In a first, India refuses to vote against Israel at UN

GENEVA: India on Friday abstained from a UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) vote for adoption of a UN Inquiry Commission report on Israel’s ‘Operation Protective Edge’ in Gaza last year, which also calls upon both Israel and Palestine to prosecute perpetrators of war crimes.

While 41 countries (including most of the European Union) voted in favour of adopting the report, five, including India, abstained. The US was the only country to vote against it. Four other countries who abstained were Kenya, Ethiopia, Paraguay and Macedonia.

Israel’s representative Eviatar Manor lambasted the decision, accusing the council of being an “agent provocateur”, while his Palestinian opposite number Ibrahim Khraishi was jubilant.

The vote comes in the wake of a scathing UN report detailing “possible war crimes” during the 51 days of fighting.

The head of the UN’s inquiry Mary McGowan Davis said investigators had found “serious violations of international humanitarian and human rights law by Israel and Palestinian armed groups, in some cases amounting to war crimes.”

The resolution did not point the finger at those responsible but said they should face justice in either national or international courts.

Although the council does not have the power to order that suspects be brought before the International Criminal Court (ICC), it urged both Israel and Palestinian authorities to “cooperate fully” with any criminal inquiries that may be opened.

Human Rights Watch welcomed the resolution saying it “sends a strong message that the perpetrators of serious violations should be held to account. Israel and Palestine, as well as Hamas, should respect the resolution’s call to cooperate with the International Criminal Court.”

Palestinians have been trying to bring criminal proceedings against Israel at the ICC as part of an increased focus on diplomatic manoeuvring and appeals to international bodies.

More than 2,140 Palestinians, mostly civilians, were killed during the conflict in July and August 2014. Of the 73 deaths on the Israeli side, most were soldiers.

The UN report criticised the “huge firepower” Israel used in Gaza, particularly against residential buildings and UN schools, and questioned whether a policy of civilian attacks had been “approved at least tacitly by decision-makers at the highest levels of the government of Israel.”

It also condemned the “indiscriminate” firing of thousands of rockets and mortars by Palestinian forces at Israel, which it said appeared to have been intended to “spread terror” among Israeli civilians.

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