Israel, Gaza face Goldstone deadline 27Jan10 January 28, 2010

Ma’an News Agency -  27 January 2010


UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon is set to deliver his report on progress made in Israel and Palestine on investigating allegations of war crimes made in the UN-mandated Goldstone report on 15 February.

Ban will deliver his report to the General Assembly for debate, after which the resolution of the General Assembly will be passed on to the UN Human Rights Council.

On Tuesday, eight Israeli human rights organizations reissued their call to the Israel to “establish, without delay, an independent and impartial investigation mechanism to thoroughly examine the allegations raised regarding violations of international law during Operation Cast Lead.”

On Wednesday, the de facto government in Gaza announced it would “soon hand over its response to the Goldstone report.” Speaking to reporters, Minister of Justice Muhammad Faraj Al-Ghoul said the document would be 52 pages and readied for handover to the Director of the High Commissioner on Human Rights in Gaza in time for Ban to review and report on its investigations.

The de facto government formed a committee to “monitor and document Israeli war crimes,” and added that “Gaza was open for all the [UN] delegations, missions and international committees to see the war crimes committed by the occupation in Gaza,” the official said.

Al-Ghoul did not make clear whether the document would address allegations made by the Goldstone report, on crimes committed by fighters in the Gaza Strip and the de facto government against both Palestinians and Israelis during and before the war.

He also assured that while the Goldstone report only detailed 36 war crimes allegedly committed by Israel, the de facto government document would give a comprehensive report on more than 1,500 different war crimes all in contravention of the Rome Statute.

“The committee worked 24 hours a day to find the facts and received complaints from the citizens,” he said, noting there was some internal investigation. Al-Ghoul also noted that a second committee was formed of “international guidance experts,” who would follow up on the implementation of Goldstone’s recommendations “according to international standards.”

In Israel

On Monday, Israeli Information Minister Yuli Edelstein the Hebrew-language daily Yedioth Ahronoth that Israel would not look into the Goldstone allegations, calling the report “anti-Semetic.” Officials have said a formal response would be delivered to the UN ahead of the deadline, but analysts believe it will be an attack on the report rather than a response.

On Tuesday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he was considering appointing a legal team to review the military’s investigations and debriefings, but not a full and independent investigation.

The Israeli government often cites an early internal investigation by the military that found no misconduct by its soldiers as sufficient internal inquiry.

According to the coalition of rights organizations petitioning Israel to look into and report on the allegations, “These [early] examinations do not conform to the demands set by the Goldstone fact-finding mission, that Israel and Hamas each investigate suspected violations of international law during Cast Lead. Therefore, they will not be accepted as an appropriate response to the Goldstone report.”

The organizations also said that “Israel’s refusal to hold an independent investigation will expose military officers and members of the previous government to investigation and legal proceedings likely to take place outside Israel.”

Next steps

If neither Israeli nor Palestinian sides produce a thorough investigation that responds to the allegations in the Goldstone report, Ban could pass on the file to the International Criminal Court (ICC).

Although Israel is not a member of the ICC, Palestine is going through the process of becoming a full member. Because the alleged crimes took place on Palestinian soil, the ICC would have automatic jurisdiction over the case.

Alternatively, as war crimes and crimes against humanity are international violations, the ICC could also claim universal jurisdiction and proceed with the case without Israel’s authorization.

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