UN investigators said Thursday that they had drafted a list of people and groups who could potentially be prosecuted on war crime charges over Israel's expulsion of a French-Palestinian human rights lawyer.
The high-level United Nations team said in its second report that it had identified several possible perpetrators involved in Salah Hamouri's forced deportation, including Israel's El-Al airline and its staff.
Israel slammed the report, saying the commission set up two years ago by the UN Human Rights Council "has no legitimacy. It never had".
Hamouri, 38, was long held without charge in Israel on accusations that he was a member of the Marxist-rooted Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), considered a terrorist organisation by the United States and the European Union.
Hamouri, who denied the claim and has maintained his innocence in a slew of cases, was expelled after his East Jerusalem residency permit was revoked for an alleged "breach of allegiance" to Israel, a move immediately denounced by the UN rights office as a "war crime".
The UN Commission of Inquiry on the situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT) confirmed in its report Thursday that his expulsion was "a grave breach of international humanitarian law".
"We have no doubt that the revocation of Salah Hamouri's East Jerusalem residency permit based on an alleged 'breach of allegiance' to the State of Israel constitutes a war crime," Chris Sidoti, one of the three commissioners, said in a statement.
"Demanding allegiance from protected people in occupied territory is a reprehensible violation of international humanitarian law," he said.
- 'No legitimacy' -
In its report, the commission said it had "preserved, on a list of possible perpetrators, information about the individuals who may bear criminal responsibility".
"The commission notes that Mr. Hamouri's deportation also raises the question of whether individuals within El-Al airlines had knowledge of his unlawful deportation and so may have committed the war crime of aiding, abetting or otherwise assisting in the commission of a war crime," the report said.
"The commission intends to explore further the criminal responsibility of all those involved in the forcible deportation."
The case was listed in the report as an example of increased restrictions allegedly being imposed to silence civil society in the occupied Palestinian territories, which the investigators said were part of the Israeli government's "goal of ensuring and enshrining its permanent occupation".
Israel's mission in Geneva, which has repeatedly criticised the commission for bias, denounced "the claims and false accusations against Israel presented in the latest report", which it said were widely based on "kangaroo trials".
The investigators said they had conducted 127 interviews with victims and witnesses as well as experts and others, including during a series of public hearings in Geneva.
Their report found that authorities both in Israel and the OPT were violating a range of rights of Palestinian civil society through harassment, threats, arrests, interrogations, detention and torture.
Israel's authorities were responsible for the majority of the violations, the investigators said, for example by increasing restrictions of civic space through "a strategy of delegitimising and silencing civil society", including by labelling Palestinian organisations and their members as "terrorists".
The report called on the International Criminal Court prosecutor to prioritise investigating the situation in the OPT, "including the identification of direct perpetrators, those exercising command responsibility and individuals who aid or abet" international crimes.