UN investigator defends Gaza report 29Sep09 September 30, 2009

Aljazeera – 29 September 2009


More than 1,400 Palestinians, a third of them women and children, died in the offensive

A United Nations investigator has defended a report published earlier this month that accuses Israel and Palestinian fighters of war crimes following the Israeli offensive in Gaza earlier this year.

Addressing the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva on Tuesday, Richard Goldstone said a lack of accountability for war crimes committed in the Middle East had reached “crisis point”, undermining any hope for peace in the region.

The former South African judge rejected criticism by Israel that the 575-page report was politically motivated.

He said his team was led by a belief in the rule of law, human rights and the need to protect civilians during war.

‘Lack of justice’

Goldstone said the report had investigated 36 incidents surrounding Israel’s military operation.

He said: “A culture of impunity in the region has existed for too long, the lack of accountability for war crimes and possible war crimes against humanity has reached a crisis point.

“The ongoing lack of justice is undermining any hope for a successful peace process and reinforcing an environment that fosters violence.”

Goldstone said his four-member panel had been hit with a “barrage of criticism” on its findings and it was important not to ascribe collective guilt to a people.

“People of the region should not be demonised,” he said.

Goldstone urged the 47-member state forum to adopt the report which would mean it is referred to the UN Security Council for further action.

An Arab-backed resolution to accept the findings is opposed by European countries and the United States because of concerns about how the report was compiled.

‘Civilians targeted

In his report, the judge said that he had found evidence that Israel had targeted civilians and used excessive force in the assault which took place from December 27, 2008 to January 18, 2009.

“The mission concluded that actions amounting to war crimes, and possibly in some respects crimes against humanity, were committed by the Israel Defence Force,” Goldstone said.

While the report was more sharply critical of Israel, it also said that there was evidence “that Palestinian armed groups committed war crimes, as well as possibly crimes against humanity”, by firing rockets into southern Israel.

More than 1,400 Palestinians – about a third of them women and children – were killed in the offensive.

Thirteen Israeli died during the same period, mostly due to rocket fire from the Gaza Strip.

LINK: http://english.aljazeera.net/news/europe/2009/09/200992993333512634.html

Statement by Richard Goldstone on behalf of the Members of the United Nations Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict before the Human Rights Council (Human Rights Council 12th Session – 29 September 2009)

The mandate of the UN Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict is “To investigate all violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law that might have been committed at any time in the context of the military operations that were conducted in Gaza during the period from 27 December 2008 and 18 January 2009, whether before, during or after.” Learn more about the UN Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict

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