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Accounting for Gaza

New York – This week the United Nations Human Rights Council will debate the report of the fact-finding mission led by Judge Richard Goldstone on human rights violations in the Gaza conflict. Let us hope  it is a full and fair examination based on the report’s findings and recommendations.

Goldstone and his team concluded that both Israel and Hamas, the Palestinian group controlling Gaza, committed war crimes and possibly crimes against humanity during the period of the conflict which the investigation addressed. The report calls for credible investigations of  alleged rights violations  and recommends that the UN Security Council require both sides to report back within six months on the results, including any prosecutions they will carry out in connection with the violations identified. Failure to do so, in the view of Goldstone’s commission, should result in the Security Council referring the matter to the prosecutor for the International Criminal Court in The Hague.

Unfortunately, rather than debating Goldstone’s detailed findings and the merits of his recommendations on ways to move forward, there are indications that governments may focus instead on the process leading up to the investigation and seek to limit full discussion of the report. As someone involved in that process, I feel it is important to put my views on record, as comments I made previously are now being used as part of the effort to undermine  Judge Goldstone and his important work.

I refused to accept the invitation from the president of the Human Rights Council at the time, Ambassador Martin Uhomoibhi of Nigeria, to lead the investigation following the Human Rights Council’s January 12, 2009 resolution. As a former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, I felt strongly that the Council’s resolution was one-sided and did not permit a balanced approach to determining the situation on the ground. It referred only to “the grave violations of human rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, particularly due to the recent Israeli military attacks,” and called for a mission to investigate “all violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law by the occupying power, Israel, against the Palestinian people.”