6 July 2009 – The fact-finding mission tasked by the United Nations Human Rights Council with probing rights violations committed during the recent Gaza conflict began the Geneva round of public hearings today, following a similar exercise held in the Gaza Strip last week.
“The purpose of today’s interviews was to hear from victims, witnesses and experts from southern Israel and the West Bank,” UN spokesperson Michele Montas told reporters.
The mission had wanted to hold hearings in the West Bank and in southern Israel, where the population had been on the receiving end of rocket attacks launched from Gaza, but that had not been possible since the Israeli Government has so far not cooperated with the mission.
Testimonies were given both in person and by video-conference to the four-member team, led by Justice Richard Goldstone. Among those who came in person to address the panel were the mayor of the Israeli town of Ashkelon and the father of missing Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit.
During the 28 and 29 June hearings in Gaza City, the team heard accounts from people who had been badly injured in attacks and from victims who had lost many members of their families, as well as from people who had lost their livelihoods.
Experts also gave testimonies on the psycho-social effects, particularly on health, children and education, of the fighting that took place between 27 December and 18 January.
The panel is expected to compile its report in August.