hamas's culpability for the bloodshed, but stressed that since the demonstrations were generally peaceful in nature, Hamas was under no obligation to stop them.
"People have the right to demonstrate, they have the right to assembly," he told reporters.
"So to put responsibility on (Hamas) for letting those demonstrations happen (is) against international humanitarian law," he added.
The UN inquiry was in part tasked with identifying individuals who could be prosecuted for international crimes.
The commission declined to discuss specific suspects, but the report calls for the UN human rights office to manage the list of those with possible criminal responsibility and to share that information with relevant courts.
It also calls on states to "consider imposing individual sanctions, such as a travel ban or an assets freeze, on those identified as responsible by the commission."


Turkey’s rulers plot law changes to block breakaway parties’ power grab

Updated 28 May 2020

Turkey’s rulers plot law changes to block breakaway parties’ power grab

  • President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s AKP is working on a plan to stop parliamentary deputies from transferring to other parties

ANKARA: Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) is looking at ways to change electoral laws in order to block challenges to power from two new breakaway political parties.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s AKP and its nationalist coalition partner the MHP are working on a plan to stop parliamentary deputies from transferring to other parties — a move that has fueled rumors of an imminent snap election in the country.

Under Turkish election rules, political parties must settle their organization procedures in at least half of the nation’s cities and hold their first convention six months ahead of an election date.

Any political party with 20 lawmakers in Turkey’s parliament is entitled to take part in elections and be eligible for financial aid from the treasury for the electoral process.

The leader of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), Kemal Kilicdaroglu, has hinted at the possibility of transferring some CHP lawmakers to the newly founded parties to secure their participation in elections.

Turkey’s ex-premier, Ahmet Davutoglu, and the country’s former economy czar, Ali Babacan, both longtime allies of Erdogan, recently left the AKP to establish their own opposition groups, and have come under pressure from the AKP and MHP to leave their parties out of the race.

Babacan has been critical of Erdogan’s move away from a parliamentary system of governance in Turkey to one providing the president with wide-ranging powers without any strong checks and balances.

“The AKP is abolishing what it built with its own hands. The reputation and the economy of the country is in ruins. The number of competent people has declined in the ruling party. Decisions are being taken without consultations and inside a family,” Babacan said in a recent interview.

He also claimed that AKP officials were competing against each other for personal financial gain.

Babacan, a founding member of the AKP, was highly respected among foreign investors during his time running the economy. He resigned from the party last year over “deep differences” to set up his DEVA grouping on March 9 with a diverse team of former AKP officials and liberal figures.

Berk Esen, a political analyst from Ankara’s Bilkent University, believes Babacan’s recent statements have angered Erdogan.

“As a technocrat, Babacan gains respect from secular circles as well as the international community, which Erdogan clearly lacks. Despite being in office for 13 years, Babacan has not been tainted by corruption allegations and is known as the chief architect of Turkey’s rapid economic growth during the AKP’s first two terms,” he told Arab News.

“The legislation that the AKP-MHP coalition is working on may prevent deputy transfer only in case early elections are scheduled for the fall. Otherwise, the newly established parties will most likely build their organizations across the country and become viable for elections by summer, if not the spring of 2021.”

If Davutoglu and Babacan were successful in capturing disillusioned voters, they could prevent the ruling coalition getting the 51 percent of votes needed to secure a parliamentary majority.