UN rights chief backs Goldstone report on Gaza

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay endorsed the Goldstone report on alleged war crimes in Gaza at a meeting of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva Oct. 15. Pillay stated that steps to hold war criminals accountable “are not obstacles to peace, but rather the preconditions on which trust and, ultimately, a durable peace can be built.”

The Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) envoy Ibrahim Khreisheh spoke in support of the report prepared by former war crimes prosecutor Richard Goldstone on Israel’s three-week assault on the Gaza Strip over the winter. Goldstone was asked by the UN to lead an independent, international investigation into the war, which left more than 1,400 Palestinians dead, along with 13 Israelis. His 575-page report alleges that both Israel and Palestinian armed groups committed war crimes.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ government initially capitulated to US pressure, moving to defer a motion in the Human Rights Council to endorse the report. After coming under heavy criticism from his own people, Abbas returned the motion to the Council, and even added a condemnation of Israeli policy in occupied East Jerusalem to the resolution.

Observers say that of the 47 nations on the Council, 16 are likely to vote to endorse the report—meaning that rights groups need to find eight more supportive votes.

Speaking at a meeting of the UN Security Council Oct. 14, Palestinian Foreign Minister Riad Al-Maliki called for the world to hold Israel accountable for its “savage attack” on Gaza. “The credibility and foundations of international human rights and humanitarian law as well as of the UN as a whole is at stake,” he said.

Goldstone’s report calls on Israeli and Palestinian authorities to conduct their own thorough, independent and credible investigations into the charges. If they fail to do so, the report calls for international bodies to follow up. The report recommends that its conclusions be forwarded to the International Criminal Court prosecutor in The Hague, if Israel and Palestinian authorities fail to carry out credible investigations within six months.

Israel has sharply criticized the fact-finding mission led by Goldstone, saying its mandate was biased, and that it could jeopardize peace talks. (Ma’an News Agency, Middle East Online, Oct. 15)

See our last posts on Palestine and Gaza.

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  1. Rights Council endorses Goldstone report
    New York Times, Oct. 16:

    UNITED NATIONS — The United Nations Human Rights Council on Friday endorsed a report that details evidence of war crimes committed by the Israeli Army and Hamas militants during the Gaza war last winter.

    The council’s vote in Geneva was, in part, an attempt to press both the Israelis and the Palestinians to conduct their own credible investigations into the war-crimes accusations.

    But the Human Rights Council’s resolution, by endorsing several dozen recommendations within the report, also threatened action by the United Nations Security Council and possibly the International Criminal Court should there be no serious internal investigations.

    That is considered very unlikely, however, because the United States has a veto over the Security Council agenda.

    Of the 47 members of the Human Rights Council, 25 supported the measure, 6 opposed it, 11 abstained and 5 cast no vote.

  2. General Assembly endorses Goldstone Report
    From the New York Times, Nov. 5:

    The General Assembly voted 114 to 18, with 44 abstentions, to endorse the report by a Human Rights Council panel led by the South African judge Richard Goldstone that said there was evidence that both Israel and the Palestinian group Hamas committed war crimes during the Gaza war last winter. The assembly’s resolution demands that both Israel and the Palestinians, without specifically naming Hamas, carry out investigations within three months. It also pushes for Security Council attention. France, Britain and Russia were among the countries that abstained, and the United States voted against the resolution. The lack of support among permanent Security Council members suggests that Council action is unlikely. Supporters basically said such serious accusations of war crimes deserved international attention, while opponents found the resolution too broad.

  3. US House passes resolution against Goldstone report
    The House of Representatives on Nov. 3 passed Resolution 867 criticizing the Goldstone Report and urging President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton to oppose unequivocally any endorsement of the report. The bill, introduced by Representatives Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) and Howard Berman (D-CA), passed by a vote of 344-36. (The Forward, Nov, 3)