Geneva Graduate Institute
Human Rights Council

Gaza and the Battle for Humanity: How International Law Provides Meaning to Violence

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Auditorium Ivan Pictet (A1B), Maison de la paix, Geneva

What is at stake for humanity and the rules-based global order in the war in Gaza? We are pleased to discuss these questions with a panel of UN human rights experts.

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The mandate holders of the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council have spoken with one loud and clear collective voice on the current war in Gaza, as has the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child. They were the first in the UN system to raise the alarm that the state of Israel was committing war crimes and crimes against humanity against the Palestinian people, amounting to a risk of genocide. This view was not only informed by the spectacular bombardment of Gaza, but also the slow suffering and death caused by depriving civilians of what is indispensable to their survival such as food, water, housing and health care. At this event, several UN experts will provide their perspective on what is at stake when framing the ongoing spectacular and slow violence against Palestinians in Gaza as a war a crime, crime against humanity, or genocide. What type of international legal conceptualizations will keep the political space open for peace and the fulfillment of the Palestinian people’s right to self-determination?



Andrew Clapham, Professor of International Law, Geneva Graduate Institute

Andrew Clapham was the first Director of the Geneva Academy of International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights (June 2006 - July 2014). He teaches international human rights law, the laws of war, and public international law. Prior to coming to the Institute in 1997, he was the Representative of Amnesty International at the United Nations in New York. Andrew Clapham has worked as Special Adviser on Corporate Responsibility to High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson, and Adviser on International Humanitarian Law to Sergio Vieira de Mello, Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General in Iraq. He was elected as a Commissioner of the International Commission of Jurists in 2013. He served as a member of the UN Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan from 2017 to 2023.



Mr. Arrojo-Agudo





Pedro Arrojo Agudo, Special Rapporteur on the Rights to Water and Sanitation

Mr. Arrojo-Agudo is the Special Rapporteur on the human rights to safe drinking water and sanitation, since November 2020. From 2016 to 2019, Arrojo-Agudo served as an elected member (MP) of the Spanish Parliament being part of the International Cooperation Committee working on human rights. Arrojo-Agudo was Professor in the Area of Fundamentals of Economic Analysis at the University of Zaragoza (1989-2011), and has been professor emeritus since 2011. From 1997 to 2010 he was a member of the Spanish Scientific Committee of the UNESCO Man and Biosphere Program (MAB).


M Fakhri





Michael Fakhri, Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food

Mr. Fakhri is the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to food since May 2020. He is a professor at the University of Oregon School of Law where he teaches courses on human rights, food law, development, and commercial law. He is also the director of the Food Resiliency Project in the Environmental and Natural Resources Law Center. He holds a Doctorate from the University of Toronto, Masters from Harvard Law School, Bachelor of Laws from Queen’s University, and a Bachelor of Science in Ecology from Western University. During his practice as a lawyer, Mr. Fakhri fought for the rights of people who were indigent and incarcerated in a psychiatric institution.


Ann Skelton headshot





Ann Marie Skelton, Chairperson of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child

Ms. Skelton is currently the Chairperson of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child. She is also a Professor of Law and holds the Chair on Children’s Rights in a Sustainable World at the University of Leiden, and the UNESCO Chair in Education Law at the University of Pretoria. She has appeared as counsel in numerous landmark child rights cases in the South African Constitutional Court.


Balakrishnan Rajagopal





Balakrishnan Rajagopal, Special Rapporteur on the Right to Adequate Housing

Mr. Rajagopal is the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to adequate housing as a component of the right to an adequate standard of living, and on the right to non-discrimination in this context. He is professor of law and development at the Department of Urban Studies and Planning at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). A lawyer by training, he is an expert on many areas of human rights, including economic, social and cultural rights, the UN system, and the human rights challenges posed by development activities.




Heba Aly, Journalist and Expert on Humanitarian Crises

For nearly 8 years, Heba Aly ran the world’s leading source of original, field-based journalism about humanitarian crises, The New Humanitarian. Before that, Heba spent one decade reporting from conflict zones in the Middle East, Africa and Central Asia. Her work for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, the Christian Science Monitor, Bloomberg News and IRIN News, among others, took her to places like Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq, Chad, Kenya and Libya; and she received a grant from the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting for work in northern Sudan. Her TEDx Talk – "Stop Eating Junk News" – drives home the importance of responsible journalism from crisis zones. Today, Heba convenes frank and forward-looking conversations about the future of crisis response – including through the podcast she hosts: Rethinking Humanitarianism.


This event is co-hosted by the Global Governance Centre, the International Law department and the Geneva Academy.


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Banner picture: UNRWA school in Northern Gaza on 8 February 2024 on UNRWA @ X




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