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Israel, Hamas Both Accused Of War Crimes In Gaza Conflict


Human rights organizations have accused both Israel and Hamas of violating the laws of war in this conflict. Human Rights Watch has criticized what it calls Israel's insufficient care to saving human lives. At the same time, Human Rights Watch has drawn attention to Hamas's own violations - the firing rockets aimed at Israeli civilians. Last week, the U.N. Secretary Genral Ban Ki-moon called the shelling outside a U.N. school in Gaza a quote, "criminal act" and called for an investigation. But that's led to questions of who would lead such an investigation and where any such findings might lead. I asked Luis Moreno Ocampo these questions. He's the former head prosecutor for the International Criminal Court.


LUIS MORENO OCAMPO: What happened in Gaza should be mitigated. The U.N. commission for the human rights commission of the U.N. to investigate what happened in Gaza now. This commission has a mission to investigate not to persecute so that will happen now. Normally, Israel feels that this commission is highly biased against it. In fact, in 2009, in the previous Gaza conflict the commission was starting to investigate crimes committed by Israel forces not by Hamas. Richard Goldstone, who led this commission forced the Human Rights Commission of the U.N. to include the possibility to investigate Hamas. The problem is doing the accord credited to investigate the crimes and to prosecute those who have the possibility is International Criminal Court. And they can intervene directly in 122 national states which accepted the contradiction. But Israel never accepted it.

RATH: I've seen you quoted as saying the Palestinians, if they were to do that -were to pursue that, they would open themselves to risk as well when it comes international the international court. Could you explain?

OCAMPO: Yeah, because when you accept the jurisdiction of the court, you cannot define who will be investigated. That is the impartial decision of the prosecutor in the court. And therefore, if Palestine accepts the Jurisdiction of Gaza, the prosecutor can decide to investigate Israel forces but also Hamas crimes because the rockets were fired from Gaza. So if Palestine gave jurisdiction to Gaza than Hamas crimes could be investigated by the ICC too.

RATH: When we're talking about investigations is anything more than rhetoric or can that actually to prosecution in an international court at some point?

OCAMPO: The U.N. commission of inquiry to investigations and then presenting information to the security council and the U.N. Security Council state, they sign, okay there are crimes committed here someone should investigate and make a judicial decision so they reffer the case to the International Criminal Court.

RATH: You are involved with a Darfur prosecutions against the president Bashir and I know you've heard this was a concern that was raised was that by naming individuals, by prosecuting particular acts, that the court could set back - could cripple diplomatic efforts to end the crisis. Is this is a situation where justice might be a at odds with to peace and diplomacy?

OCAMPO: What is happening is the world was learning that negotiations - ignoring crimes is not helping to make agreements - look what's happening in Syria today, it's not helping. And in fact, in Israel Palestine conflict we have 70 years of ignoring different types of crimes and there is no agreement. So the idea that justice will obstruct negotiations I think is wrong - it's a old idea from the middle-aged time. I remember one lawyer in Israel told me, look we respected you. We believed that you were impartial but for us it's not enough. Impartiality is not enough. Said my children are at risk. Like to put the left of my children in the hands of an impartial person. I like a partial person a friend to protect my it's not enough, impartiality is not enough. He say my children are at risk, I don't like to put the life of my children in the hands of a impartial person, I'd like a partial person - I'd like a friend to protect my children. And the Palestinians feel the same - they don't trust Israel. That's why I'm not sure that can be a solution but I'm sure the solution is not just killing each other.

RATH: That's Luis Moreno Ocampo, he was the head prosecutor for the International Criminal Court for nine years. Thank you very much.

OCAMPO: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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