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Why did Ireland abstain from a UN Human Rights Council vote on Gaza?

It wasn’t the only country….

THE UNITED NATION’S committee on human rights launched an investigation into Israel’s actions in Gaza last night.

But in the vote on whether the Commission of Inquiry should be started, Ireland abstained.

The resolution on Gaza was drafted by Palestine and backed by 29 countries, including China and Russia, as well as many Arab and Muslim countries and Latin American and African nations.

The probe will see Israel’s offensive held up to international scrutiny – but not the actions taken by Hamas and other military groups.

The US was the only country to vote against the proposed inquiry but 17 countries abstained. Including Ireland.

Why?

Ireland voted in line with what it calls its EU partners, including the United Kingdom.

And the European Union issued a statement last night to offer an explanation.

In short, the EU (and, by extension, Ireland) decided the resolution was one-sided and biased.

It said that the resolution proposed would not, in its opinion, provide a “sufficiently rapid response to the urgent situation on the ground”.

The EU also described the final draft text as ‘unbalanced and inaccurate’, believing it to prejudge the outcome of the investigation because of certain legal statements it makes.

The explanation for its abstention goes on to state that violations of human rights laws by Hamas and other militant groups must be included in the Commission of Inquiry.

“The draft resolution also fails to condemn explicitly the indiscriminate firing of rockets into Israeli civilian areas, as well as to recognise Israel’s legitimate right to defend itself,” it continued.

For this reason the EU cannot support this resolution and EU Member States who are members of this Council will abstain.

The resolution does not mention Hamas but does condemn the killing of two Israeli civilians. It reads:

The Human Rights Council… Condemns all violence against civilians wherever it occurs, including the killing of two Israeli civilians as a result of rocket fire, and urges all parties concerned to respect their obligations under international humanitarian law and international human rights law.

The EU emphasised that it had worked “intensively” yesterday “until the last minute” to find a text its members could support.

We were prepared to continue working for this goal. Unfortunately, however we regret that it was not possible to reach a positive outcome.

“This is such an important issue with the suffering of so many people on both sides at stake that it would have been a far better testament to this Human Rights Council if we could have been united.”

The chosen solution for the EU would be to dispatch an OHCHR (Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights) inquiry mission to investigate all violations and abuses of human rights and humanitarian law committed by both sides.

Mideast Israel Palestinians Israeli helicopter takes off with a wounded soldier near the Israel and Gaza border. Source: AP/Press Association Images

Late last night, the Department of Foreign Affairs also issued a statement to outline Ireland’s position following the vote.

Permanent Representative to the United Nations in Geneva, Ambassador Patricia O’Brien said that Irish people were “appalled” by the violence in Gaza and the “very high and unacceptable level of civilian casualties”.

“It is clear to us that neither side is paying adequate regard to the cost of their actions on innocent civilians,” she added.

Ireland has called for an “end of the restrictions imposed on the people by the continuing Israeli blockade and the general closing off of Gaza” and the full implementation of Security Council Resolution 1860.

(That 2009 resolution calls for a full and immediate ceasefire and a full withdrawal of Israeli troops from Gaza.)

“The continued absence for people in Gaza of any political or economic perspective for the future is a breeding ground for extremist action,” continued O’Brien.

“Ireland fully accepts that the Government of Israel has the right to defend its people, but this right does not negate the rights of others. Any use of military force in self defence must be in accordance with international humanitarian law, and in particular must be both discriminate and proportionate.

In view of the casualty figures, we do not believe that this has been the case.

“We would also stress that the firing of missiles against Israeli civilian targets is without doubt contrary to international law.”

O’Brien concluded that Ireland would like to support an “appropriate investigation into breaches of international law”.

Last night, hundreds of people protested in front of the Department of Foreign Affair’s Dublin headquarters.

PastedImage-17059 Source: Sam Boal/Photocall Ireland

“The world has looked away for far too long,” Trevor Hogan, the ex-rugby international who visited Gaza last year, told the crowd, adding:

Just today, the UN human rights chief Navi Pillay has finally admitted that Israel is probably committing war crimes in Gaza, including the deliberate destruction of civilian homes and the killing of children.

The demonstration was called by Gaza Action Ireland (GAI) and supported by the Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign, Sadaka and the Palestinian Community in Ireland.

Speaking on Newstalk this morning, the Israeli ambassador to Dublin, Boaz Modai, criticised the passing of the resolution.

“The UN human rights council could have changed its name a long time ago to ‘UN Terrorists’ Rights Council. They are protecting terrorists” he said, angrily.

Read: Doctors condemn Gaza violence as death toll rises

More: UN rights council launches probe into Israel’s Gaza offensive

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