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Human Rights Watch: Both Israel and Hamas Failed in War Enquiries

On Sunday, Human Rights Watch published its latest report on the 2008/9 conflict between Israel and Hamas, "Turning a Blind Eye: Impunity for Laws-of-War Violations during the Gaza War".

The New York-based human rights group criticized both sides and urged the international community to pressure both sides to launch independent investigations before a July deadline set by the United Nations:

Palestine: Israeli Military Order Threatens Mass Deportation

More than one year after the conflict, neither side has taken adequate measures to investigate serious violations or to punish the perpetrators of war crimes, leaving civilian victims without redress. Israel’s investigations have fallen far short of international standards for investigations, while Hamas has conducted no credible investigations at all.

All Israeli debriefings and investigations have been conducted by the military, and the government has rejected calls for an independent review.

In Gaza, Hamas has punished no one for ordering or carrying out hundreds of deliberate or indiscriminate rocket attacks into Israeli population centers, which killed three Israeli civilians and wounded dozens more. Despite evidence to the contrary, Hamas claims it launched rockets only at military targets, and that civilian casualties were unintended. Cases of killings and torture by Hamas security forces against suspected collaborators and political rivals in Gaza have also gone unpunished.

This report recommends that influential governments and international bodies increase their pressure on both parties to conduct domestic investigations that are prompt, thorough and impartial.

A failure by governments to demand accountability for serious violations during the Gaza war will also reveal a double-standard in international concern for justice. Governments that tolerate impunity in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict weaken their calls for accountability in places such as Sri Lanka, Sudan, and the Democratic Republic of Congo.