UN Rights Council report condemns flagrant Israeli violations in summer war

Israel’s use of weapons such as cluster bombs during this summer’s war with Hizbollah in Lebanon was a flagrant violation of the right to life and property, excessive, not justified by military necessity and went beyond the arguments of proportionality, according to a report mandated by the Human Rights Council.

Israel violated obligations of international and humanitarian law and it disregarded its international and individual responsibility, according to the report of the High-Level Commission of Inquiry set up by the Council in August to probe “systematic targeting and killings of civilians by Israel,” which was presented to the 47-member body in Geneva on Friday.

Israel, speaking as a concerned country, said the report accurately reflected the one-sided mandate assigned to the Commission, ignoring both factual realities and legal obligations and producing a report rife with imbalances and misrepresentation. Israel launched its operation after Hizbollah attacked across the border and kidnapped two Israeli soldiers.*

The report’s silence on the responsibility of the Lebanese Government for acts of hostility prepared and perpetrated within its territory was in contrast with UN Security Council resolutions calling for Hizbollah’s disarmament and full Government control over its territory, Israeli representative Itzhak Levanon said.

While the report sought to be guided by international law obligations, it failed to make any reference to Lebanon’s obligations to prevent the use of its territory for hostile acts, and to disarm and disband Hizbollah, he added.
The Human Rights Council resolution mandated the Commission “(a) to investigate the systematic targeting and killings of civilians by Israel in Lebanon; (b) to examine the types of weapons used by Israel and their conformity with international law; and (c) to assess the extent and deadly impact of Israeli attacks on human life, property, critical infrastructure and the environment.”

Lebanon, speaking as a concerned country, said that besides the abhorrent facts of Israeli atrocities the report provided a sound and well grounded legal analysis and conclusion about serious Israeli violations of international humanitarian and human rights laws.

The report emerges as a unique document in the legal annals about the quick evolvement of Israel’s military actions in Lebanon “from a riposte to a boarder incident into a general attack against the entire Lebanese territory,” which “could qualify as serious violations of laws and customs of war and war crimes,” Lebanese representative Gebran Soufan said.

The Commission had examined, with extreme scrutiny, the devastating effects of the Israeli military campaign on Lebanon, which would be felt for many years, he added. A number of other speakers commended the report for its timely presentation and for highlighting the impact of the conflict while other delegations said it lacked impartiality and was one-sided.

Commission member Stelios Perrakis of Greece, Director of the European Centre for Research and Training on Human Rights and Humanitarian Action, told the Council the 34-day conflict exacted a heavy human toll on Lebanon, with 1,191 people reported dead, 4,409 injured, and 900,000 others fleeing their homes.

Roads, factories, water sources, cultural and economic infrastructure and homes were affected, it would take a long time before Lebanon could rebuild the country and the help of the international community would be required for this, he said. Basic humanitarian principles were absent throughout the conflict, and there had been indiscriminate use of force against Lebanese civilians. Human rights had not been respected.

Mr. Perrakis added that cluster munitions were mainly fired during the last 72 hours of the conflict.

The report recommended that the Council promote initiatives and called for the mobilization of the international community to assist Lebanon’s reconstruction, from within both the various UN agencies and international financial bodies, including technical expertise in buildings, bridges and cleaning of areas affected by cluster bombs as well as tending to child victims of the armed conflict.

*Editor’s Note: The dictionary definition of the word “kidnap” necessitates that the abduction of a person is illegal. As the Israeli soldier was part of an occupying force, captured during a military raid against a military target, in international law he is considered to be a “prisoner of war”, not a kidnap victim. The rules governing the treatment of prisoners of war are spelled out in the third Geneva Convention of 1949, article 13 of which requires that POWs “must at all times be treated humanely”.

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