The scale of killing and maiming of civilians in Lebanon, Israel and the Palestinian territory of Gaza could constitute war crimes, the United Nations human rights chief said on Wednesday.
U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour said international humanitarian law was clear on the need to protect non-combatants in any conflict. “This obligation is also expressed in international criminal law, which defines war crimes and crimes against humanity,” she said.
“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,” she said, without directly accusing anyone.
In a statement, Arbour expressed “grave concern over the continued killing and maiming of civilians in Lebanon, Israel and the occupied Palestinian territory”.
Arbour, a former Canadian Supreme Court judge and war crimes prosecutor, said the “indiscriminate shelling” of cities and the bombing of sites where civilians would suffer were unacceptable.
Israeli air strikes have accounted for most of the 293 deaths in Lebanon in the eight-day-old war which began after Hizbollah guerrillas kidnapped two Israeli soldiers.