Gaza blockade illegal, must be lifted: U.N.'s Pillay

KAMPALA Sat Jun 5, 2010 8:20am EDT

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KAMPALA (Reuters) - U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said on Saturday Israel's blockade of Gaza was illegal and should be lifted, and reiterated calls for an investigation into Israel's raid on aid supply ships this week.

"International humanitarian law prohibits starvation of civilians as a method of warfare and...it is also prohibited to impose collective punishment on civilians," Pillay said.

"I have consistently reported to member states that the blockade is illegal and must be lifted."

She said that even if the blockade were proven legal under international law, Israel's military operation against the flotilla on Monday had to be analyzed alongside its obligation to allow humanitarian aid into Gaza.

Israeli forces again seized a ship bound for Gaza on Saturday, boarding the an Irish-owned Rachel Corrie five days after Israeli commandos shot dead nine Turkish activists in a raid on a Turkish aid ship headed for Gaza.

Asked if the UN Security Council should refer the situation in Gaza to the International Criminal Court (ICC), Pillay said the Council had in the past imposed sanctions and referred the situation in Sudan's Darfur region to the ICC.

Pillay, a former ICC judge, was in Kampala to jointly attend a review conference of the court, the world's first permanent war crimes court, and conduct a fact-finding human rights mission in Uganda, one of five 'situations' the ICC is investigating.

(Reporting by Aaron Gray-Block; Editing by Jon Boyle)

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