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Israel/Gaza: UN experts urge lawyers advising Israeli military to refuse legal authorisation of actions that could amount to war crimes

23 October 2023

GENEVA (23 October 2023) – UN experts* today called on all lawyers advising the Israeli military to refuse legal authorisation for acts that may amount to war crimes in retaliation for the Hamas attacks on Israel.

“We unequivocally condemn the massacres of civilians and hostage-taking by Hamas and other Palestinian armed groups in Israel,” the experts said. “Those acts, committed against civilians, were atrocities.”

They noted that since the 7 October attack, the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) have been reportedly preparing for a ground invasion.

“Israel has launched a barrage of deadly airstrikes into densely populated civilian areas in the Gaza strip, destroying or damaging homes, hospitals, markets, and UN Reliefs and Works Agency (UNRWA) buildings,” the experts said. The airstrikes have reportedly killed more than 3,400 Palestinians and injured more than 12,000, including children.

The experts also noted that Israel increased its blockade on Gaza, cutting off food, water, electricity, and fuel supplies.

“As Israel responds to Hamas and conducts operations in Gaza, all lawyers advising the military must identify and seek to prevent actions that may amount to war crimes. They have a professional duty to deny legal authorisation for criminal acts,” the experts said.

“Lawyers must refuse to give legal authorisation for actions that violate international law,” they said.

Read the full statement.

*The experts: Margaret Satterthwaite, Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyersFionnuala Ní AoláinSpecial Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism;

The Experts are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent of any government or organisation and serve in their individual capacity.

UN Human Rights, Country Page - Israel

For further information and media requests, please contact: Melanie Santizo (+41 22 917 9963/ [email protected]) or write to [email protected]

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