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UN rights chief Turk urges humanitarian ceasefire in Gaza

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Press Release

Translated and edited by: Committee for Justice

Geneva: October 25, 2023


The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Volker Turk, has called for a wide-ranging humanitarian ceasefire in Gaza and Israel. He also called on the parties to the conflict to redouble their efforts to ensure proper compliance with international law.


Humanity Must Come First:

The High Commissioner stated in a statement published by the media center of the Human Rights Council: ” Far too many civilian lives, many of them children, have already been lost – on both sides – as a consequence of these hostilities. And, unless something changes, coming days will see more civilians on the brink of death from continuing bombardment. Humanity must come first.”

Turk added that the humanitarian situation in Gaza, already dire due to 16 years of blockade, is now approaching a catastrophe due to shortages of water, electricity, sanitation, essential medicines, food, and other basic necessities. Reports of overcrowding and the spread of diseases are deeply concerning, especially when hospitals are damaged, medicine shortages worsen, and movement is heavily restricted.


Leaders Must Make Brave and Humanitarian Decisions:

The High Commissioner emphasized that ” This violence will never end unless leaders stand up and take the brave and humane choices that are required by fundamental humanity. The first step must be an immediate humanitarian ceasefire, saving the lives of civilians through the delivery of prompt and effective humanitarian aid, throughout Gaza, provided according to need and not limited by any other, arbitrary criteria.”


Compliance with International Law is Essential:

Turk also stressed that ” The parties to the conflict must take immediate steps to comply with their international law obligations – in particular to respect the fundamental principles of necessity, distinction and proportionality and to take precautions to minimize incidental loss of civilian life, injury to civilians and damage to civilian property and objects. Palestinian armed groups must cease the use of indiscriminate rockets, and the IDF must avoid using explosive weapons with wide area effects in densely populated areas due to the significant likelihood of indiscriminate effects.”


Refusal to Authorize War Crimes:

In the same context, UN experts called on all lawyers advising the Israeli military to reject legal authorization for actions that may escalate to the level of war crimes in response to Hamas attacks on Israel. The experts stated, “Israel has launched a barrage of deadly airstrikes into densely populated civilian areas in the Gaza strip, destroying or damaging homes, hospitals, markets, and UN Reliefs and Works Agency (UNRWA) buildings,” the experts said. The airstrikes have reportedly killed more than 3,400 Palestinians and injured more than 12,000, including children.

The experts also pointed out that Israel has intensified its blockade on Gaza, cutting off food, water, electricity, and fuel supplies.

“As Israel responds to Hamas and conducts operations in Gaza, all lawyers advising the military must identify and seek to prevent actions that may amount to war crimes. They have a professional duty to deny legal authorisation for criminal acts,” the experts said.

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