The United Nation Human Rights Council on Thursday, July 22, announced the appointment of Navi Pillay as head of a three-member commission of inquiry to investigate human rights violations in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT).
Navi Pillay is from South Africa and served as the UN high commissioner for human rights from 2008 to 2014. She will be joined by Miloon Kothari from India and Chris Sidoti from Australia. The commission of inquiry, apart from looking into the human rights violations during the recent Israeli attack on Gaza, will report on the root cause of the conflict and allegations of systemic violations in 1948 Israel.
The formation of the commission is based on the Council resolution adopted in its special session on May 27 following Israel’s bombing of Gaza strip earlier in the month. The Israeli bombing of Gaza killed at least 250 Palestinians and injured hundreds apart from causing massive destruction of the civilian infrastructure in the narrow strip. At least 13 Israelis were killed in retaliatory rockets strikes by Hamas and other Palestinian groups.
Israel rejected the resolution and opposed the formation of any commission of inquiry. Meanwhile 24 out of 47 countries voted in favor with 14 abstentions on the same resolution when it was proposed on May 27. Palestinians welcomed the decision. Michelle Bachelet, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights told the special session that Israeli bombing of Gaza may amount to war crimes. She also said that the actions of Palestinian groups may have violated human rights.
The term for the commission of inquiry is not fixed. The commission will be different from the previous ones as it will be looking into “all underlying root causes of recurring tensions” of the conflict between Israel and OPT including East Jerusalem. The commission is also unique as this is the first time it will look into the allegations of systemic discrimination based on religion, ethnicity, race within the 1948 borders of Israel. Palestinian citizens of Israel and Ethiopian Jews are among the ethnic and racial groups which have often raised the issue of discrimination.
The commission will present its findings annually to the Council from June 2022. Unlike several other commissions of inquiry, its mandate does not need annual renewal. It will inquire about all allegations of human rights violations “leading up to and since 13 April 2021.”