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Friday, October 16, 2009

UNHR Chief Endorses Goldstone Gaza Report, Despite Israeli Efforts

16/10/2009 | Almanar

The UN human rights chief has endorsed the Goldstone report on Israel's war on Gaza, and called for "impartial, independent, prompt and effective investigations" into the “war crimes.”

Navi Pillay said Israeli and Palestinian leaders should investigate the reported allegations to help “rebuild trust and support peace in the region.”
She said all sides of the Middle East conflict were continuing to violate international human rights and humanitarian law, and raised concern that transgressors remain unpunished. "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 Goldstone report on Thursday.

The Geneva debate comes a day after the UN Security Council discussed the report, during which the Palestinian Authority demanded that Israel be punished for war crimes. In the report released last month, investigators led by South African jurist Richard Goldstone accused both Israel and the Palestinian group Hamas of war crimes in Gaza, but were overall more critical of Israel than Hamas.

The Palestinian Authority had initially agreed to defer a vote on the UN-sanctioned report but later backtracked under heavy criticism. The Palestinians in a draft resolution circulated for the human rights council debate, called on Ban Ki-moon, the UN secretary general, to monitor whether Israel and Hamas conduct credible investigations. It "strongly condemns all policies and measures taken by Israel, the occupying power, including those limiting access of Palestinians to their properties and holy sites" and calls on Israel to stop digging and excavation work around the Al-Aqsa mosque as well as other Islamic and Christian religious sites.

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".
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”.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who spent much of the past few days on the matter, failed to convince “his colleagues”, mostly in Europe, to oppose the adoption of the report. Netanyahu held a series of meetings to assess the Goldstone Report and also had intensive telephone conversations with senior figures in Europe in an effort to block the report. He said on Thursday that his country would not be able to take "risks for peace" if it could not defend itself from attacks on its “citizens”. "It's important for the principle countries, outside of this automatic majority of the United Nations, to say we are not taking part in this."We know we should act otherwise," he said.

Aharon Leshno Yaar, Israel's ambassador to the United Nations, said the adoption by the council of the proposed resolution would be a "reward for terror and will send a clear message to terrorists everywhere". "They will clearly hear that this new form of warfare, as used by Hamas in Gaza, will offer immunity as countries will be prevented from waging effective responses."This strategy will be repeated in other places, against other countries fighting terror." 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.

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