UN human rights probe wraps up public hearings in Gaza

A young child in Gaza observes damage caused by Israeli air strikes which began on 27 December 2008.

29 June 2009 – The United Nations fact-finding mission on the recent Gaza conflict, mandated by the Human Rights Council, today completed its first round of public hearings in Gaza City during which it heard testimony from witnesses, victims and experts.

“As fellow human beings we would like to put on record how deeply moved we were by many of the accounts of profound suffering and grief,” said Justice Richard Goldstone, who leads the four-member team of investigators examining allegations of human rights violations during the fighting between 27 December and 18 January.

The team heard accounts from people who had been badly injured in attacks and from victims who had lost many members of their families, as well as from people who had lost their livelihoods, according to a news release issued today.

In addition, experts gave testimonies on the psycho-social effects, in particular on health, children and education, and on women.

Justice Goldstone noted that appearing at the public hearings had not been without cost to the victims. “Every re-telling of their ordeals and tragedies carries a heavy emotional toll as well as personal security risk. We are fully aware of this.

“We express our deep gratitude for their willingness to share their painful testimonies with us as we endeavour to identify the truth of allegations of violations of human rights and international humanitarian law,” he said.

The mission also wanted to hold hearings in the West Bank and in southern Israel, where the population had been on the receiving end of rocket attacks launched from Gaza, but that has not been possible since the Israeli Government is so far not cooperating with the mission.

Therefore, additional public hearings will be held in Geneva, on 6 and 7 July, to hear from victims from Israel and the West Bank.

Justice Goldstone noted that he and his team will consider all information received by the mission, both during the public hearings and as part of the continuing investigations, before compiling its report in August.

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