Israel Obstructing Access To Hamas Attack Victims: UN Probe


Israel obstructing access to Hamas attack victims: UN probe

Israel is preventing UN investigators from speaking to witnesses and victims of the October 7 Hamas attack, former UN rights chief Navi Pillay, who is chairing a three-person probe, said Tuesday

Geneva, (APP - UrduPoint / Pakistan Point News - 16th Apr, 2024) Israel is preventing UN investigators from speaking to witnesses and victims of the October 7 Hamas attack, former UN rights chief Navi Pillay, who is chairing a three-person probe, said Tuesday.

The unprecedented Commission of Inquiry was established by the UN Human Rights Council in May 2021 to investigate alleged violations of international humanitarian and human rights law in Israel and the Palestinian territories.

"I deplore the fact that people inside Israel who wish to speak to us are being denied that opportunity, because we cannot get access into Israel," Pillay said.

The investigation briefed diplomats at the UN in Geneva on its work and said that since October 7, it had focused on the Gaza war between Israel and Hamas.

"So far as the government of Israel is concerned, we have faced not merely a lack of cooperation but active obstruction of our efforts to receive evidence from Israeli witnesses and victims to the events that occurred in southern Israel," said Chris Sidoti, one of the three members of the inquiry.

The Gaza war began with Hamas's October 7 attack against Israel which resulted in the deaths of 1,170 people, mostly civilians, according to Israeli figures.

The militants also took about 250 hostages, of whom Israel estimates 129 remain in Gaza, including 34 who are presumed dead.

Israel's retaliatory offensive has killed at least 33,843 people in the Palestinian territory, mostly women and children, according to the health ministry in Hamas-run Gaza.

- Appeal for witnesses -

Pillay, 82, a South African former High Court judge, said the commission was investigating alleged crimes during the Hamas attack as well as some allegedly committed by Israeli forces in the Gaza Strip and in the West Bank.

Sidoti, speaking via video-link, said the investigation had found it difficult to collect evidence from large numbers of witnesses.

"I use this opportunity to appeal again both to the government of Israel to cooperate, and to victims and witnesses to the events in southern Israel to contact the commission of inquiry so that we can hear what they have experienced," he said.

Sidoti also said the investigators began collecting digital evidence early on October 7, some of which has since "disappeared from the internet".

"If it had not been collected on that day, it would not have been able to be collected," the former human rights commissioner of Australia said.

Pillay -- who served as a judge on the International Criminal Court and presided over the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda -- said the commission had shared more than 5,000 documents with the ICC in The Hague, collected between October and December 2023.

The commission is to present its first findings to the Human Rights Council in June.

In response, to the briefing, Israel said UN representatives had been to Israel to meet with victims and survivors of the Hamas attack.

In a statement to AFP, the Israeli mission said: "The 1,200 people murdered, the women and girls raped, the hostages taken into Gaza, know too well that they will never get any justice or the dignified treatment they deserve from the Commission of Inquiry and its members, who have a track record of anti-Semitic and anti-Israel statements."

In August 2022, Miloon Kothari, the third member of the commission, apologised for using the term "Jewish lobby", which sparked Israeli accusations of anti-Semitism and calls for his resignation.