Event Reports

Legal Encounter

The UN Independent Commission of Inquiry to investigate violations of international humanitarian and human rights laws

On 19 August 2014, the Institute of Law (IoL) at Birzeit University in cooperation with the Ibrahim Abu Lughod Institute of International Studies and Human Rights and the International Humanitarian Law Secretariat in the oPt organized a Legal Encounter at Birzeit University.
On 19 August 2014, the Institute of Law (IoL) at Birzeit University in cooperation with the Ibrahim Abu Lughod Institute of International Studies and Human Rights and the International Humanitarian Law Secretariat in the oPt organized a Legal Encounter at Birzeit University.

During the encounter, Matthias Behnke (The head of the OHCHR - Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights) and Shawan Jabareen (Al-Haq's Director) discussed in front of full audience the role of the “Independent Commission of Inquiry”, compared it to alternative investigations including the Goldstone report, and discussed expectations on the investigations and the independent role of the commission.

They also discussed the role and responsibilities of the duty bearers like governments and Civil Society Organizations (CSO) in this context.

During his presentation, Behnke stressed the fact that the commission is independent, with the team being set up by the office of the high commissioner.

Behnke also clarified the importance of investigations that are not mandatory balanced, but check all individual incidents on both sides for violation of human rights and war crimes.

The UN Independent Commission of Inquiry was established by a resolution of the UN Human Rights Council. That resolution forms the legal basis for the Commission and therefore determines its mandate. He underlined that the resolution authorizes the naming of suspected violators of human rights law, but alerted at the same time to measure the expectations of the outcome of the Inquiry on its mandate. The naming of those responsible for violations of the law and the fact of human rights violations are highly important for the process of holding them accountable for their actions. But as the Commission of Inquiry is not a court it does not have instruments or powers to enforce their findings or issue sanctions. Considering the report the Commission has to submit Behnke said that timeframe until the publication in March 2015 is relatively small in relation to the high amount of damage and fatalities in the Gaza strip.

Shawan highlighted the decisive role of the CSO to support the process of gathering observations and eyewitnesses of human rights violations. He also pleaded for President Abbas to access the ICC in order to hold all perpetrators accountable for there crimes.

In a lively discussion the concerns of the audience concerning the independence of the commission, as well as the access of the commission to the Gaza strip and the oPt and the prosecution of double passport holders were issued. Behnke assured that the Commission’s staff will conduct investigations no matter if access is granted and mentioned the Commission’s successful work in North Korea which was not accessible at that time.

The topic was highly appreciated by the public with an audience about three times higher than thirty to forty participants as expected by the organizers.

Legal Encounter 19
Legal Encounter 19.8