Call for ceasefire in Gaza

21 March, 2024

As the 55th session of the UN Human Rights Council sits in Geneva, Humanists UK’s representatives are using our platform at the session as an accredited NGO to draw attention to issues within our specialist remit of freedom of thought, freedom of choice, and free expression. The session is focusing on topics such as religious hatred and incitement to violence, the rights of children and people with disabilities, and the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.

Although not the theme of the session, the context for all debates and reports has been the unfolding humanitarian disaster in Gaza. The session began with a minute of silence in commemoration of the victims of human rights violence worldwide and the victims in Israel and Gaza, together with those in Sudan, North Korea, Ukraine, and in so many – too many – places in our world that have been on everybody’s minds.

The current armed conflict began in Gaza following the Hamas attack on Israel on 7 October. Since then, the scale of death and destruction, and of human suffering due to obstructions to delivering food, water, and basic necessities to war-stricken communities, has ranked this war among the most destructive of this century. 

Like so many other human rights organisations, we call for and hope to see a total ceasefire by both Israel and Hamas, along with the immediate return of Israeli captives held by Hamas. Wars only ever end one way – with political agreements and hard sacrifices – and the time is way overdue for this conflict to end.

Nearly two million Palestians have been displaced by the war and, while estimates vary, no fewer than 31,000 have been killed in the Gaza strip since Israel began its military campaign, the vast majority of whom were civilians. In its latest update, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said just 11 out of 24 its missions to deliver humanitarian aid were ‘facilitated’ by the Israeli authorities, with the rest rejected, delayed, or postponed.

We acknowledge and respect the intricacies of geopolitical conflicts. And we know events in this region in particular elicit fierce condemnation and dehumanising rhetoric even from people of otherwise good will and good conscience. We encourage everyone to employ understanding, dialogue, and empathy in their discussions, helping bridge the divides that exist.

Our hope remains unwavering for a world where all individuals, regardless of their backgrounds or beliefs, can coexist without fear of violence or oppression. 

We urge our own government in the UK to work creatively and diligently towards that same end, applying diplomatic pressure to bring an end to the casualties, achieve full compliance with international humanitarian law, and begin earnest work towards a sustainable peace in the aftermath of this unspeakable human tragedy.