OHCHR Report on the Failure to Comply with International Humanitarian Law Standards in the Gaza Conflict

Life in the ruins of Gaza Life in the ruins of Gaza © Mohammed Ibrahim via Unsplashed

As the conflict in Gaza continues, the latest OHCHR thematic report calls on parties to cease the violations of international standards.

 On 19 June 2024, the United Nations Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner (OHCHR) published its thematic report about the violations of International HumanitarianLlaw (IHL) and International Human Rights Law (IHRL) - principles of distinction, prohibition of indiscriminate attacks, proportionality, and precautions in attacks - in reference to the ongoing conflict in Gaza. To verify compliance with or failure to adhere to IHL and IHRL standards, OHCHR applied its global methodology, which relies, among other elements, on multiple independent sources, as well as open-source and first-hand information.

 According to the Gaza Ministry of Health, since 7 October 2023, 37,232 civilians have been killed and over 85,000 injured, with over 3,129 Palestinian families affected. Data shows that most of the victims were children and women. These figures highlight the failure to comply with international standards, particularly the distinction between combatants and civilians.

 The report, referring to six incidents that occurred between October and December 2023 – Jabalya market, Taj3 Tower, Jabalya Refugee Camp, Al Bureij Camp, Al Buraq school, and Ash Shujai’yeh neighborhood – emphasizes the standards that parties should adhere to during conflicts. Specifically:

(i)             The principle of distinction, which requires differentiating between civilians and combatants as well as between civilian and military objects;

(ii)            The prohibition of indiscriminate attacks, which applies to attacks not directed at a specific military objective, the use of means not directed at a specific military objective, or those that cannot be limited;

(iii)          The principle of proportionality, which states that the military advantage gained by a particular attack must outweigh the harm caused to civilians and civilian objects;

(iv)           The principle of precaution in attack, which requires forces to take precautions in the selection of means and targets.

The compliance with these principles failed in the attacks analyzed in the report, as they were carried out in or near densely populated areas and caused enormous casualties.

 The OHCHR calls for a cessation of such violations and urges Israel to investigate into the incidents to ensure accountability. Israel is also recommended to investigate similar cases and, if unwilling or unable to hold those responsible to account, OHCHR calls on Member States to support accountability measures.


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by Camilla Levis

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