UN Human Rights Council endorses Goldstone report and recommends it to UNGA + says Israeli sanctions on Gaza constitute collective punishment

As we reported yesterday, the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) in Geneva adopted a resolution supporting the report on last winter’s Gaza war that the HRC had commissioned  from a team lead by South Africa’s Justice Richard Goldstone.

The vote was 25 in favor, 11 against, and 6 abstentions, as follows:

In favour: Argentina, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, China, Cuba, Djibouti, Egypt, Ghana, India, Indonesia, Jordan, Mauritius, Nicaragua, Nigeria, Pakistan, Philippines, Qatar, Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, South Africa, Zambia;

Against: Hungary, Italy, Netherlands, Slovakia, Ukraine, United States of America.

Abstaining: Belgium, Bosnia Herzegovina, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Gabon, Japan, Mexico, Norway, Republic of Korea, Slovakia, Uruguay.

These results are posted on the website of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights here.

The resolution endorsed the recommendations in the Goldstone report, and recommended that the UN General Assembly “consider” the report in its current session (which lasts until late December, or eventually until next September). It also said that the Israeli restrictions on Gaza — which the HRC resolution says is occupied — is a “siege” that “constitutes collective punishment of Palestinian civilians”.

The resolution stresses “that the right to life constitutes the most fundamental of all human rights“, and recognizes that “the Israeli siege imposed on the occupied Gaza Strip, including its closure of border crossings and the cutting of the supply of fuel, food and medicine, constitutes collective punishment of Palestinian civilians and leads to disastrous humanitarian and environmental consequences“.

On the Goldstone report itself, the HRC resolution condemns “all targeting of civilians and stressing the urgent need to ensure accountability for all violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law to prevent further violations,
1. Condemns the non-cooperation by the occupying power, Israel, with the independent international fact-finding mission;
2. Welcomes the report of the Independent International Fact-Finding Mission (A/HRC/12/48);
3. Endorses the recommendations contained in the report of the Independent International Fact-Finding Mission, and calls upon all concerned parties including United Nations bodies, to ensure their implementation in accordance with their respective mandates;
4. Recommends the General Assembly to consider the report of the Independent International Fact-Finding Mission, during the main part of its 64th session;
5. Requests the United Nations Secretary General to submit to the 13th Human Rights Council’s session, a report, on the status of implementation of paragraph 3, above”.

After the vote, Human Rights Watch commented that “the Goldstone report establishes the serious violations committed by both sides during Israel’s Operation Cast Lead in Gaza and presents a road map for accountability. Yesterday and today at the Human Rights Council special session in Geneva, virtually all governments recognized the seriousness of the Goldstone report and the credible allegations it contains. Practically all delegations called for investigations and emphasized the need for accountability. The US said that calls for accountability ‘cannot be ignored or deflected’ … Julie de Rivero, Geneva director at Human Rights Watch [said]: ‘Now all eyes are on Israel and Hamas to see whether they conduct credible domestic investigations within the next six months. If they fail, international prosecutions will be required’.”

Israel’s YNet website reported that “shortly after the vote in Geneva, [Fatmeh] Alajou, who represents Adalah – the Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel – called the Goldstone Report ‘objective’, and said, ‘It’s a shame that a large segment of the (Israeli) population is not familiar with the details of the report and bases its opinion on the populism surrounding it … The report merely states that there is evidence indicating that war crimes had been committed by both sides (during the December-January) war in Gaza. The region’s population has suffered an injustice, and the report says it is time to act’, she said. Prior to the vote Alajou told the UN council in Geneva that attempts by Israeli human rights groups to approach [Israeli] Attorney General Menachem Mazuz regarding the need to investigate the ‘alleged war crimes’ in Gaza proved futile. ‘The High Court of Justice rejected all of our petitions on this matter, and in this situation seeking international support becomes very relevant’, she told the council, ‘As an attorney that deals with human rights and believes that international law is meant to protect all people, regardless of race or nationality, it is my opinion that failing to implement the Goldstone Report’s recommendations would put the international community’s commitment to peace and human rights in question’. According to Alajou, ‘A situation whereby the Israeli legal system cannot be trusted and the IDF’s investigations are riddled with conflicts of interest calls for the launching of an (international) investigation, also as a means of deterrence’. The Arab-Israeli attorney also told the council that ‘Israel has not been investigating its own conduct since the second intifada (which began in 2000)’.” This YNet reoprt can be read in full here.

In his column in Haaretz earlier this week, Bradley Burston wrote: “Despite the many people who have made strident declarations about the report, few have actually read it, end to end. It’s a tough slog, the hundreds of pages of the UN-sponsored report on allegations of war crimes in Gaza. The material is infuriating at times, the content inconsistent, the methodology slapdash. But for anyone who cares about the future of this place, and for anyone who has paid close attention to the hyperbole and factual errors of Israeli leaders in condemning it, the read is more than worthwhile – if only for the key element of its surprise ending: A marked degree of fairness. It does not question the right of Israel – or, for that matter, the Palestinians – to self-defense, but it accuses both sides of having resorted to war crimes in the course of, or in the name of, defending themselves. The inquiry breaks new ground for the UN, and breaks sharply from its original mandate, in addressing Palestinian attacks against Israeli civilians. From the start, Israel’s responses have been that of the brilliant blockhead – the lawyer so in love with his own case that he persuades no one. And everything that Israel has done in its own defense, has made its situation worse … What is Israel’s role here? … It was rooted in the belief that the only way to counter and deter Hamas, and, optimally, bring about its downfall, was a show of force of devastating proportion … It was also rooted in the belief – oddly un-Israeli, more an outgrowth of the Polish shtetl than the Palmach – that a fair hearing for Israel in international bodies of justice was so inconceivable, that the best defense was no defense at all. Israel’s decision not to cooperate with the Goldstone Mission, and, in many respects, to actively hamper its work, was calamitous. In revealing correspondence pointedly reproduced in the report, Justice Goldstone all but gets down on hands and knees to beg Israel to allow it to balance the report with on-site visits to rocket-torn Sderot, extensive direct testimony from victims of Qassam attacks, and first-person accounts and explanations of soldiers accused of violations of international law. Israel says no. Benjamin Netanyahu won’t even go so far as to answer Goldstone’s letter. Now the report is out, alive and ticking, and Israel – in its desperation to deflect the monster, no matter the consequences – has already managed to hand it as a stick to Hamas, to beat and perhaps eventually defeat Fatah, Mahmoud Abbas, and the Palestinian Authority. Produced under unrealistic constraints of time and evidence, the report is easy to critique but impossible to ignore. Befitting its subject matter, it is zealous, suspicious, and bleak, asking tough questions which both sides should long ago have asked themselves. The bottom line, for Israelis, is simply this: Israel desperately needs a respected commission of inquiry of its own, to probe precisely the charges leveled by the Goldstone Mission. Israel owes its own citizens no less. It needs this, first and foremost, for the sake of its own future, and for the moral standards that it has explicitly set for itself. In fact, this is what Justice Goldstone is recommending that Israel do, specifically to avoid a summons to the Hague”. This commentary can be read in full here.

Ma’an News Agency reported that “Palestinian Minister of Justice Ali Al-Khashan presented documents to the attorney general of the International Criminal Court on Friday, which outlined allegations of Israeli war crimes committed prior to the war on Gaza”. Al-Kashan also followed up on the possibility of Palestine adhering to the Rome Statue and gaining membership on the International Criminal Court. This Ma’an report is posted here.

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