Israel/OPT: Two years after 50-day offensive, still no justice for war crimes victims
“I cannot understand how a crime that took place in view of cameras, where the whole world saw how boys playing on the beach were massacred mercilessly, can pass like that without any criminals held to account.” Sobhi Bakr, relative of four boys killed in an Israeli air strike on 16 July 2014.
Tomorrow, 8 July 2016, marks the second anniversary of the start of a 50-day Israeli military offensive which brought unprecedented death and destruction to the Gaza Strip.
In a new briefing issued today, Amnesty International asks why no genuine criminal investigations have been launched, and why no one has yet been held to account for atrocities in spite of war crimes being committed by both sides.
“During 50 days of attacks, Israeli forces wreaked massive death and destruction on the Gaza Strip, killing close to 1,500 civilians, more than 500 of whom were children,” said Philip Luther, Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Programme Director.
The only criminal charges resulting from Israel’s military investigations were brought against three soldiers for the relatively minor abuses of looting and obstructing an investigation. Meanwhile, more serious crimes, some of which are likely war crimes, have gone unpunished.
On the Palestinian side, there have been no genuine investigations into violations, including war crimes, by Hamas and Palestinian armed groups. Palestinian armed groups fired thousands of unguided rockets and mortars at civilian areas in Israel, killing six civilians; and Hamas forces summarily killed and attacked Palestinians it deemed to be enemies.
“The fact that no one has been held to account for war crimes that were evidently committed by both sides in the conflict is absolutely indefensible. Two years have passed and it’s high time the wheels of justice started turning,” said Philip Luther.
The briefing contains interviews with relatives of those killed during the war, details the flaws in the investigations conducted so far by the Israeli military authorities, and outlines several attacks that clearly targeted civilians in violation of international humanitarian law.
Amnesty International is calling on Israel to reform its investigative mechanisms including by ensuring that those investigating are independent of those ordering, implementing or advising on attacks. The Palestinian National Consensus Government should ensure independent criminal investigations into war crimes committed by Palestinians during the 2014 war.
The Hamas authorities in Gaza must be transparent about any progress in its investigations into summary killings and other abuses of Palestinians in Gaza.
Amnesty International is urging all sides to co-operate fully with the preliminary examination being conducted by the Office of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court into alleged crimes committed during the conflict.