MIDDLE EAST CRISIS
‘The time for action is now’ — UN experts demand humanitarian ceasefire to prevent genocide in Gaza
United Nations special rapporteurs have made a clarion call for a ceasefire to ‘prevent genocide and humanitarian catastrophe’ in the besieged Gaza Strip.
On Thursday, 2 November, United Nations experts demanded a humanitarian ceasefire in Gaza, warning that time is running out for the Palestinians who are at “grave risk of genocide”.
The Gaza Strip is home to about 2.3 million people, making it one of the most densely populated regions in the world. The region has been hit by a barrage of Israeli air attacks in the nearly four weeks since Hamas’ incursion into southern Israel, which killed more than 1,400 people.
Read more in Daily Maverick: Israel-Palestine War
More than 9,000 people have been killed in Gaza as Israel has carried out its campaign of retaliatory air strikes, including more than 3,700 children, according to Palestinian health authorities in Gaza. A further 134 have been killed in the occupied West Bank. A report by a UN commission of inquiry, chaired by former South African judge Navi Pillay, confirmed that “civilians are the primary victims”.
“We remain convinced that the Palestinian people are at grave risk of genocide,” the group of seven UN special rapporteurs said in a statement on Thursday.
“The time for action is now. Israel’s allies also bear responsibility and must act now to prevent its disastrous course of action.
“All parties must comply with their obligations under international humanitarian and human rights law. We demand a humanitarian ceasefire to ensure that aid reaches those who need it the most. A ceasefire also means channels of communication can be opened to ensure the release of hostages,” they said.
On 28 October, the outgoing director of the New York Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Craig Mokhiber, wrote to High Commissioner Volker Türk, saying: “We are seeing a genocide unfolding before our eyes, and the organisation we serve appears powerless to stop it.”
Read more in Daily Maverick: The Gaza assault is a textbook case of genocide – top official tells UN in resignation letter
The International Criminal Court defines the crime of genocide as “the intent to destroy in whole or in part a national, ethnic, racial or religious group by killing its members or by other means: causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group; deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part; imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group; or forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.”
Attacks on #Jabalia refugee camp a brazen breach of international law, say UN experts. “Time is running out for #Gaza,” they say, denouncing #Israel’s refusal to halt plans to decimate the Gaza strip: “The Palestinian people are at grave risk of genocide.” https://t.co/agzLHhDst9 pic.twitter.com/I1DrxlkJ37
— UN Special Procedures (@UN_SPExperts) November 2, 2023
The specialists behind the UN’s statement are Professor Pedro Arrojo Agudo, special rapporteur on the human rights to safe drinking water and sanitation; Professor Michael Fakhri, special rapporteur on the right to food; Dr Tlaleng Mofokeng, Special Rapporteur on the right to health; Paula Gaviria Betancur, special rapporteur on the human rights of internally displaced persons; Irene Khan, special rapporteur on the right to freedom of opinion and expression; Francesca Albanese, special rapporteur on the human rights situation in the Palestine Territory occupied since 1967; and Dr Ashwini KP, special rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance.
Special rapporteurs form part of the UN Human Rights Council’s Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN’s human rights system.
More than 22,000 people have been wounded in nearly four weeks of Israeli bombardment in the Gaza Strip. The health system is buckling under the pressure, and humanitarian aid organisations have condemned the trickle of aid that has entered Gaza since 7 October.
Read more in Daily Maverick: Ramaphosa calls for supply of weapons to Israel and Hamas to cease, as more aid enters Gaza
“The situation in Gaza has reached a catastrophic tipping point,” the UN experts said, adding that Gazans are in dire need of food, water, medicine, fuel and essential supplies. Before 7 October about 500 trucks carrying essential supplies crossed into Gaza every day, World Health Organization director general Tedros Ghebreyesus said on Thursday night.
Since 7 October, only 217 trucks in total had entered the enclave.
14 out of 36 hospitals and 2 specialty centers in #Gaza are non-functional due to lack of fuel as well as damage, attacks and insecurity.
— Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus (@DrTedros) November 2, 2023
“We want to remind all parties that humanitarian and medical personnel and facilities are protected under international law. States have an obligation to ensure their safety and protection during times of war,” they said.
“As the secretary-general has repeatedly reiterated, Israel and Palestinian armed groups must bear in mind that even wars have rules.” DM