Dutch FM says Israel, Hamas must probe Gaza war crimes charges 11Nov09 November 12, 2009

Haaretz -  11 November 2009

maxime verhagenDutch Foreign Minister Maxime Verhagen urged Israel and Hamas to investigate war crimes allegations stemming from the Gaza conflict earlier this year.

“Nobody can commit serious human rights violations with impunity,” Verhagen said after talks with Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman.

Verhagen’s comments came despite the Dutch vote last month against the UN Human Rights Council’s endorsement of a report calling on Israel and the Hamas militant group, which runs Gaza, to carry out credible investigations into alleged abuses – or face possible referral to international war crimes prosecutors.

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The Netherlands cast one of six dissenting votes in the 47-nation body, joining the United States, Italy, Hungary, Ukraine and Slovakia.

Almost 1,400 Palestinians and 13 Israelis were killed during the Dec. 27-Jan. 18 conflict.

The 575-page report by South African jurist Richard Goldstone concluded that Israel used disproportionate force, deliberately targeted civilians, used Palestinians as human shields and destroyed civilian infrastructure during its incursion into the Gaza Strip to root out Palestinian rocket squads.

It also accused Palestinian armed groups, including Hamas, of deliberately targeting civilians and trying to spread terror through years of rocket attacks on southern Israel.

Verhagen said he also pushed Lieberman to halt settlement construction in the West Bank and to open the Gaza Strip’s borders to humanitarian aid.

Lieberman made no comment after the meeting. Earlier, he said Israel and Palestinians need to start direct talks to keep the Mideast peace process alive.

“We say from the first day of this government that we really want direct talks and I think this would help to keep the political process alive,” Lieberman said.

He did not mention the vexed issue of Israeli settlement construction, which Palestinian officials insist Israel freezes before peace talks can resume.

Lieberman later visited Dutch Parliament for a closed-door discussion with lawmakers. About 40 people protested his presence outside Parliament.

Lieberman had been due to meet privately with anti-Islam lawmaker Geert Wilders, a strong supporter of Israel. But Wilders said in a text message to the Associated Press he had called off the meeting because he was feeling unwell.

The Dutch Labor Party, part of the country’s ruling coalition, criticized Verhagen for his meeting the Israeli, calling Lieberman an extreme right politician.


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