UN Rights Chief Unveils Members of Independent Probe into Gaza Conflict

NEW YORK–(ENEWSPF)–14 June 2010 – The top United Nations human rights today announced the composition of the independent committee tasked with monitoring Israeli and Palestinian investigations into the deadly conflict in the Gaza Strip that ended early last year.

Earlier this year, the Human Rights Council, echoing the General Assembly, called on the two sides to carry out probes into the serious violations of international humanitarian and human rights law reported by a UN-backed fact-finding mission into Operation Cast Lead.

That three-week Israeli military offensive starting at the end of 2008 – with the stated aim of ending rocket attacks by militants operating in the area – left more than 1,400 people dead, injured 5,000 others and reduced homes, schools, hospitals and marketplaces to rubble.

The so-called Goldstone Report, produced by the fact-finding mission, found that both Israeli forces and Palestinian militants were guilty of serious human rights violations and breaches of humanitarian law during the conflict.

In March, the Council decided to establish a panel of independent experts to monitor the independence, effective and genuineness of the investigations and their conformity with international standards.

“The committee will focus on the need to ensure accountability for all violations of international humanitarian and international human rights laws during the Gaza conflict, in order to prevent impunity, assure justice, deter further violations and promote peace,” High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said today.

Christian Tomuschat, a renowned international jurist and expert on international human rights and international humanitarian law, will be one of the three members of the committee. He is a Professor Emeritus at Humboldt University in Berlin, and has also served as a member of the UN Human Rights Committee, president of the International Law Commission and chair of the Guatemalan Historical Clarification Commission.

Also taking part is Mary McGowan Davis, who has more than two decades of experience as a justice of the Supreme Court of the State of New York and as a federal prosecutor in the criminal justice sector of New York City. Having extensive experience in international humanitarian law and in transitional justice, she has also mentored and trained lawyers in Afghanistan, Iraq, Mongolia and Rwanda.

Rounding out the three-person panel, set to meet shortly to map out is plan of action, is Param Cumaraswamy, a renowned jurist and human rights expert, who served for nearly 10 years as the UN Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers. A former President of the Malaysian Bar Association, he is a member of several organizations, including the International Commission of Jurists.

“These three experts are eminently suited to fulfil the committee’s mandate, and I would like to take this opportunity to call on all relevant parties to fully cooperate with the committee,” Ms. Pillay stressed.