UN experts: Gaza blockade illegal, subjected to collective punishment in flagrant contravention of int’l human rights & humanitarian law

PressTV –  Wed Sep 14, 2011 2:31AM GMT

A speedboat escorts Gaza Freedom Flotilla lead ship Mavi Marmara near the southern port of Ashdod after attack by Israeli commandos.
Israel’s blockade of the Gaza Strip is a violation of international law and amounts to collective punishment of the people of Gaza, a panel of UN experts says.

A panel of five independent UN human rights experts reporting to the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) said on Tuesday in Geneva that the blockade had subjected Gazans to collective punishment in “flagrant contravention of international human rights and humanitarian law,” Reuters reported.

The UNHRC-mandated panel of experts rubbished an earlier UN report released on 2 September that ruled Israel’s naval blockade of the Strip both legal and appropriate.

The so-called Palmer Report on the Israeli attack of May 2010 that killed nine Turkish activists also ruled that Israeli Defence Forces had used “excessive” force but “did not violate the international law” and held both Israel and the Gaza Freedom Flotilla activists responsible for the violence.

However, the UNHRC panel said the four-year Israeli blockade deprived 1.6 million Palestinians living in the coastal enclave of fundamental rights.

In a joint statement, the experts noted, “In pronouncing itself on the legality of the naval blockade, the Palmer Report does not recognize the naval blockade as an integral part of Israel’s closure policy toward Gaza which has a disproportionate impact on the human rights of civilians.”

A previous fact-finding mission appointed by the UNHRC to probe the Gaza Freedom Flotilla massacre also concluded in a report in September that Israeli blockade violates international law.

Meanwhile, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) says the blockade violates the Geneva Conventions.

Richard Falk, who is a UN special rapporteur on human rights in the occupied Palestinian territories and one of the five UNHCR experts, said the Palmer report’s conclusions were “aimed at political reconciliation between Israel and Turkey. It is unfortunate that in the report politics should trump the law.”

Another expert, Olivier De Schutter, UN special rapporteur on the right to food, went on to say that about one-third of Gaza’s arable land and 85 percent of its fishing waters are totally or partially inaccessible due to Israeli blockade.

He added at least two-thirds of Gazan households lack secure access to food. “People are forced to make unacceptable trade-offs, often having to choose between food or medicine or water for their families,” Schutter stated.

The other three experts were the UN special rapporteurs on physical and mental health, extreme poverty and human rights, and access to water and sanitation.

GJH/MGH

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