Australia: Shameful decision to vote against accountability for Gaza killings

Amnesty International is appalled by Australia’s decision to vote against last night’s United Nations Human Rights Council resolution calling for an independent investigation into Israel’s killings of over 100 Palestinians.

“Australia is on the wrong side of history. Last night it was one of only two countries, the other being the United States, who voted against the UN Human Rights Council resolution to investigate the killings of over 100 Palestinians, including children, and injuries to thousands,” said Diana Sayed, Crisis Campaigner at Amnesty International Australia.

“The actions of the Israeli military were a violation of international standards, in some instances committing what appear to be wilful killings constituting war crimes.”

“Australia must use every opportunity to ask the Israeli authorities to immediately rein in the military to prevent any further loss of life and serious injuries,” said Diana Sayed.

At least 12 children killed

Amnesty International is dismayed and alarmed at the mass killings and injuries of Palestinians in the context of the “Great March of Return” protests in the Gaza Strip.

In their response to these protests, since 30 March, Israeli forces have killed at least 102 Palestinians, including at least 12 children, two journalists and one paramedic. As many as 60 people died in one day alone, on 14 May, during protests commemorating 70 years of Palestinian displacement and dispossession.

Eyewitness testimonies, and video and photographic evidence suggest that many were deliberately killed or injured, while posing no imminent threat to Israeli soldiers and snipers.

3,600 injured

Israeli forces have used high-velocity military weapons and ammunitions to disperse protesters, injuring approximately 3,600 Palestinians, including men, women and children– a shocking and appalling number.

Many who have not died have suffered life-changing injuries, and will likely face further complications, infections and some form of physical disability. Others, including health workers treating the injured, have suffered tear gas inhalation, while ambulances have been partially damaged.

Hospitals are struggling to cope with the volume of serious injuries without adequate resources and chronic shortages of fuel, electricity and medical supplies caused mainly by Israel’s illegal blockade.

Accountability for lives shattered

Some protesters have engaged in some forms of violence including by throwing stones and Molotov cocktails or burning tires. Others have attempted to cross or breach the fence. However, Amnesty International is not aware of any protesters that have posed an imminent threat to Israeli soldiers and snipers located behind the fence, and protected by gear, sand hills, drones and military vehicles.

The high number of apparently unlawful killings, including possible wilful killings, and injuries in the context of these recent protests is unprecedented and requires accountability that Amnesty International believes Israel is unwilling to deliver.

The Israeli army announced in April that it would launch an investigation into some of these killings. Amnesty International believes such an announcement is not sufficient, in light of Israel’s historic failure to ensure independent, impartial, thorough and transparent criminal investigations for alleged war crimes and other serious violations in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.

The Human Rights Council’s establishment of an international Commission of Inquiry investigating the circumstances of the deaths and injuries in the context of these recent protests would be an important step towards achieving much needed accountability for many whose lives have been shattered by this violence.