For Immediate Release
UN: US Block on Goldstone Report Must Not Defer Justice
Push Israel and Hamas to Investigate War Crimes
GENEVA - The decision at the UN Human Rights Council to defer a vote on the
Goldstone Gaza report until March 2010 obliges the United States and
other governments blocking action at the council to press Israel and
Hamas to commence credible investigations, Human Rights Watch said
today. The fact-finding mission found evidence of violations of the
laws of war during the Gaza conflict that should trigger credible
investigations of the conduct of both sides.
Given its responsibility for forcing a deferral of the vote and its
criticism of the mission led by Justice Richard Goldstone, the United
States bears a special responsibility to ensure that Israel commences
investigations that are credible, impartial and meet international
standards (see the Human Rights Watch fact sheet, “Why no justice for Gaza?”).
“The United States won Israel a reprieve on the Goldstone report,
so now it must ensure that Israel genuinely investigates allegations of
abuse,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights
Watch. “If this doesn’t happen by March, then the US should endorse the
Goldstone report’s call for international mechanisms of accountability.”
The US government called the Goldstone report “deeply flawed,”
although it said it took the allegations seriously. Speaking to the
Human Rights Council on September 29, 2009, US Assistant Secretary of
State Michael Posner said the United States was “confident that Israel,
as a democracy with a well-established commitment to the rule of law,
has the institutions and ability to carry out robust investigations
into these allegations.”
To date, however, Israel’s record of conducting investigations
into the conduct of its military forces has been extremely poor. The
Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem documented 773 cases where
Israeli forces killed civilians not involved in hostilities during the
December-January conflict in Gaza, but found that Israel has to date
convicted only one soldier of a crime – for stealing a credit card.
Human Rights Watch has also repeatedly criticized Hamas for failing to
undertake serious investigations into alleged laws-of-war violations by
Hamas and other Palestinian armed groups.
European Union member states, which failed to express support for a
resolution that would have endorsed the Goldstone report in full,
should also demand that Israel undertake serious investigations, Human
Rights Watch said.
“The failure of the US and European states to endorse the Goldstone
report sent a terrible message that serious laws-of-war violations by
allied states would be tolerated,” Whitson said.
The 575-page report
of the UN Fact-Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict concluded that both
Israel and Hamas were responsible for serious violations of
international human rights and humanitarian law, including war crimes
and possible crimes against humanity. The report recommended that the
Israeli government and Hamas authorities conduct independent, impartial
investigations within six months. Should the UN Security Council find
that they failed to do so, the report urged that it to refer the matter
to the International Criminal Court.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stated that endorsing the
Goldstone report would deal a “fatal blow to the peace process.”
“Prime Minister Netanyahu’s rejection of the Goldstone report
because it would derail the peace process sadly impugns the importance
of justice in reaching peace,” said Whitson. “Persistent impunity, not
justice, is the greater threat to peace.”
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