Human rights situation requiring Human Rights Council attention/Protection of civilians in Mideast – HRC 10th session – NGO statement (Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies)




Written statement* submitted by the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS),

a non-governmental organization in special consultative status



  The Secretary-General has received the following written statement which is circulated in accordance with Economic and Social Council resolution 1996/31.


[13 February 2009]


* This written statement is issued, unedited, in the language(s) received from the submitting non-governmental organization(s).


Accountability and Civilian Protection within Armed Conflicts of the Middle East


The Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies would like to express its concern over disregard for the protection of civilians demonstrated by governments and armed militias involved in armed conflicts within the Arab region.


4. While both the Israeli occupation forces and Palestinian armed groups have not taken the necessary precautions to prevent the loss of civilian life, the most recent attacks by Israel on the Gaza Strip that began on December 27, 2008 demonstrate a wanton disregard for humanitarian and human rights standards on an unprecedented level in recent times. As of February 6, 2009, 14 Israelis have been killed during this conflict. Figures compiled by the Palestinian Ministry of Health shows that, some 1,300 Palestinians were killed including 900 civilians, of whom 410 were children.

5. According to Richard Falk, UN Special Rapporteur to the OPTs, Israel’s behavior constitutes a war crime.1  With total immunity, the Israeli government is unwilling to cooperate with the international community, and has severely hampered the work of relief agencies and UN workers. Furthermore, during combat operations Israeli forces raided several UN compounds destroying them and killing UN staff members. The Israeli government also denied foreign journalists and media representatives access to the Gaza Strip. Requests by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to investigate scenes of humanitarian abuse were rejected.

6. Hamas militias have also perpetrated a wide range of human rights violations in the Gaza Strip during the latest Israeli attacks. Reports gathered from the field indicate that Hamas is responsible for the unlawful killing of some 32 Palestinians including fugitives, prisoners and political detainees. Dozens of other violations were recorded throughout the strip including severe physical violence and torture. Furthermore, Hamas’ indiscriminate use of missiles has claimed the life of at least three Israeli civilians during this three week period. Hamas continues to act with complete impunity and disregard of human rights and international humanitarian law.


The Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies would like to call2  the attention of the Human Rights Council and UN member states to the insufficient and highly selective manner in which the international community has carried out their Article 1 obligation to "ensure respect" for the Geneva Conventions and the protection of civilians during armed conflicts throughout the Arab region.



2. Concerning war crimes and crimes against humanity against Palestinian civilians in the OPTs, the international community has failed to apply significant and concerted pressure on the Israeli government to halt such abuses and end the occupation. The US and European Union (EU) states continue to shield Israel from criticism and abort any binding UN resolutions condemning war crimes committed in the OPTs.

3. A pronounced, a concerted double-standard exists among the US, EU and the League of Arab States (LAS) concerning humanitarian law violations and human rights abuses in the OPTs and Darfur. The US and the EU have forcefully applied diplomatic pressure and created the framework for internal sanctions regimes against the government of Sudan. Yet, they fail to apply to same type of mechanisms and pressure towards Israel. Arab League states in turn apply pressure on Israel to halt abuses against Palestinians, but shield the Sudanese government. These double-standards encourage governments in the region to ignore humanitarian law, undermine all international civilian protection standards and increase the suffering of conflict affected civilians in the Arab region. In this sense, the International Criminal Court (ICC)'s decision to issue a warrant of arrest for Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir is indeed a major step towards combating impunity in Darfur, and the wider region.

The Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies proposes the following recommendations to the Human Rights Council:


  • To pass a resolution denouncing the deteriorating respect for international humanitarian law in the Arab region, including in Iraq, the OPTs, Darfur and Yemen; and call on the international community to increase efforts to ensure that full and unconditional protection to civilians is provided.
  • To enforce its resolution A/HRC/S-9/L.1 concerning the dispatching of a fact-finding mission to the OPTs to assess human rights and humanitarian law violations in the Gaza Strip in the aftermath of the Israeli attacks.


  • To call on the ICC to recognize the ability of the Palestinian Authority to authorize the Court to investigate war crimes committed in Gaza and to begin investigations immediately.


 1Statement of Special Raporteur for the Palestinian Territories Occupied Since 1967 for presentation to the Special Session of the Human Rights council on the situation in the Gaza Strip, 9 January 2009.

2 See CIHRS written intervention A/HRC/4/NGO/59, March 7, 2007.

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