7 February 2024
Palestinian human rights organizations, including Addameer, have penned a letter addressed to the United Nations (UN) Secretary-General, Mr. António Guterres, expressing profound disappointment and calling for an inquiry over the failure of the Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide, Ms. Alice Wairimu Nderitu, to fulfill her mandate in addressing the ongoing atrocities perpetrated by Israel against Palestinians in Gaza. This failure includes neglecting to raise awareness about Israel’s ongoing, four-months-long genocide against Palestinians in Gaza or, at the very least, to the alarming risk of genocide; failing to acknowledge the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruling that Israel is plausibly committing genocide against Palestinians in Gaza, along with the provisional measures ordered for Israel; and refusing to engage meaningfully, meet, or respond to requests from Palestinian human rights organizations.
Such failure raises serious concerns about the impartiality of Ms. Nderitu in fulfilling her role as Special Adviser, as well as her ability to resist external political pressures, biases, or potential anti-Palestinian sentiments. The principle of preventing genocide must be universally applied, without any special allowances or exceptions for anyone, including Israel.
The absence of any action or acknowledgement from the Special Adviser and the UN Office on Genocide Prevention regarding ongoing genocide in Gaza is deeply troubling. This stands in stark contrast to warnings issued by other UN mechanisms and agencies. Urgent pleas and warnings for the prevention of genocide have been voiced, as early as 19 October 2023, by tens of UN independent experts, highlighting the imminent risk of genocide faced by Palestinians in Gaza. The Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) also expressed grave concerns about genocidal actions and incitement targeting Palestinians by Israeli officials.
Over the past four months, the Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide has issued many warning statements addressing different situations. However, noticeably absent are statements addressing the ongoing atrocities faced by 2.3 million Palestinians in Gaza, half of whom are children. During Israel’s 51-day military aggression against Gaza in 2014, the then-Special Advisers on the Prevention of Genocide, Mr. Adama Dieng, and on the Responsibility to Protect, Ms. Jennifer Welsh, issued a public warning 18 days into the aggression, which concluded with Israel’s killing of 2,219 Palestinians, including 566 children and 299 women. During the ongoing genocide, in just one single week between 7 and 14 October 2023, Israel killed a comparable number of Palestinians: 2,215, including 724 children and 458 women.
On 26 January 2024, the ICJ found it plausible that Israel is committing genocide against Palestinians in Gaza and other prohibited acts under the Genocide Convention, recognizing the real and imminent risk of irreparable harm to them. Remarkably, 12 days on, even the Court’s determination did not elicit any reaction from the Special Adviser or the Office on Genocide Prevention. Conversely, 36 UN independent experts and the High Commissioner for Human Rights have called on Israel to fully implement the ICJ order.
Notably, when the ICJ issued provisional orders in the case of Ukraine v. the Russian Federation concerning allegations of genocide, the Special Adviser promptly issued a statement acknowledging the ICJ’s order within two days. This stark contrast underscores the apparent double standards and inconsistency in the Special Adviser’s approach to addressing different genocidal situations.
Our repeated efforts to establish contact and schedule a meeting with the Special Adviser or the Office on Genocide Prevention over the past four months have been unsuccessful. On 2 December 2023, Palestinian organizations penned a letter to the Special Adviser, articulating concerns and seeking clarification on various matters, to which, no response has been received. Since then, we endeavored to arrange an in-person meeting with the Office on Genocide Prevention; however, it was regrettably canceled at the last minute. Ever since, all of our written correspondences have remained unanswered.
The gravity of the situation on the ground in Gaza and the urgency it commands intensify our concerns that the Special Adviser is in dereliction of her duties and responsibilities demanded by her mandate. The failure to address the Israel’s ongoing genocide in Gaza has had devastating consequences for the Palestinian people. Over the past four months, at least 100,000 Palestinians have been killed, injured, or are missing, constituting 4% of the total Gaza population. The humanitarian situation in Gaza continues to deteriorate rapidly, with millions of Palestinians facing displacement, starvation, and the collapse of essential services.
In light of these alarming developments, the joint letter urgently called upon UN Secretary-General to conduct a thorough inquiry into the failure of the Special Adviser and the Office on Genocide Prevention to fulfill their mandates. The findings of this inquiry must be publicly disclosed, and swift action must be taken to ensure that the Office on Genocide Prevention is staffed with competent professionals capable of executing their mandates impartially and effectively.
The UN has historically borne a specific responsibility towards the Palestinian people, a responsibility that has consistently fallen short, as our people continue to be denied their inalienable right to self-determination, including their right to return.
The UN cannot afford to remain silent in the face of genocide. The international community must act decisively to prevent further atrocities and ensure accountability for those responsible for the ongoing crimes against Palestinians in Gaza.