March 9, 2015 / 4:58 PM / in 3 years

U.N. inquiry on Gaza war crimes seeks delay of report to June: statement

GENEVA (Reuters) - U.N. investigators looking at possible war crimes committed by all sides during the Gaza war last year have asked to postpone publication of their report from March until June to consider further evidence received, a U.N. statement said on Monday.

Their report on violations by Israeli armed forces and Hamas militants in Gaza during the July-August conflict was due to be issued to the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva on March 23.

In a statement, Council President Joachim Ruecker said that he backed the request for a deferral to June 2015 to finalize a comprehensive report by the team of investigators. The 47-nation Council is expected to approve the postponement before its ongoing main annual session ends on March 27.

The commission of inquiry’s former chairman, William Schabas, stepped down last month after Israeli allegations of bias due to consultancy work he did for the Palestine Liberation Organisation. Israel wants the report shelved.

Mary McGowan Davis, who succeeded Schabas as chair, said in a letter to Council president Ruecker, also made public on Monday: “In this context, the Commission must analyze with the utmost objectivity the large number of additional submissions and documents received over the past few weeks from both sides, relating to the fact-finding dimension of our mandate.”

Some 2,256 Palestinians were killed during the latest Gaza conflict, of whom 1,563 were civilians including 538 children, while 66 Israeli soldiers and five civilians died, U.N. special rapporteur Makarim Wibisono said in a separate report last week. He called on Israel to investigate killings of civilians.

Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay; Editing by Mark Heinrich

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