Geneva Council Condemns Violence Against Civilians in Israel and Gaza

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Geneva Council stands in resolute condemnation of the ruthless attacks on Israeli civilians initiated by Hamas on October 7th. We also express deep concern for the victims of subsequent counter-terrorism actions taken by Israeli forces.

The experts at the heart of this statement are Fionnuala Ní Aoláin, the Special Rapporteur on the protection of human rights while countering terrorism, and Morris Tidball-Binz, the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary, or arbitrary executions. They unite in denouncing the scale of the brutal assault on mothers, children, infants, the elderly, and ordinary citizens, who were merely going about their daily lives on the Jewish Shabbat and during the Jewish religious holiday of Sukkot.

Acts of terrorism, no matter how horrific, should never justify serious violations of international law, including war crimes or crimes against humanity. The experts, appointed by the Human Rights Council, underscore the critical importance of upholding the principle that the “essence of terrorism” involves the deliberate targeting of civilians, causing irreparable harm to victims’ families and survivors.

Additionally, approximately 200 individuals, including older persons, mothers, children, babies, and seriously wounded individuals, were kidnapped and held hostage.

While acknowledging the longstanding grievances and human rights violations faced by the Palestinian people under occupation, we reiterate that nothing justifies the deliberate targeting of civilians in this manner.

We underscore that hostage-taking is absolutely prohibited under international law and constitutes a war crime. We call for immediate access by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to those held hostage and emphasize the necessity of providing them with medical care.

“No harm must come to the hostages taken and held incommunicado by Hamas. They must be released,” the experts state.

Furthermore, we express equal concern for the victims of counter-terrorism measures. Regardless of the heinousness of terrorist acts, such actions should never lead to severe violations of international law, such as war crimes or crimes against humanity.

In alignment with the UN Secretary-General’s perspective, we criticize the evacuation order issued to Gazans, affecting approximately 1.1 million people, with the majority being children. We warn of the devastating consequences of this evacuation.

We also condemn the complete siege of the enclave, which includes the cutoff of water and electricity, and note that such actions “may constitute the war crime of starvation of civilians.”

Schools and hospitals, populated primarily by women and children, should never be considered legitimate military targets, whether by state or non-state armed groups. The grave destruction of Al-Ahli hospital underscores the humanitarian implications of non-compliance with international humanitarian law.

In an international plea, we call upon all states to fulfill their obligation to ensure respect for international humanitarian law by all parties, including those countries capable of exerting influence, and to ensure accountability for all violations.

Special Rapporteurs, appointed by the UN Human Rights Council, are part of its Special Procedures. They monitor and report on specific thematic issues or country situations. It’s important to note that they serve in their individual capacity, are not UN staff, and do not receive a salary.

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