UN endorses Israel-Palestinian war crimes report

Friday, November 6, 2009

After two days of debate, the United Nations General Assembly has overwhelmingly endorsed a report from the Human Rights Council calling for domestic investigations into alleged war crimes committed by both Israel's military and Palestinian armed forces during the Gaza conflict that began last December.

The controversial report concluded that Israel used disproportionate force in the war, deliberately targeted Gaza civilians, used them as human shields, and destroyed civilian infrastructure. One of the 31 chapters of the report discussed crimes by Hamas for firing rockets into Israeli towns.

The remains of a mosque and an orphanage after being shelled by Israeli forces

The final vote was 114 in favor, 18 against and 44 abstentions. Strong support came from the Arab and non-aligned countries, many of whom co-sponsored the draft resolution.

Palestinian Ambassador Riyad Mansour welcomed the vote, saying the implementation of Justice Richard Goldstone's report will now begin in stages.

Ali Treki, the General Assembly president, called the vote "an important declaration against impunity. It is a call for justice and accountability". Without justice, there can be no progress towards peace. A human being should be treated as a human being, regardless of his or her religion, race or nationality," he said.

"In three months we will come back to General Assembly to consider the report of the Secretary-General for further action, including in all parts of the United Nations, including in the Security Council," said Riyad Mansour, a Palestinian-American diplomat.

The non-binding resolution requests the secretary-general report to the General Assembly within three months on the implementation of the resolution, with a view to considering further action, if necessary.

Israel's deputy ambassador to the UN, Daniel Cameron said that the resolution, "endorses and legitimizes a deeply flawed, one-sided and prejudiced report of the discredited Human Rights Council and its politicised work that bends both fact and law".

"In three months we will come back to General Assembly to consider the report of the Secretary-General for further action,

—Riyad Mansour, Palestinian-American diplomat

Of the countries abstaining or voting no, several said that although they agreed with the essence of the resolution - that the parties should conduct their own independent, credible investigations into alleged violations as called for in the Goldstone report - they could not vote in favor because they had difficulty with two specific items in the resolution.

Another point of some contention is that the resolution leaves the door open for future action in the UN Security Council. The Palestinians have made clear they plan to pursue that option, but most of the council's five permanent members opposed the idea, saying the right forum for the Goldstone report is in the Human Rights Council in Geneva, where it started.

The United States was the only permanent Security Council member to vote against the resolution. Deputy Ambassador Alejandro Wolff said that although it opposed the resolution, the US strongly supported accountability for human rights and humanitarian law violations relating to the Gaza conflict.

"We believe that the Goldstone report is deeply flawed-including its unbalanced focus on Israel, its sweeping conclusions of law, the excessively negative inferences it draws about Israel's intentions and actions, its failure to deal adequately with the asymmetrical nature of the Gaza conflict, its failure to assign appropriate responsibility to Hamas for its decision to base itself and its operations in heavily civilian-populated urban areas, and its many overreaching recommendations," said Alejandro Wolff.

What is your opinion on the report? Do you agree with it?

Israel, which did not cooperate with the Goldstone commission, voted against the resolution, saying that it legitimised a "deeply flawed, one-sided" report, and disregarded Israel's right to defend its citizens.

"The results of the vote and the large number of member states who voted against or abstained, demonstrate clearly that the resolution does not have the support of the 'moral majority' of UN members," read a statement on the website of Israel's ministry of foreign affairs. "Israel rejects the resolution of the UN General Assembly, which is completely detached from realities on the ground."

During the three-week-long Israeli military incursion into the Gaza Strip, at least 1,400 Palestinians died according to Palestinians and human rights groups, although Israel says 1,166, and 13 Israelis also died. The Goldstone Commission criticized both sides for violations of international humanitarian law.