June 05, 2010

Israel could be hauled before International Criminal Court, UN human rights chief, June 5 2010


Kampala - The UN human rights chief said Saturday that Israel could face prosecution for a deadly raid on a Gaza aid flotilla and that she was following requests for a referral to the International Criminal Court.

Israel has faced international condemnation after commandos stormed a fleet of ships headed for the blockaded territory on Monday and killed nine people. It boarded another boat Saturday but there were no casualties.

"The Security Council is the only body in the UN system that has an enforcement mechanism and it has done so by way of sanctions and and by the referral of Darfur" to the ICC, Navi Pillay, the High Commissioner for Human Rights, told journalists.

"I am following very closely the very many calls that come particularly from civil society and from all the people who are suffering in Palestine for that kind of action to be taken," she said in Kampala, where she attended the court's ongoing review conference.

Israel, like Sudan, is not an ICC member, but the court's prosecutor could investigate the Jewish state following a Security Council directive, as happened in the Darfur case.

Pillay, who for four years served as an ICC judge, said she believed Israel's blockade of Gaza violates international law.

"I feel that in the current climate I should address the issue of the legality of such a blockade because it is being claimed by Israel that it's legal and they have powerful support for this position, unfortunately," she said.

"International humanitarian law prohibits starvation of civilians as a method of warfare ... It is also prohibited to impose collective punishment on the civilian population, so it is (for those reasons) that I have consistently reported to member states that the blockade is illegal and must be lifted."

She added that Israel's attack Monday on a Gaza-bound aid flotilla might also constitute a prosecutable offence.

"Even if it is demonstrated that the blockade is legal under international law Israel's current military operations against the flotilla must be analysed from the perspective of its obligation to allow humanitarian aid to be brought into the Gaza strip," she argued. - Sapa-AFP

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