Australia has aligned with the United States as one of only two countries to vote against an independent investigation into the recent killing of 60 Palestinians in Gaza.
The United Nations human rights council held a special meeting on Friday night to discuss the “deteriorating human rights situation in the occupied Palestinian territory”.
Twenty-nine countries, an overwhelming majority, voted to urgently set up an “independent, international commission of inquiry” to investigate recent violations of human rights and international humanitarian law there.
Oxfam’s chief executive, Dr Helen Szoke, said Australia, through its role on the council, had an “unprecedented opportunity to progress human rights”. She urged it to take its role seriously. When Australia took up its seat on the council, it promised to act in a principled manner and uphold human rights,” Szoke said. “Voting against a motion to launch an independent investigation into the killings in Gaza and to investigate all violations of international humanitarian law and international human rights law in the context of civilian protests, flies in the face of Australia’s commitment."
The Human Rights Watch Australian director, Elaine Pearson, said the federal government’s opposition was “shameful”.
“This was a chance to put principle before politics and Australia blew it,” she said. “This was not about targeting Israel but targeting human rights violations. When security forces opened fire on protesters who pose no imminent threat, they must be held to account.”