The Palestinian Application for Membership in the United Nations as submitted

Here is the original package of documents containing the Application of Palestine for Membership in the United Nations, as submitted at UNHQ/NY on 22 September 2011 by Mahmoud Abbas in his capacity as President of the State of Palestine (by virtue of being Chairman of the Executive Committee of the PLO (Palestine Liberation Organization):

With cover letter, on 23 September 2011, from the elected 2011 President of the UNGA, Nassir Abdelaziz Al-Nasser of Qatar

Professor Richard Falk on UN Board of Inquiry report and on the need for further investigation

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.

Justice Richard Goldstone speaking at the UN Office in Geneva - AP file

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”.

SG BAN returns from Algiers with torn UN flag

UN SG BAN Ki-Moon returned from a visit to the site of the 11 car bombing in Algiers, in which 17 UN staff members died, with the UN Flag that was torn in the force of the blast:

UN Photo by Mark Garten

BAN told UN staff in NY upon his return: “At the end of my visit to Algiers, the Resident Coordinator presented me with the UN flag that flew outside the UN House at the time of the attack. I have brought it back with me today and I am going to display it wherever it may be appropriate so that we will always remember our fallen colleagues, and to make us resolve our commitment to fight against terrorism.  Torn and bruised, but still proud and unbowed, this flag symbolizes the sacrifice of our colleagues, and our determination to persevere”.

It was a rather remarkable performance. BAN’s predecessor, UNSG Kofi Annan, did not go to Iraq after the 2003 bombing of UN HQ in Baghdad whose aftermath was covered live on major TV networks, in which Salim Lone (who had been in the building at the time of the blast) had a hard time hiding his knowledge of the news that the then-head of the UN mission in Iraq, Brazilian “Golden Boy” Sergio Vieira de Mello had died of his injuries — several floors below where he had been sitting at the time of the blast — after three hours of being pinned down in the rubble.

UN Photo by Eskinder Debebe

BAN told the staff in NY: “[D]uring my visit to Algiers, I was shocked and overwhelmed by what I saw there.  The bomb explosion which ripped through the UN compound in Algiers last Tuesday had a devastating impact.  One part of the UNDP building is completely flattened.  Rubble is strewn far and wide. Scattered on the ground are the items of our every day life — files, computers, highlighters.  I was so humbled looking at all those things which were used by our colleagues at the time of the explosion.  It is clear that at the UN House in Algiers, life stopped at 9:30am on December 11th 2007 …  I was humbled by the courage and dignity of these colleagues and families of the victims. I met the father of a brave Algerian security guard who was killed when he literally threw himself at the oncoming suicide truck. I met a courageous young UNFPA staffer who, after being thrown to the ground by the impact of the blast, spent hours upon hours digging through the rubble searching for survivors, at great risk even to himself”…

BAN said that “In the immediate aftermath of this tragedy, our first duty is to ensure that the UN family takes care of its own. A large number of the national staff members who perished in the bombing were the sole bread winners in their family. It is vital that we extend to them some form of solidarity payment to tide them over until the insurance pays out.  Agencies have proposed to make this kind of payment to help those affected cope with initial hardship, not as an attempt as compensation for those who sacrificed their lives. I have asked the Resident Coordinator in Algiers to distribute the payment of solidarity to families of the fallen and to those injured”.

BAN also said: “I will ask Governments to act on their obligations under General Assembly resolution 59/276, which spells out that the primary responsibility for ensuring the safety and security of United Nations staff and premises rests with the host country. And I will make a number of specific suggestions to all Governments hosting a UN presence on ways to improve security and safety measures – ranging from locations to communications.  We will also do all in our power to put into place communications systems in duty stations that function adequately when an emergency occurs. The UN family in Algiers faced severe logistical problems in communicating over the past week, and that made their terrible ordeal even worse. We must and will remedy this, in duty stations around the world.  We also face a wider communications challenge. We must do even better in explaining to the public and the media the role of the United Nations, wherever we operate — why we are there, what we do, what we stand for and what we don’t. We must make clear we are not there to represent the interests of any one group of nations over another. We must make clear that we are there to clear mines, build schools, run clinics, advance the rule of law, help protect the environment and help protect human rights – in short, to build better lives for the men, women and children we exist to serve”.
But, the body language of the UN Staff members listening to SG BAN in the lobby of the UN HQ building in New York says a lot — look at all those crossed arms, indicating resistance to what they are hearing…

In Algiers, SG BAN promised to put a better system of emergency communication in place, and to provide adequate security to UN Staff members.

In Algiers, BAN’s speech was emotional: “Since Tuesday last week, you have been on my mind every hour of every day. I very much regret I was not able to reach you until now. Few of us can imagine the pain you are grappling with. You work here with no other mission than to help the people of Algeria create a better future. One of your injured colleagues, an Algerian national, put it so well: ‘When you love your country, you build it, you don’t destroy it’. I owe every one of you a debt of gratitude for your dedication and professionalism. And I stand with the entire people of Algeria in the face of the scourge of terrorism. Those who target innocent civilians in this way commit an unspeakable crime. Terrorism hurts all nations — large and small, rich and poor. It takes its toll on human beings of every age and income, culture and religion. Less than half an hour ago, I visited the site of the bombing, and I cannot tell you how shocked I was, how saddened and distressed I was by this terrible event. What I saw before me was awful, and now that I see before me the families of the victims, I have no words to say how profoundly I feel about what has happened. I see these children and I have no words to express my emotions. But we will not be intimidated, we will not be discouraged. Today, I promise you that I will spare no effort in ensuring that the United Nations provides adequate security for its staff, wherever you serve.I promise that we will do all in our power to put into place a communications system that is adequate when an emergency occurs. I know the UN family in Algiers faced severe logistical problems in communicating over the past week, and that made your terrible ordeal even worse. We must and will remedy this, here and in duty stations around the world. Staff must be able to access basic information about their situation and that of their colleagues ... We will complete the work that you and your fallen colleagues have begun. We will not be deterred. We will go on doing whatever we can to help build a better future for the people of Algeria. Only by carrying on with that mission can we begin to do justice to the memory of the friends we have lost. I cannot continue with my speech, I am too emotional, but my heart is with you. I am with you, with your families, with your children….”