Sixteen judges and scholars who participated in war crimes commissions on the conflicts in Darfur and Rwanda sent an open letter calling on the United Nations to investigate alleged international law violations committed during the 22-day Cast Lead offensive in Gaza.
The letter, sent Monday to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and the UN Security Council, called for an international commission to investigate humanitarian law violations on "both sides."
The letter, entitled "Find the truth about Gaza war," was sent as a UN commission of inquiry is scheduled to give Ban its initial findings on Israeli strikes against UN officials and facilities in Gaza.
The letter's authors are calling for a more comprehensive investigation that goes beyond strikes on UN targets.
Amnesty International has also expressed support for the initiative. A delegation from the group was in Gaza during the conflict, collecting eye-witness testimony from hundreds of Palestinians regarding strikes at civilian targets.
"The UN investigation is not sufficient as a response to the grave violations that were committed during the conflict. Hundreds of civilians were killed or injured, and it is vital that the circumstances in which they were attacked are fully investigated," said Malcolm Smart, Director of Amnesty International's Middle East and North Africa Program.
The letter called for "prompt, independent and impartial investigation [that] would provide a public record of gross violations of international humanitarian law committed and provide recommendations on how those responsible for crimes should be held to account." If enough testimonies are taken, they wrote, the commission could "provide recommendations as to the appropriate prosecution of those responsible for gross violations of the law by the relevant authorities."
Signatories to the letter, most of whom are judges and other public servants, represent the United States, Great Britain, South Africa, Canada, Italy, Ireland, Pakistan, Peru, Brazil and Greece. Among them are Archbishop Desmond Tutu, chair of South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission and a Nobel Prize laureate, former Irish president Mary Robinson and Canadian William A. Schabas, who sat on the Truth and Reconciliation Committee after the civil war in Sierra Leone.
Many of the other drafters of the letter had been prominent members of commissions investigating alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity in the former Yugoslavia, Kosovo, Darfur, Rwanda, East Timor, Lebanon and Peru, and said they had been "shocked to the core" by events in Gaza.
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