- Human RightsPalestine
- October 17, 2009
- 60 minutes read
UN backs Gaza war crimes report
The UN human rights council has endorsed the Goldstone report on Israel’s war on Gaza, which accuses the military of using disproportionate force as well as laying charges of war crimes on Israeli occupation forces and Hamas.
The council’s resolution adopting the report was passed in Geneva by 25 votes to six with 11 countries abstaining and five declining to vote.
The inquiry, lead by Justice Richard Goldstone, calls on Ban Ki-moon, the UN secretary-general, to monitor whether Israel and Hamas conduct credible investigations into the conflict which took place last winter.
Should the two sides fail to do so, it calls on the UN Security Council to refer the allegations to the International Criminal Court.
The Palestinian Authority had initially agreed to defer a vote on the UN-sanctioned report, but later backtracked under domestic criticism.
The United States and Israel were among those countries which voted against the resolution.
Mike Hanna, Al Jazeera’s correspondent in Geneva, said the vote was a "very strong victory" for the supporters of the resolution, but that the large number of abstentions was also "very significant".
Mousa Abu Marzook, the deputy chairman of the Hamas political bureau in Damascus, Syria, told Al Jazeera: "We thank our people, all those who support to submit again this report to the human rights committee and all the countries who voted for the report.
"I think if the Palestinian Authority didn’t withdraw this report it will be more efficient and the result will be stronger than the resolution.
"Right now, there is no talking with Fatah, but during the dialogue between Fatah and Hamas in Egypt, within a few weeks, we are going to talk about reconciliation and, of course, this kind of subject we are going to talk about."
In addition to endorsing the report, the resolution "strongly condemns all policies and measures taken by Israel, the occupying power, including those limiting access of Palestinians to their properties and holy sites".
It also calls on Israel to stop digging and excavation work around the al-Aqsa mosque in occupied East Jerusalem as well as other Islamic and Christian religious sites.
Israel rejected the charges saying the resolution – drafted by the Palestinians with Egypt, Nigeria, Pakistan and Tunisia, on behalf of non-aligned, African, Islamic and Arab nations – threatened peace efforts.
A statement from the Israeli foreign ministry said: "The adoption of this resolution by the UNHRC impairs both the effort to protect human rights in accordance with international law and the effort to promote peace in Middle East".
Sherine Tadros, Al Jazeera’s correspondent in Jerusalem, said: "Israeli officials we spoke to said that in their opinion most of those states that voted in favour of the resolution did so, not out of conviction, but really for their own domestic reasons – to cover up their own human rights violations.
"Whereas democratic states didn’t favour the resolution, either they didn’t vote or they abstained or they voted no.
"This has really been Israel’s line of defence from the beginning of this process – to try to discredit the Goldstone mission and the resolution by discrediting the human rights council itself.
"By saying that its members have always been overwhelmingly biased against Israel and really trying to land Israel in hot water whatever motion was in front of them," she said.
The Goldstone report recommended that its conclusions be sent on to the International Criminal Court (ICC) prosecutor in The Hague if Israel and Hamas do not hold their own credible investigations into allegations of war crimes within six months.
The report accused Israel of war crimes and crimes against humanity.
It also accused the Hamas movement, which has de facto control of Gaza, of war crime violations, but reserved most of its criticism for Israel.
Amr Hamzawy, a political scientist, told Al Jazeera: "The [endorsement] is a very positive step and indeed a victory for Palestinian-Arab diplomacy after the misery of the last two weeks.
"It definitely eats away at Israel’s moral legitimacy which existed to an extent before the Lebanon and Gaza war.
"Israel is under extreme legal pressure internationally and morally, and they really have to account for what [happened] in Gaza during the war," he said.
On Thursday, Navi Pillay, the UN human rights chief, endorsed the report, calling for "impartial, independent, prompt and effective investigations" into the alleged war crimes.
Pillay said: "A culture of impunity continues to prevail in the occupied territories and in Israel," Pillay said during the UN Human Rights Council’s special debate session on the report on Thursday.
In her speech, Pillay cited concern about the restrictions on Palestinians wishing to enter al-Aqsa and expressed "dismay" about the Israeli blockade of Gaza that she said "severely undermines the rights and welfare of the population there".
On Thursday, Goldstone, a former South African judge, criticised the resolution, saying: "I hope that the council can modify the text."
About 1,400 Palestinians – the majority of them civilians – and 13 Israelis were killed during Israel’s three-week war on Gaza, which had the stated aim of stopping rocket attacks by Palestinian fighters from the coastal territory.
The public hearings are webcast by the United Nations and can be viewed by visiting thewebcast archive.