In an interview last week published by the Alternative Information Center in Jerusalem, Richard Falk, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights Situation in Gaza, summed up his view of whether or not war crimes, and crimes against humanity, had been committed by the IDF in its recent operation in Gaza.
Falk said: “I think that the attack on Gaza initiated on December 27th of last year was a violation of a fundamental norm of the UN Charter, which prohibits non-defensive uses of force. At the Nuremburg trials after World War II, that was treated as a crime against the peace, which was viewed as the most serious of all international crimes.
Following from the attack itself, which was not a justifiable use of force, is the whole question of whether the use of modern weapons in a setting where the civilian population is exposed to the ravages of war can ever be reconciled with the international law of war. I believe it cannot be. That conclusion is somewhat controversial, it hasn’t been formally tested in an international tribunal, but I think the inability to prevent civilian casualties has clearly been established by the results of the attacks on Gaza.
Beyond the actual physical death and injury endured by Palestinians, including many women and children, is the wider reality that being trapped in a war zone of that sort almost certainly imposes severe and maybe incurable mental damage to the entire population. So it is a matter of waging war against a whole civilian population. That is, it seems to me, the essence of the most serious violation of the law of war. And it was aggravated in this situation because the civilians in Gaza were not even given the option to become refugees. They were locked in the war zone and therefore deliberately trapped in this combat area, which was so densely populated and being attacked from the sea and the air and by land.
Finally is the issue of the tactics and weapons that were used. There is a lot of eye-witness evidence that prohibited targets were struck, including several UN buildings; that civilians were deliberately targeted in an act of vengeance, apparently; and that legally dubious weapons were used in contexts where civilians were exposed to them, such as phosphorous bombs and a weapon called DIME, which involves a very intense explosive power that makes surgical and medical treatment impossible. So there’s a whole bunch of issues that together create quite an inventory of violations of the law of war as well as violations of the UN Charter”.
This interview can be read in full here.