The UK government must vote to investigate Israeli actions in Gaza


If the UK gives licence to violate international law with impunity, how does that reflect our promotion of human rights?

By Lisa Nandy and Richard Burden

First published in the New Statesman, March 21, 2019

Last year the United Nations Human Rights Council (HRC) voted to establish a Commission of Inquiry to investigate killings on the Gaza border. The UK government, regrettably, abstained on that vote.

After months of careful investigation, the inquiry’s report is now published and contains alarming findings. Chief among them is the finding that there are “grounds to believe Israeli forces committed violations of international human rights and humanitarian law”, and that “these may constitute war crimes or crimes against humanity”.

This week, the HRC will be voting on a resolution to endorse the report and urge the implementation of its recommendations. With its vote, the UK will show whether it protects human rights, shrugs its shoulders and abstains, or completely turns its back on international law. In making that decision, UK ministers should remind themselves of some context.

Weekly demonstrations began in Gaza early last year. While they were civilian in nature, Hamas encouraged the use of incendiary kites and balloons, which caused damage and fear in southern Israel. As the report shows, these incidents were by far the exception rather than the norm.

It is important to note why the protests happened in the first place. Though Israel withdrew its forces from the strip some years ago, in terms of international law, it remains the occupying power due to its continued effective control over the territory, blocking the movement of people and essential goods. This blockade condemns millions of civilians in Gaza to poverty, chronic unemployment, daily power cuts and water supplies unfit for human consumption. The blockade is now entering its twelfth year and the humanitarian crisis there continues to worsen.

Read the full article here.

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Richard Burden

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I was Labour Member of Parliament for Birmingham Northfield between 1992 and 2019 and a former Shadow Transport Minister. I now chair Healthwatch in Birmingham and Solihull, and the West Midlands Board of Remembering Srebrenica. I also work as a public affairs consultant. I am an effective community advocate and stakeholder alliance builder with a passion for human rights. I am a trustee of the Balfour Project charity and of Citizens Advice Birmingham, and a former Chair of Medical Aid for Palestinians.

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