The resolution that Croatia opposed does not mention Hamas but does demand the release of all hostages


Original article (in Croatian) was published on 31/10/2023; Author: Sanja Despot

The General Assembly was presented with a resolution emphasizing respect for international law and trying to address the difficult humanitarian situation in Gaza. Croatia was against it.

“The text of the resolution in question does not mention that Hamas carried out a terrorist attack on October 7 of this year, nor does it demand the unconditional release of the hostages. This statement also goes against the conclusions of the European Council, in which Hamas is clearly named. The majority of EU member states voted against or abstained regarding the resolution presented in this way”, this is part of the statement of the Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs in which the ministry tried to explain why Croatia voted against the resolution at the session of the UN General Assembly on October 27 which referred to the protection of civilians and the obligation to comply with international humanitarian law in the escalated conflict between Hamas and Israel, and requested an “immediate, permanent and sustainable humanitarian truce” due to the situation in Gaza.

“There are two reasons why Croatia voted against it. The most important thing is that the terrorist attack by Hamas is not condemned and the second thing is that the unconditional release of the hostages is not demanded”, Davor Ivo Stier, HDZ’s former foreign minister, explained similarly to Index on the same day.

The same reasons against the resolution were given during the debate by the US representative to the UN, Linda Thomas-Greenfield. She stated that the two keywords “Hamas” and “hostages” are missing from the resolution.

“It is outrageous that this resolution fails to name the perpetrators of the terrorist attack that took place on October 7”, she said, adding that unilateral resolutions will not lead to peace.

It is true that the resolution does not mention Hamas in a single word, but “expresses serious concern over the latest escalation of violence since the attack on October 7, 2023, and the serious deterioration of the situation in the region, especially in the Gaza Strip and the rest of the occupied Palestinian territory, including the East Jerusalem, as well as in Israel”.

However, one of our readers was interested in why the case of the Israeli hostages is cited as an explanation for Croatia’s rather lonely position in the UN, considering that the text of the resolution calls for the unconditional release of detained civilians.

Canadian amendment

The opening part of the resolution “condemns every act of violence directed at Palestinian and Israeli civilians, including all terrorist acts and indiscriminate attacks, as well as every act of provocation, incitement and destruction”. And then point 7 of the accepted resolution states that the UN “calls for the immediate and unconditional release of all civilians who are illegally held in captivity, demanding their safety and humane treatment in accordance with international law”.

The hostages held by Hamas were not explicitly mentioned, but it is clear from the content of the quoted paragraph that it also includes them, and it cannot be argued that the UN did not request their immediate release.

While talking about the reasons why they refused to vote for this resolution, Croatian politicians actually cite the amendment tabled by Canada, which received the majority of those present, but not the two-thirds vote with which resolutions of the General Assembly (including amendments) relating to issues of security are passed. The Canadian amendment received 88 votes “for”, and 55 were “against”, while 23 of them were abstentions and failed to get the majority needed to be incorporated into the resolution. That amendment called for an additional paragraph to be inserted into the resolution in which the UN “unequivocally rejects and condemns the terrorist attacks by Hamas that took place in Israel beginning on October 7 and the taking of hostages, and demands the safe and humane treatment of hostages in accordance with international law, calling to their immediate and unconditional release”.

The resolution was submitted by Jordan

The UN Security Council, which is responsible for resolving issues that threaten international security, has been blocked since the beginning of Russia’s aggression against Ukraine and is unable to make any important decisions, including resolutions that would be binding on all UN members. Since the Hamas attack on Israel, to which Israel responded with fierce strikes on Gaza in which (according to Palestinian sources) more than 8,000 people have already died and more than a million have been displaced, the Security Council has tried unsuccessfully on several occasions to pass a resolution on the conflict. Some resolutions were blocked by the US because they did not mention Israel’s right to self-defence, and the US resolution was condemned by Russia and China because it did not clearly call for a ceasefire. There was no agreement on Monday at the session, where humanitarian organizations reported on the terrible conditions prevailing in the blockaded Gaza, and during which the Israeli representative to the UN, Gilad Erdan, hung a yellow star on his jacket, saying that he would wear it until the Security Council do not condemn the crimes of Hamas.

In the vacuum created by the inaction of the Security Council, at the initiative of Jordan and 39 other countries (including Russia and Palestine), a resolution was put before the General Assembly, which emphasizes respect for international law that applies to civilians and tries to address the difficult humanitarian situation in Gaza, where civilians were left without basic means of living.

What is written in the resolution

The resolution calls for the establishment of a humanitarian ceasefire, respect for international humanitarian law and the delivery of aid to Gaza. However, they are also asking for the withdrawal of the Israeli order to evacuate to the south of Gaza, while reminding that international humanitarian law dictates that civilians should receive humanitarian aid regardless of where they are. Attacks on civilian infrastructure, including hospitals, and forced displacement of the Palestinian civilian population are also condemned.

The resolution also states that “a lasting solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict can only be achieved peacefully, following the relevant UN resolutions and international law based on a two-state solution”.

Jordan gave up asking for a “ceasefire” in favour of a “humanitarian truce”, in order to gain as much support as possible, and the Canadian amendment tried to correct the non-designation of Hamas as the initiator of a new wave of conflict. When it didn’t receive the support of two-thirds of those gathered, the member states of the European Union were left without a common position, that is, to vote according to their conscience.

The majority abstained, including Germany and Italy, as did Great Britain, which is no longer a member of the bloc, and Canada itself, which proposed an amendment that did not pass.

The resolution passed with 120 votes “for”, 45 abstentions and 14 that did not vote, and 14 countries that voted “against”, including Croatia.

France, Belgium, Luxembourg, Spain, Portugal, Ireland, Malta and Slovenia were among the 120 countries that voted “yes” and thus led to the resolution being passed.

Croatia was placed alongside Israel and the USA, in the company of Austria, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Fiji, Guatemala, the Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Papua New Guinea, Paraguay and Tonga.

This time, the USA (and with it Croatia) remained in the minority of only 7 percent of those present, reminding of the diplomatic isolation in which Russia has been seen most often in the last two years, the Guardian emphasizes.

Resolutions of the UN General Assembly do not have binding force, they are more an indicator of the position taken by individual countries.

A severe humanitarian disaster is unfolding in Gaza before the eyes of the international public. The prosecutor of the International Criminal Court Karim A.A. Khan states that the brutal attack by Hamas on the Israeli population was against international law, but he also warned that the behaviour of the Israeli army towards the Palestinian population will also be investigated due to possible elements of serious war crimes.

In principle with the USA

Why Croatia opposed a fundamentally humanitarian resolution calling for the protection of the human rights of civilians who have been dying en masse in Gaza for three weeks is probably best summed up by Mate Granic, Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic’s advisor and former Minister of Foreign Affairs, who said that as a matter of principle, we ranked alongside the United States of America, which was “our key ally” during the war in Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina. He asserted that there was no time for the constitutional obligation to consult with the President of the Republic, Zoran Milanovic.

Regardless of that resolution, which was passed with an overwhelming majority of votes, Israel has stepped up its attacks on Gaza.

“Israel will not agree to a cessation of hostilities…calls for a ceasefire are calls for Israel to surrender to Hamas, to surrender to terrorism, to surrender to barbarism. This will not happen”, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said at a press conference on Monday, adding: “The Bible says there is a time for peace and a time for war. This is the time for war”.

Therefore, the resolution did not achieve any real effect.