UN endorses Gaza war crimes report

The United Nations General Assembly has voted in favour of resolution endorsing a UN-sponsored report into war crimes committed during Israel’s war on Gaza.

The Goldstone report, which accuses both Israel and Hamas of war crimes, was endorsed by the assembly on Thursday by a margin of 114 to 18, after two days of debate.

Forty-four member-nations abstained from voting.

The report, which was compiled by a panel led by Richard Goldstone, a South African judge, had already been endorsed by the UN Human Rights Council, which sponsored the fact-finding commission.

The report calls on both Israel and the Palestinians to investigate within three months accusations of human-rights violations during the 22-day conflict in December and January.

Most of the criticism in the Goldstone report was directed towards Israel’s conduct during the offensive, in which human rights organisations say about 1,400 Palestinians – many of them women and children – were killed.

Thirteen Israelis, including three civilians, were killed over the course of the war.

The report concluded that Israel used disproportionate force in the war, deliberately targeting Gaza civilians, using them as human shields, and destroying civilian infrastructure.

Offensive conduct

Apart from Israel and the United States, a number of European countries including Italy, the Netherlands, Poland and the Czech Republic, voted against the resolution.

Britain and France were among EU member nations who abstained.

 

In depth

Video: Interview with Richard Goldstone
Timeline: Gaza War
Analysis: War crimes in Gaza?
Goldstone’s full report to the UN rights council
Key points of the Goldstone report
UN inquiry finds Gaza war crimes
‘Half of Gaza war dead civilians’
PLO: History of a Revolution
‘Israel has to be accountable’

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Most developing countries voted in favour of endorsing the report.

Riyad Mansour, the Palestinian UN observer called it “an important night in the history of the General Assembly and the history of fighting against impunity and seeking accountability.”

Earlier, speaking ahead of the final UN vote, he said Goldstone report had concluded that the Israeli military onslaught “was planned in all of its phases as a deliberately disproportionate and systematic attack aimed at punishing, humiliating and terrorising the Palestinian civilian population”.

But Daniel Carmon, Israel’s deputy ambassador to the UN, told the assembly that the resolution “endorses and legitimises a deeply flawed, one-sided and prejudiced report of the discredited Human Rights Council and its politicised work that bends both fact and law”.

Alejandro Wolff, the US deputy ambasssador to the UN, also accused the the resolution of being flawed, saying that it failed to name Hamas, the Palestinian group that has de facto control of Gaza.

The non-binding resolution passed on Thursday by the General Assembly asks Ban Ki-moon, the UN secretary-general, to pass the report to the UN Security Council.

However, diplomats have said that the five permanent members of the 15-member Security Council have signalled that they are opposed to council involvement – meaning that it is unlikely that the 15-nation body would take action.

The debate at the General Assembly, which began on Wednesday, was called for by the Arab UN group, with the backing of the 118-member Non-Aligned Movement (NAM).

Al Jazeera’s Kristen Saloomey, reporting from the UN in New York ahead of Thursday’s vote, said the debate represented a push to keep the Goldstone report alive.

“The resolution endorses the report and also attempts to force it upon the Security Council, by getting the secretary-general involved,” she said

US House vote

On Tuesday the US House of Representatives dismissed the Goldstone report as being “irredeemably biased” against Israel.

The house voted in favour of a non-binding resolution calling on Barack Obama, the US president, to maintain his opposition to the report.

Richard Goldstone himself last week sent a letter to the US House of Representatives saying that the text of the US resolution had “factual inaccuracies and instances where information and statements are taken grossly out of context”.

He offered several rejections and clarifications of the ideas expressed in the resolution.

In response to Goldstone’s criticism, three parts of the resolution were amended on Tuesday to clarify that Goldstone had sought an expansion to the commission’s mandate so that his team could investigate claims that Hamas had violated international law during the Gaza war.

The report called for cases to be referred to the ICC in The Hague if Israel and Hamas do not investigate the war crimes allegations against them within six months.

Hamas has agreed to hold such an investigation, but Israel has not.

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