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Israel: UN Experts warn Israel and Iran to de-escalate conflict to safeguard human rights

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Press release

Geneva – April 16, 2024


In a stark condemnation of the ongoing hostilities between Israel and Iran, UN experts have called for an immediate cessation of retaliatory military actions, emphasizing the imperative to protect the right to life under international law.

The recent escalation began with Israel’s attack on an Iranian consulate in Syria on April 1, resulting in the deaths of Iranian generals and other military personnel, alongside Syrian casualties. This action, purportedly targeting alleged state-sponsored terrorism, prompted Iran’s subsequent firing of over 300 missiles and drones at Israel on April 13, resulting in civilian injuries and significant property damage.

UN experts underscored that such military operations must adhere to international legal standards, particularly concerning the right to life. They emphasized that nations are prohibited from arbitrarily depriving individuals of this fundamental right during military actions, especially in operations conducted beyond their borders.

Critically, the experts highlighted that Israel’s actions lacked a demonstrated basis of self-defense under international law, given the absence of evidence indicating a direct armed attack by Iran or its proxies. Moreover, Israel’s strike was conducted from the Golan Heights, considered illegally annexed Syrian territory, which compounded legal concerns surrounding the operation.

The experts further cautioned that individuals responsible for the attack could face legal ramifications under international counter-terrorism treaties, given the involvement of diplomatic premises.

In response to Iran’s subsequent retaliation, the experts stressed that international law prohibits the use of force in such circumstances, particularly when a perceived armed attack has ceased. They warned against retaliatory actions that exceed the necessity of halting ongoing hostilities, cautioning that such responses risked escalating an already volatile situation.

The experts also noted a pattern of previous incidents where Israel targeted Iranian personnel abroad, echoing concerns about the legality and justification of such actions.

Ultimately, the experts urged both Israel and Iran to de-escalate the conflict, highlighting the precarious nature of the region’s stability and the potential for further violations of international law. They emphasized the duty of all nations to refrain from supporting terrorism and to cooperate in preventing violent acts against civilians.

In concluding remarks, the experts called upon the Security Council to fulfill its role in maintaining international peace and security by effectively addressing actions that threaten global stability. They emphasized that the current violence underscores a broader issue of impunity for violations of the fundamental prohibition against the use of force, highlighting the urgent need for a concerted international response to prevent further escalation.

This latest conflict underscores the critical imperative of upholding human rights and international legal norms in the face of escalating tensions between Israel and Iran. The UN experts’ statements serve as a reminder of the global community’s responsibility to protect civilian lives and maintain peace in regions experiencing heightened conflict.

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