Israel & Palestine: Gaza

Lord Sheikh:

    To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of whether international humanitarian law has been breached in the conflict relating to Gaza.

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Malloch-Brown): My Lords, very serious allegations have been made against both Hamas and Israel. We take these very seriously and they must be fully investigated. The Israeli authorities have said that they are investigating specific incidents raised by the aid agencies. We will consider very carefully the results of investigations once they are available. At that stage, the parties and the international community will need to decide on any further action.

Lord Sheikh: My Lords, I thank the Minister for that reply. The people of Gaza have been subjected to collective and indiscriminate punishment by the Israelis, some of whose actions can perhaps be considered inhumane. Israel has used white phosphorus shells, whose use against people is prohibited under the 1980 Geneva Convention, and there may have been incidents whose investigation is likely to find breaches of international humanitarian laws. There have been statements of condemnation—

Noble Lords: Question!

Lord Sheikh: My Lords, will the Government take a lead to facilitate a full and thorough investigation by the United Nations and the Red Cross to determine whether there have been breaches of international laws and to ensure that appropriate remedial action is taken? Will the Minister keep your Lordships’ House advised of progress in this regard?

Lord Malloch-Brown: My Lords, let me assure the noble Lord that my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary has said in another place that we fully support investigations of these allegations. In the first instance, it is a matter for the International Committee of the Red Cross and the United Nations, both of which are on the ground and both of which have the responsibility for collecting evidence of the different incidents that have occurred. It is also the responsibility of the Government of Israel, as a party to the international laws that govern this—particularly the Geneva Conventions—to make an initial investigation. However, there is no doubt that, if these allegations stand up, they will need to be pursued internationally. These are very serious crimes, if they were committed.

Updated: 27/08/2009 — 3:28 PM