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Mideast: Protection of civilians, accountability

UN rights chief calls for protection of civilians and accountability in Mideast crisis

Expressing grave concern at the killing and maiming of civilians in Lebanon, Israel and the occupied Palestinian territory, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour said today that the shelling of cities was an “unacceptable targeting of civilians,” and stressed that international law demands accountability.

The High Commissioner also emphasized that parties to any conflict have the obligation to exercise precaution and respect the principle of proportionality in all military operations so as to prevent unnecessary suffering among the civilian population.

“Indiscriminate shelling of cities constitutes a foreseeable and unacceptable targeting of civilians. Similarly, the bombardment of sites with alleged military significance, but resulting invariably in the killing of innocent civilians, is unjustifiable”, she said in a statement.

“International humanitarian law is clear on the supreme obligation to protect civilians during hostilities…International law demands accountability. The scale of the killings in the region, and their predictability, could engage the personal criminal responsibility of those involved, particularly those in a position of command and control.”

Ms. Arbour also warned about the deteriorating humanitarian situation, in particular in southern Lebanon, where the population is reported to be increasingly deprived of access to basic services due to the violence.

“The situation in the south of Lebanon is alarming. A large and steadily increasing number of persons have been forcibly displaced. The most basic human rights of the population are at risk or are being violated, including their rights to life, health and food.”

She also added her voice to calls for unrestricted and secure passage of all humanitarian assistance, including rapid and unimpeded access for humanitarian workers. According to the latest figures from the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) around 500,000 people from Lebanon have been displaced by the recent violence.

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