11 March 2004
5. The law of state responsibility requires a state that has committed an internationally wrongful act to restore the status quo ante, if possible, or failing that, to make reparations. "The State responsible for an internationally wrongful act is under an obligation to compensate for the damage caused thereby, insofar as such damage is not made good by restitution." Responsibility of States for Internationally Wrongful Acts, art. 36, International Law Commission, Report of the International Law Commission on the Work of its Fifty-third Session, UN General Assembly, Official Records, 56th Session, Supplement No. 10, p. 43, UN Document A/56/10 (2001).
6 A state's obligation to make compensation when an obligation breached is “owed to the international community as a whole."
7. Many official investigations of Israeli abuses found Israel guilty of extensive violations of international law, including the massacre of civilians, the illegal use of cluster bombs, and incendiary and fragmentation munitions, (phosphorous and flechette shells) as well as acts of violence directed against civilian objectives. Indeed, this very Commission made a finding in 1983 that Israel had committed genocide against hundreds of Palestinian Arabs in the refugee camps of Sabra and Shatilla in Lebanon. United Nations Commission on Human Rights Resolution 1983/3, 15 February 1983. In April 1996, the United Nations Secretary General ordered an official investigation into an incident in which Israeli gunners fired 36 rounds of proximity fused artillery into the United Nations Interim Forces in Lebanon (UNIFIL) Headquarters and its immediate vicinity in Qana where over 800 civilians were taking refugee from massive and indiscriminate bombing of some 98 villages in southern Lebanon. 106 civilians were killed in the massacre, 52 of whom were children.
8. Immediately after the attack on the UNIFIL base at Qana, the Secretary-General ordered an investigation to be conducted on an urgent basis. That investigation, completed 1 May 1996 stated: "while the possibility cannot be ruled out completely, the pattern of impacts in the Qana area makes it unlikely that the shelling of the United Nations compound was the result of technical and/or procedural errors." Report of the Secretary General of the United Nations Interim Forces in Lebanon, (UNIFIL Report) for the period 22 January 1996 to 22 July 1996 (UNIFIL 1996 Report
9. According to UNIFIL officials, the IDF was repeatedly informed by telephone that it was shelling civilians. UNIFIL officials told the press that only one or two minutes into the barrage, they contacted Israel and informed it that its forces were shelling their base. For at least 11 to 12 minutes after the initial UNIFIL contact was made, the Israeli forces continued to fire artillery at the base despite continued frantic requests by UNIFIL to cease fire.
10. The report by Major-General Franklin van Kappen confirms that the orders to fire came from Israeli officers of some level of seniority. Under intense political pressure, the United Nations dropped the investigation and never revealed to the public the underlying evidence and findings upon which the Van Kappen report was based. No final report on the Qana Massacre was ever published.
11. The Qana Massacre is only one of a multitude of incidents constituting persistent and gross violations of the human rights of Lebanese civilians perpetrated by Israel. Between 1968 and 1997 the United Nations Security Council issued 25 resolutions (UNSC resolutions 262, 270, 279, 280, 285, 313, 316, 317, 332, 337, 347, 425, 427, 444, 450, 467, 498, 501, 509, 515, 517, 518, 520, 587, 1052) condemning Israeli military action and attacks on civilians in Lebanon, notwithstanding the many resolutions vetoed in the Council by the United States (e.g., 30 UNSC resolutions vetoed by the United States between September 1972 and May 1990). However, the Qana incident was one instance in which the UN possesses the evidence necessary to establish Israel’s clear legal, if not criminal, responsibility for these violations because they occurred while in the custody and under the protection of UNIFIL soldiers, on territory clearly demarcated as a United Nations base
12. Other branches of the UN have called on Israel to pay compensation to its victims. The General Assembly, on 25 April 1996, called on Israel to pay reparations for its attacks in violation of humanitarian law in southern Lebanon. U.N. Doc. A/RES/50/22C (1996).
13. On 4 October 2002, the Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC) in its Concluding Observations on Israel stated that Israel should provide “adequate compensation, recovery and rehabilitation to the child victims of Israeli forces actions in southern Lebanon.” CRC/C/15/Add.195 In the October 2002 session, the CRC reviewed Israel as a state-member for the first time since Israel’s signing of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. During the working session of the CRC the Hariri Foundation presented over 108 exhibits of evidence of unlawful killings of children by Israeli forces during its occupation of southern Lebanon. That evidence included, inter alia, videotapes, photographs, maps, slides, affidavits from victims, eye-witnesses and journalists, official reports and an affidavit from the UNIFIL Commanding Officer. Upon reviewing the copious evidence of Israeli violations to the right to life of children in Lebanon, the CRC concluded that Israel owed compensation, restitution, and rehabilitation to the victims and their surviving relatives.
14. Israel maintains that its obligations under the human rights treaties and conventions it signed do not extend to individuals in the territories it occupies. However, the relevant bodies of the UN have repeatedly spoken to this issue affirming the de jure applicability of those conventions to the territories belligerently occupied by Israel.
15. Israel must be found responsible for its violations of international law and its large-scale human rights abuses of civilians in the Arab territories it occupied and is occupying. There is growing international consensus that compensation is critical to enforcing human rights laws. The effectiveness and, indeed, relevance of the United Nations and its human rights agencies will be measured not by how eloquently it articulates its principles – but rather by how effectively it puts them into practice.
Our Recommendations to the Commission:
16. The Hariri Foundation recommends that the Commission issue a resolution, in the spirit of its resolution E/CN/.4/RES/2002/44, calling on Israel to provide restitution, compensation and rehabilitation to the victims of its grave violations of human rights conventions.
* This written statement is issued, unedited, in the language(s) received from the submitting non-governmental organization(s).