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UN experts urge the international community to step up pressure to end crimes, uphold international law and save lives in Gaza

07 March 2024

GENEVA (7 March 2024) – UN human rights experts* today urged the international community to increase pressure on the parties to the conflict to end grave crimes and fully comply with international law. Five months after the 7 October attacks on Israel by Hamas and other armed groups, and the Israeli military response which followed, they issued the following statement:

“Five months after the carefully planned and executed massacre of approximately 1,200 persons in Israel, perpetrated by Hamas and other armed groups on 7 October 2023, and the military response by the Israeli armed forces which followed, international crimes continue to take place on a daily basis in the Gaza strip.

The reported systematic and widespread nature of the crimes committed on 7 October, including alleged sexual violence against women and girls, hostage-taking and other violations of international law, may amount to crimes against humanity. More than one hundred hostages, including children and elderly persons, whose whereabouts and fate remain unknown, are still being held by Hamas and other militant groups.

This may be tantamount to enforced disappearances, which may also amount to torture and ill-treatment of the hostages and their relatives. We call for their immediate and unconditional release.

Israeli armed forces are reported to have repeatedly violated the duties of distinction, proportionality and precaution, as well as the prohibition of indiscriminate and disproportionate attacks under international humanitarian law, and to have failed in their duty to respect, protect and fulfil the right to life of the population of Gaza and the West Bank, resulting in the deaths of tens of thousands of protected persons, including a large number of children, women and the elderly, which may amount to grave breaches of international humanitarian law and international human rights law, including war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Earlier calls by UN Special Procedures for the international community to investigate allegations of violations, help ensure accountability and prevent further violations have not gone unheeded. We welcome the order rendered on 26 January 2024 by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) for provisional measures in the case concerning the Application of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide in the Gaza Strip (South Africa v. Israel); the investigations carried out so far by United Nations experts, including the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict, and investigations underway by the International Criminal Court.

However, much more needs to be urgently done in order effectively and measurably stop any further carnage in Gaza.

Today, we call on the international community to step up, as a matter of the highest priority, its efforts to ensure full and measurable compliance with international humanitarian law and international human rights law obligations in Gaza, including the immediate, unconditional and safe release of all hostages and the full implementation of the provisional measures ordered by the ICJ on 26 January.

We urge States to use all available legal means under international law, including the jurisdiction of national courts over international crimes, to investigate and bring to justice those responsible for war crimes and crimes against humanity, reported since 7 October 2023. We stand ready to assist efforts to investigate these crimes.”

* The experts: Morris Tidball-Binz, Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions; Alice Jill Edwards, Special Rapporteur on Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment; Aua Baldé (Chair-Rapporteur), Gabriella Citroni (Vice-Chair), Angkhana Neelapaijit, Grażyna Baranowska, Ana Lorena Delgadillo Perez, Working Group on enforced or involuntary disappearances ; Dorothy Estrada Tanck (Chair), Claudia Flores, Ivana Krstić, Haina Lu, and Laura Nyirinkindi, Working group on discrimination against women and girls

Special Rapporteurs 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 from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.

For additional information and media requests please contact the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions on [email protected]

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