Here (via Palestinian Pundit) is an Al-Jazeera International interview with Professor Ri
chard Falk, who speaks from his home in Santa Barbara, California, giving an early reaction (on 5 May) to UN Secretary-Genera BAN Ki-Moonl’s presentation of his Board of Inquiry Report on deaths, injuries, and damage to UN installations in Gaza during the IDF’s Operation Cast Lead.
Falk is the UN Human Rights Council’s Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, and — in what is regarded by many as a complete fiasco — he was detained overnight in bad conditions then deported after trying to enter Israel through the Ben Gurion International Airport on 15 December (just three days before the start of Operation Cast Lead). See our earlier postings here and here.
Here is my transcript of most of Falk’s remarks in his recent interview with Al-Jazeera:
(1) “I am somewhat disappointed by the SG’s tone in response to this very serious and scrupulously-argued report that’s based on a very careful analysis of the available evidence. It is true that that the UN Human Rights Council has designated an investigatory team headed by Justice Richard Goldstone that is planning to examine the human rights violations and international humanitarian law issues that occurred during the Gaza attacks. So, he [UNSG BAN Ki-Moon] might have better argued that there was already underway a parallel UN initiative and therefore there wasn’t a need for a further inquiry under the auspices of the SG’s office” …
(2) “I would say, serious as the attacks on these UN facilities are, they’re a relatively minor part of the onslaught on Gaza as a whole, and the real center of inquiry should be the violations of international humanitarian law in relation to the civilian population and the civilian infrastructure of Gaza, where I think one would find in the course of an impartial investigation that very serious crimes of war had been committed and there should be some procedure for accountability that follows from such an investigation”.
(3) “One interpretation of his [UNSG BAN Ki-Moon’s] response is to say that the UN through the HRC has already authorized such a full-scale investigation. And having been in touch with the Goldstone group, I know their intention is to carry out such an investigation. So in one way Ban Ki-Moon’s response was somewhat misleading, because the UN is already committed — subject to Israel’s cooperation — to conduct just that sort of full-scale investigation, which is long-overdue. It should have been carried out by now, because the longer you wait, the harder it is to gather convincing evidence”.
(4) “Israel has not yet made clear what non-cooperation means. If it is carried to the extreme that it was in my case — that is, expelling the investigators if they try to enter — then it will pose a very serious obstacle to a real investigation. But if it merely means that they won’t make the higher officials of the Israeli government available for interviews and won’t share the evidence that they have under their disposal, then it’s a limitation but it wouldn’t be a fatal obstacle to carrying out a meaniful investigation. But what is important is that this investigation go forward. There are other groups that have attempted and are attempting to report more fully on the commission of war crimes during the Gaza attacks,including a very high-profile delegation lead by John Duguard who was my predecessor as Special Rapporteur, and it was done under the auspices of the Arab League and is expected to issue a report in the coming weeks”.
UPDATE: Meanwhile, on Friday (8 May) the team of international human rights experts examining alleged violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law committed in the context of the December-January Israeli military operation in the Gaza Strip ended a week of closed-door preparatory meetings in Geneva on Friday. According to remarks made by the spokesperson for the UN Secretary-General BAN Ki-Moon at the regular noon briefing at UNHQ/NY, the team, headed by former UN war crimes prosecutor Richard Goldstone, held initial meetings with a broad cross-section of stakeholders, including representatives of Member States, the UN, and non-governmental organizations. The Mission also established terms of reference and a three-month programme of work. That means their report will not be out before the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) final report on the conduct of Operation Cast Lead, which is expected to be released in June.
Photo of Justice Richard Goldstone speaking at a press conference at the UN Office in Geneva
The Human Rights Council-appointed team stated that they plan to conduct visits to affected areas of southern Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including Gaza. and they indicated that they have requested Israel’s cooperation in this regard. The UN spokesperson said that “According to Justice Goldstone, the Mission will focus its investigation not on political considerations, but on an objective and impartial analysis of compliance of the parties to the conflict with their obligations under international human rights and humanitarian law — especially their responsibility to ensure the protection of civilians and non-combatants”.