Nobel laureate Tutu to head UN rights probe of Israeli killing of Palestinian civilians

Archbishop Desmond Tutu

Former Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Desmond Tutu will head the United Nations Human Rights Council fact-finding mission into Israeli military operations in Gaza established after 19 Palestinian civilians were killed in an attack on the town of Beit Hanoun earlier this month.

A leading figure in the struggle against apartheid, Archbishop Tutu chaired the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission established in 1995. Israel has said the Beit Hanoun attack was the result of a technical error and apologized.

According to a resolution adopted by the Council on 15 November, the mission is to travel to Beit Hanoun to, among other tasks, “assess the situation of victims, address the needs of survivors, and make recommendations on ways and means to protect Palestinian civilians against further Israeli assaults.” It is to report on its progress no later than the middle of December.

At the 15 November special session expressed grave concern “at the continued violation by the occupying Power, Israel, of the human rights of the Palestinian people in the Occupied Palestinian territory” and described the military attacks as “a collective punishment of the civilians.”

At the time of the Beit Hanoun attack on 8 November, Secretary-General Kofi Annan voiced his shock, took note of the reported announcement by the Israeli Government of a full investigation into the incident and said he looked forward to its early results.

The UN General Assembly has also set up a fact-finding commission to investigate the killings.

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