Who Voted — and Who Didn’t — for U.N. Investigation of Potential War Crimes in Gaza

The U.N. Human Rights Council has announced a probe into military operations in the region, triggering dismay from Israelis and praise from Palestinians.

Smoke rises from buildings following an Israeli airstrike in eastern Gaza neighborhood of Shejaiya during a military operation on July 23.
National Journal
Marina Koren
July 23, 2014, 10:04 a.m.

The United Na­tions Hu­man Rights Coun­cil voted Wed­nes­day to es­tab­lish an in­quiry to in­vest­ig­ate pos­sible war crimes in the Ga­za Strip.

Of the 47 par­ti­cip­at­ing coun­tries on the coun­cil, 29 voted for open­ing an in­vest­ig­a­tion, 17 ab­stained, and one voted against. ABC’s for­eign ed­it­or Jon Wil­li­ams has the visu­al here.

Coun­tries that voted in the af­firm­at­ive are, in al­pha­bet­ic­al or­der: Al­ger­ia, Ar­gen­tina, Brazil, Chile, China, the Demo­crat­ic Re­pub­lic of Congo, Costa Rica, Cote d’Ivoire, Cuba, Ethiopia, In­dia, In­done­sia, Kaza­kh­stan, Kenya, Kuwait, the Mal­dives, Mex­ico, Mo­rocco, Nam­i­bia, Pakistan, Peru, the Phil­ip­pines, Rus­sia, Saudi Ar­a­bia, Si­erra Le­one, the United Ar­ab Emir­ates, Venezuela, and Vi­et­nam.

Coun­tries that ab­stained are Aus­tria, Ben­in, Bot­swana, Burk­ina Faso, the Czech Re­pub­lic, Es­to­nia, France, Ga­bon, Ger­many, Ire­land, Italy, Ja­pan, Montenegro, South Korea, Ro­mania, the Re­pub­lic of Mace­do­nia, and the United King­dom.

The sole dis­sent­ing vote came from the United States, Is­rael’s most vo­cal sup­port­er.

The U.N.’s top hu­man-rights of­fi­cial, Navi Pil­lay, said Wed­nes­day be­fore the vote that there was a “strong pos­sib­il­ity” of war crimes com­mit­ted by both sides in Ga­za. In the last two weeks of fight­ing, dur­ing Is­rael’s latest mil­it­ary of­fens­ive in the re­gion, more than 600 Palestini­ans and dozens of Is­raeli sol­diers have been killed.

Pil­lay cited both sides in a case for a probe in­to war crimes, point­ing to Is­raeli air­strikes on ci­vil­ian homes in the re­gion and to Hamas and oth­er Palestini­an mil­it­ant groups’ at­tacks on Is­raeli ci­vil­ians. She also said that Is­rael has not done enough to pro­tect ci­vil­ians in the con­flict zone.

The vote took place at a spe­cial one-day ses­sion of the coun­cil, con­vened at the re­quest of the Palestini­ans, Egypt, and Pakistan.

Is­rael faced a sim­il­ar in­vest­ig­a­tion in­to its op­er­a­tions in Ga­za in 2008, the res­ults of which cri­ti­cized the na­tion’s ac­tions dur­ing its con­flict with Hamas that year, ac­cord­ing to the Is­raeli news­pa­per Haaretz.

The in­vest­ig­a­tion is wel­comed by Palestini­ans, who have been call­ing for the U.N. to ad­dress at­tacks in­volving ci­vil­ians along the strip. Is­raeli Prime Min­is­ter Ben­jamin Net­an­yahu, who met with Sec­ret­ary of State John Kerry in Tel Aviv on Wed­nes­day, called the coun­cil’s de­cision “a trav­esty” that “should be re­jec­ted.”

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