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Volume 508: debated on Monday 29 March 2010

The Petition of residents of Bristol and others,

Declares that the Government should fulfil its responsibilities as a high contracting party to the Geneva Convention.

The Petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urges the Government to immediately take steps to institute a war crimes investigation in the UK into Israeli attacks on the Gaza Strip between 27 December and 18 January 2009, and for the UK prosecuting authorities to search out and prosecute (or extradite for trial elsewhere) all suspected war criminals identified by the investigation; and urges the Government to seek a binding resolution at the UN Security Council to establish an international commission of inquiry into the Gaza attacks and the referral of potential cases to the International Criminal Court.

And the Petitioners remain, etc.—[Presented by Stephen Williams, Official Report, 26 January 2010; Vol. 504, c. 781 .]


Observations from the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs:

Although under the Geneva Conventions Act the UK has jurisdiction to prosecute war crimes in an international conflict, we consider that it is the primary responsibility of the parties involved to investigate such allegations. The Report of the UN Human Rights Council-mandated Fact Finding Mission on Gaza (The Goldstone Report) and the UN General Assembly also made clear that the parties should do. From the outset we have called for the very serious allegations about conduct of the Gaza conflict by both sides to be properly and impartially investigated by the parties to the conflict.

On 5 February, the UN Secretary-General released a report outlining the progress of investigations by the parties. Israel, Hamas and the Palestinian Authority (PA) contributed material to this report. The UN Secretary-General’s report highlighted that the responsibility to investigate and prosecute alleged violations of international humanitarian law during a conflict falls first and foremost to the parties to the conflict.

It is clear that Hamas have not conducted anything like the sort of credible, independent investigation required; however, we welcome the Palestinian Authority’s establishment of an Independent Investigative Commission. This and the Israeli 31 January 2010 update document outlining the progress of Israel’s investigations are steps towards the full and credible accountability we are seeking. However, concerns remain and we continue to follow progress closely. It was for this reason that the UK voted in favour of the General Assembly resolution on the follow up to the UN fact-finding mission on the Gaza on 26 February. We have consistently called for full, credible and impartial investigations into the allegations in the Goldstone Report on the conduct of both parties during that conflict which is exactly what this resolution called for.