Ireland abstains with other EU states from UN resolution on Gaza inquiry

Concerns that proposed resolution was not most efficient way of reacting urgently to developments

The UN Human Rights Council special session held in Geneva yesterday to discuss the human rights situation in the occupied Palestinian territory. Photograph: Martial Trezzini/EPA

The UN Human Rights Council special session held in Geneva yesterday to discuss the human rights situation in the occupied Palestinian territory. Photograph: Martial Trezzini/EPA

Thu, Jul 24, 2014, 01:00

Ireland yesterday joined other European Union countries in abstaining from a United Nations resolution setting up a commission of inquiry into Gaza, citing concerns that the proposed resolution was not the most efficient way of reacting urgently to the developments in the Middle East.

The UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) held a special session in Geneva yesterday to discuss the human rights situation in the occupied territories, following a request from a group of countries including a number of Arab states.

But the nine EU countries present, including Ireland, declined to endorse the resolution to set up a commission of inquiry, raising concerns that the final draft text was “unbalanced, inaccurate and prejudges the outcome of the investigation”. The US was the only country to vote against the resolution.

As a result, the council adopted an “orally revised” draft resolution to set up a commission of inquiry into alleged war crimes in Gaza, with 29 voters in favour, 17 abstentions and one against.

Earlier, Ireland’s representative to the UN told representatives of the international body that Irish people were “appalled” at the upsurge in violence in Gaza.

Ambassador Patricia O’Brien said that while Ireland fully accepted the government of Israel had the right to defend its people “this right does not negate the rights of others”.

“Any use of military force in self-defence must be in accordance with international humanitarian law, and in particular must be both discriminate and proportionate. In view of the casualty figures, we do not believe that this has been the case,” she said.

‘Appalled’

“Irish people have been appalled by the upsurge of violence in Gaza, and especially the very high and unacceptable level of civilian casualties. It is clear to us that neither side is paying adequate regard to the cost of their actions on innocent civilians,” she added.

She added that Ireland would support the conduct of an “appropriate investigation into breaches of international law,” in view of the very high casualty rate and the many allegations of violation of human rights and international law arising from the conflict.

Ireland, which holds a three- year term at the Human Rights Council, was one of a number of countries to intervene during yesterday’s session in Geneva.

In an address to delegates, the UN’s High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said there seemed to be a “strong possibility that international humanitarian law has been violated, in a manner that could amount to war crimes”.

Outlining a number of examples of reported Israeli strikes, including the shelling of a hospital, and the killing of patients at a centre for persons with disabilities in Beit Lahiya, Ms Pillay said “every one of these incidents must be properly and independently investigated”.

She said the applicable norms of international humanitarian law and international human rights law should be upheld by both sides, including the distinction between civilians and combatants, and respect for the right to life.

“Not abiding by these principles may amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity,” she said.

‘Ill-conceived’

Israel, a member of the 47- member body, criticised the convening of the session as “misguided, ill-conceived and counter-productive to efforts being made to end the hostilities”.

Eviatar Manor, Israel’s permanent representative to the UN, said Israel had no choice but to respond after 300 rockets a day were indiscriminately fired at Israeli citizens.

He said Gaza civilians were not Israel’s enemies, and Israel’s military targeted only Hamas military targets. “Hamas is the aggressor,” Mr Manor said.