Both the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon — a cautious bureaucrat if ever there was one — and the more-willing-to-take-risks UN High Commissioner for Human Rights have backed the Goldstone report on last winter’s Gaza war that at least two (or three) and perhaps four (or all five) of the UN Security Council’s Permanent Members don’t want to discuss.
This is an unusual situation.
The UN Security Council is not on the immediate horizon in any case — the Goldstone report itself has recommended that both Israel and Hamas be given six months to set up their own independent investigations before the UN Security Council would be asked to get involved. So far, the U.S., Russia, and now reportedly China are now opposed to discussing the Goldstone report in the Security Council. The UN Security Council could, if it agreed, eventually ask the International Criminal Court in the Hague to look at certain aspects of the Israeli military operation, and of the Palestinian firing of rockets, mortars, and missiles at Israeli territory from Hamas-controlled Gaza.
The UN Human Rights Council in Geneva voted last week to “recommend” the Goldstone report to the UN General Assembly, which may consider the matter before its current session is adjourned in December.
South Africa’s Justice Richard Goldstone, who worked against the apartheid system through the country’s legal system, and who subsequently was appointed by the UN as a former prosecutor for the International Tribunals on the Former Yugoslavia and Rwanda, was working under a mandate from the UN Human Rights Council when he headed its Fact-Finding Mission into the Gaza war.
According to the Israel website YNet, South Africa’s Justice Richard Goldstone has just said in an interview with Al-Jazeera television that “while he is not an expert on the political power ties in the UN, he believes these three nations [Russia, France and China] will refuse to move forward with the report” In the same story, Goldstone said that “the report could still be brought before the UN General Assembly, and added that if the UN refuses to discuss this report, it would be the end of UN involvement in international crises”. This is posted here.
The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice, who is visiting officials in Israel and the Palestinian Authority while her to attend the second annual conference of world leaders hosted by Israeli State President Shimon Peres, said after meeting with Peres on Tuesday that “the US would ‘continue to stand by Israel as a loyal friend in the fight against the Goldstone report’, according to a statement from Peres’s office on Wednesday”. This report can be read in full here.
Meanwhile, according to a report in Haaretz, Goldstone has “challenged Barack Obama’s administration to justify its claims that the report is one-sided and flawed … Goldstone told Al Jazeera on Thursday that he is still waiting for the U.S. to clarify its claim that the report has a number of flaws. ‘The Obama administration joined our recommendation calling for full and good-faith investigations, both in Israel and in Gaza, but said that the report was flawed’, Goldstone told Al Jazeera … ‘I have yet to hear from the Obama administration what the flaws in the report that they have identified are. I would be happy to respond to them, if and when I know what they are’, he said. The remarks follow a U.S. opposition to a UN Human Rights Council resolution on the report in Geneva last Friday … Meanwhile, a recent poll shows that more than two-thirds of the Israeli public opposes an Israeli inquiry panel into the events of Operation Cast Lead. The poll, Geocartography Institute directed by Professor Avi Degani, shows that only 32 percent of those questioned supported the idea of an investigative committee on the Goldstone report. [And] On Wednesday night, 30 Sderot residents arrived at the UN offices in Jerusalem to personally pass on a petition opposing the Goldstone report, signed by 100 thousand people from around the world”. This Haaretz report is posted here.
In another report on YNet, Goldstone said: “I’ve no doubt, many of the critics — the overwhelming majority of critics — have not read the report”. And, he added, the criticism had become personal. These remarks are posted here.
Goldstone said in the Al-Jazeera interview that “We didn’t look at the justification for the military operations at all — we took them as a given”. He said that the Fact-Finding Mission he headed didn’t question Israel’s right to self-defense, and didn’t look at the right to use force. Instead, he said, “We looked at the way force was actually used”.
The Jerusalem Post noted that “When asked about Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s initiative to change the international law concerning states fighting terrorist groups, Goldstone said … ‘I think it’s sad… Israel is clutching at straws. International law can’t be changed just because one side doesn’t like the laws of war’, Goldstone said. ‘I think it’s wrong, very unfortunate and inappropriate’, Goldstone said of the Israeli response to the report compiled by the UN fact-finding commission he led. When asked whether an Israeli probe into the IDF’s conduct during the Gaza operation could be trusted, Goldstone expressed his confidence in the Israeli legal system and experts. ‘I’ve got no doubt at all that if the Israeli government was prepared to set up an independent commission to investigate and to recommend prosecutions, I’m sure it could do that and I would have confidence in such an investigation’, he said. Goldstone warned that if an internal investigation were not conducted, Israel could face prosecution at international tribunals. ‘If they don’t have a good faith internal investigation this thing is not going to lie down and die’, he said”. The JPost story can be read in full here.
Ma’an News Agency is reporting that Goldstone will soon debate the report with a former Israeli envoy at a university in the U.S.
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