Gaza: Human Rights Council resolution urges arms embargo on Israel

A child watches as bodies are recovered from under the rubble of a house in the Al-Nasr neighborhood, east of the city of Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip.
UN News/Ziad Taleb
A child watches as bodies are recovered from under the rubble of a house in the Al-Nasr neighborhood, east of the city of Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip.
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HRC55 | Gaza: UN Human Rights Council Calls on States to Stop Selling, Transferring Arms to Israel

In a resolution adopted by 28 votes in favour, six against and 13 abstentions, the 47-member Human Rights Council backed a call "to cease the sale, transfer and diversion of arms, munitions and other military equipment to Israel, the occupying Power…to prevent further violations of international humanitarian law and violations and abuses of human rights”.

Presented by Pakistan on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, delegates heard that the resolution had also been motivated by the need to stop “egregious" human rights violations in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.

Co-sponsors of the text included Bolivia, Cuba and the State of Palestine, ahead of the vote which saw support from more than two dozen countries including Brazil, China, Luxembourg, Malaysia and South Africa.

Unlike the UN Security Council, Human Rights Council resolutions are not legally binding on States but carry significant moral weight, and in this instance is intended to increase diplomatic pressure on Israel as well as potentially influence national policy decisions.

Voices against

Among the delegations that either abstained or voted against the draft text, Germany noted that the resolution “refrains from mentioning Hamas and denies Israel the exercise of its right to self-defence”.

The German ambassador also objected to the draft resolution’s “prejudged” allegations “that Israel engages in apartheid, and it accuses Israel of collective punishment, deliberate targeting of the Palestinian civilian population and applying starvation as a method of warfare”.

For Israel, Meirav Eilon Shahar, Permanent Representative to the UN in Geneva, rejected the resolution as further evidence of the Council’s alleged anti-Israeli bias. “According to this resolution, States should not sell arms to Israel in its endeavour to defend its population, but they continue to arm Hamas,” she said.

“It cannot even condemn the brutal murder of over 1,200 of my people, the kidnapping of over 240 individuals, including infants, the rape, mutilations and sexual abuse of Israeli women, girls and men,” the Israeli official said later to journalists on the sidelines of the Council.

The document condemnsthe use of explosive weapons with wide-area effects by Israel in populated areas in Gaza, underlining the “reverberating effects of such weapons on hospitals, schools, water, electricity and shelter, which are affecting millions of Palestinians”.

AI military use

The resolution adopted by the Human Rights Council also denounces the use of artificial intelligence (AI) to aid military decision making in conflict that may contribute to international crimes.

It decries the targeting of civilians, including on 7 October 2023, and demands the immediate release of all remaining hostages, persons arbitrarily detained and victims of enforced disappearance as well as ensuring immediate humanitarian access to the hostages and detainees in line with international law.

It was adopted on the last day of the latest session of the Council alongside the more traditional resolutions related to the situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT) on accountability and justice, Palestinians' right to self-determination, Israeli settlements in the OPT and the occupied Syrian Golan.

Gaza crisis in focus

At the opening of the Council’s 55th session, the UN Secretary-General repeated his call for a humanitarian ceasefire and the immediate and unconditional release of all hostages.

“Nothing can justify [Hamas’s] deliberate killing, injuring, torturing and kidnapping of civilians, the use of sexual violence or the indiscriminate launching of rockets towards Israel,” said António Guterres. “But, nothing justifies the collective punishment of the Palestinian people.”

While presenting his latest report on justice and accountability in the OPT, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights called for an end to "carnage" in Gaza.

“Clear violations of international human rights and humanitarian laws, including war crimes and possibly other crimes under international law, have been committed by all parties. It is time – well past time – for peace, investigation and accountability,” said Volker Türk.

The Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in the Palestinian territory occupied since 1967, Francesca Albanese, also presented her latest report to the Council in which she stated that “there are reasonable grounds to believe that the threshold indicating the commission of the crime of genocide against Palestinians as a group in Gaza has been met.”

Emergency forum

The Human Rights Council addressed myriad grave human rights violations, including in Iran and Haiti. The Independent International Fact-Finding Mission investigating the protests in Iran, particularly concerning women and children, reported egregious violations by Iranian State authorities following the death of Jina Mahsa Amini in September 2022.

The Council renewed the mission's mandate for another year as well as that of the Special Rapporteur monitoring human rights in Iran.

On Haiti, the Council received a lengthy update from the UN Human Rights Office, while High Commissioner Türk emphasised the urgent need for action amidst escalating violence, which has profoundly affected the population. The Council renewed the mandate of the expert on human rights in Haiti.

Renewals were also made for mandated investigations in Ukraine, Syria and South Sudan.

Addressing a range of thematic issues, the Council adopted a number of resolutions, including one encouraging States to combat discrimination, violence and harmful practices against intersex persons. Additionally, the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on human rights and the environment was renewed, now reworded as "Special Rapporteur on the human right to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment", reflecting its recognition by the Council and the General Assembly.

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