In an article for Reuters, Emma Farge reports on day one of the five-day-long hearings hosted by the UN Human Rights Council’s 10th Commission of Inquiry (COI) to investigate claims and issues presented by Israelis and Palestinians. On the first day, the COI learned about an Israeli-led harassment campaign against Palestinian rights groups in which they alleged Israel “designated [them] as ‘terrorist’ entities” and that the “Israeli security forces had used ‘mafia methods’” to shut them down eventually. The COI will then look into the “killing of the Palestinian-American reporter Shireen Abu Akleh” in an effort to investigate “alleged human rights abuses” and “to investigate the root causes of tensions.”
The historical and modern-day context of the tension and violence between Israel and Palestine is long, nuanced, complicated, and bloody. To get an in-depth look at the relationship between Israel and Palestine please visit the Crisis Index linked here. A significant turning point in relations though was the violence that occurred during and after Israel tried to evict families in Sheikh Jarrah, raided Al-Aqsa mosque during Ramadan, and Hamas’ rocket response. As a result, the UN created its most recent COI in Israel and Palestine.
COIs are fact-finding missions created by the UN that are held to high standards and follow a thorough process laid out in their publication “Commissions of Inquiry and Fact-Finding Missions on International Human Rights and Humanitarian Law — Guidance and Practice.” After a mandate is created that determines general goals, rules, plans, and language for the investigation, the COI then goes on to collect information and evidence using various methods, including satellite imagery, field visits, checking social media, conducting interviews, and more. Once the investigation is complete, the COI thoroughly analyzes it, which includes filling in any gaps, fact-checking to make sure evidence meets a predetermined “standard of proof,” and implementing the use of a gender lens to further understand how human rights violations may affect “women, girls, men, and boys differently.” Then the COI can write its final report which is a very detailed document of all relevant information — from background context to methodology and analysis. But the most important parts of the final report are the findings, recommendations, and possible consequences. This part of the report helps hold perpetrators accountable, organize appropriate reparations and legal proceedings, outline reform, and more.
Although the current and past COIs have created documentation of abuses and crimes occurring in Israel and Palestine and provided concrete next steps, the conflict persists. One of the biggest criticisms facing the new COI is that it is biased. According to an article from the Jerusalem Post, the current COI fails to address Israel’s concerns about Hamas and asserts the COI is, to quote “State Department spokesperson Ned Price…the COI was ‘unfairly singling out Israel.’” On the other hand, CNN published an analysis by Richard Roth that condemned the U.S. for preventing the UN from assisting in helping Israel and Palestine build peace. Non-profit Democracy For The Arab World Now wrote a letter in August 2022 asking the U.S. to publicly denounce the harassment campaign before it was outlined on the first day of hearings.
Despite the criticisms and potential biases in and out of the UN, the COIs are an essential tool for peacebuilding and diplomacy. The reports will provide documentation of conflict and occupation for decades to come which will aid in any further legal and peacebuilding efforts by minimizing inaccuracies. The records of facts can help keep the focus on upholding human rights and provide a paper trail that can be updated and revisited as needed. By creating an accessible way to visit the facts throughout history, future peacebuilders and legal experts can focus on building peace instead of deciding who is right and wrong.
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