On 12 January 2009, the Human Rights Council adopted a resolution on the human rights situation in the Gaza strip. The Resolution is entitled “The Grave Violations of Human Rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territory particularly due to the recent Israeli military attacks against the occupied Gaza Strip”.
As the title indicates, the Resolution contains a number of vigorous statements on the situation in the Gaza Strip. The Resolution “strongly condemns the Israeli military operations”, which are considered to have led to “massive human rights violations of the Palestinian people”. It urges the Israeli government to stop the attacks and to withdraw their forces from the Palestinian territory. Israel is also called upon to comply with international humanitarian law, especially as regards access of humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip and the establishment of humanitarian corridors.
The Resolution also requests the international community to “support the current initiative aiming at putting an immediate end to the current military aggression” and calls for “urgent international action” to end the “grave violations committed by the occupying power, Israel” in the Gaza Strip. It remains unclear, however, how these measures should look like, in particular whether the Resolution favours economic sanctions against Israel or merely refers to diplomatic pressure on the Israeli government.
More important from a practical point of view is the decision to establish an international fact-finding Commission with the mandate to “investigate all violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law” caused by the Israeli military attacks.
The Resolution was adopted by 33 votes, mainly from the African and Asian continents. Thirteen members, including the EU members of the Council, abstained; only Canada voted against the Resolution (see here for the recorded vote). The United States is currently not a member of the Human Rights Council.
The Resolution does not mention the rocket attacks by Hamas, which was the main criticism of those countries which did not support the Resolution (see the press release published by Reuters).