Archive for Richard Goldstone

UN body debates Gaza war report

Posted in Gaza, Gaza war crimes investigation, Hamas, International community, Israeli politics, Operation Cast Lead, Peace process, Pictures, USA foreign policy, War crimes with tags , , , , , , , , , on 15/10/2009 by 3071km

Date published: 15th October 2009

Source: BBC News

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Navi Pillay in Geneva, 15 Oct

Pillay says punishing war criminals is vital for building peace

Members of the UN Human Rights Council are debating whether to endorse a report into the Israeli offensive in Gaza last winter.

The report by veteran South African judge Richard Goldstone accuses both Israel and Hamas of war crimes.

Israel rejects the Goldstone report as biased. Its UN envoy says endorsing it would be a setback for peace hopes.

The UN human rights chief has backed the report and called on both sides to investigate the alleged crimes.

“A culture of impunity continues to prevail in the occupied territories and in Israel,” Navi Pillay, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, said at the opening of the special meeting of the UN Human Rights Council.

She called for “impartial, independent, prompt and effective investigations into reported violations of human rights and humanitarian law.”

‘Setback for peace’

Israel has already come under pressure from its allies – including the US, UK and France – to investigate the UN allegations.

But Israel’s ambassador to the UN in Geneva, Aharon Leshno Yaar, said the resolution threatened to “set back hopes for peace”.

The text of the draft resolution says UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon should monitor Israeli and Palestinian compliance with the report.

It also contains a condemnation of Israel’s policies in East Jerusalem, another issue likely to divide the Council.

A vote is expected on Friday.

At its first debate two weeks ago, the Council decided to delay its response for six months.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas at first agreed to this under pressure from the US aimed at getting the Middle East peace process back on track.

But after much public criticism at home, he demanded that the debate be reopened.

Report findings

The Goldstone report accuses Israel of using disproportionate force and deliberately harming civilians during the 22-day conflict which began on 27 December 2008.

Palestinian Hamas militants are accused of indiscriminate rocket fire at Israeli civilians.

The report urges the Security Council to refer allegations to the International Criminal Court if either side fails to investigate suspects within six months.

Israel has rejected the evidence, saying it has already investigated its troops’ conduct, clearing most of the subjects of wrongdoing. Hamas has also denied committing war crimes.

Israeli military action destroyed thousands of homes, hundreds of factories and 80 official buildings in Gaza.

Palestinians and human rights groups say more than 1,400 people were killed in the violence between 27 December 2008 and 16 January 2009, more than half of them civilians.

Israel puts the number of deaths at 1,166 – fewer than 300 of them civilians. Three Israeli civilians and 10 Israeli soldiers were also killed.

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Abbas seen as a traitor: “not backing the UN war report is a ‘scandal'”

Posted in Fatah, Gaza war crimes investigation, Hamas, International community, Palestine, Peace process, Pictures, USA foreign policy, War crimes with tags , , , , , , , on 12/10/2009 by 3071km

Date published: Monday 12th October 2009

Source: Al Jazeera English

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Palestinian unity hopes dim

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A reconciliation agreement between Fatah and Hamas, the rival Palestinian parties, has been delayed, following a bitter dispute over the Palestinian decision not to back a UN report on alleged Israeli war crimes.

The deal was to be signed on October 25, clearing the way for Hamas and Fatah to co-operate in rebuilding war-damaged Gaza by preparing for Palestinian elections in the first half of 2010.

Speaking of his disappointment to Al Jazeera on Monday, Mustafa Barghouthi – an independent member of the Palestinian parliament – said he believed Fatah and Hamas had turned a UN war-crimes report into a party-political issue, rather than into an honest attempt to seek justice.

The report, drawn up by a team of experts led by Richard Goldstone, a former South African judge, accuses Israel of using disproportionate force and failing to protect civilians during its bombardment of Gaza at the end of 2008.

Palestinian party politics

Barghouti said: “What is most unfortunate is that the Goldstone report should have been a unifying issue for all Palestinians … to hold Israel accountable for its war crimes.

“What we see is that both Fatah and Hamas are making this into a party-political issue. This should stop.”

The two sides have been divided since Hamas, which commanded a majority in parliament, seized control of the Gaza Strip in June 2007.Following the takeover, there have been rival Palestinian governments in Gaza and the West Bank.

With mediation from Egypt, the parties have been trying to broker a deal to reconcile and establish a power-sharing agreement.

But Hamas said on its website on Sunday that it was postponing the agreement because of a much-criticised decision by the Palestinian Authority (PA), led by President Mahmoud Abbas, to delay action on the Goldstone report.

‘Crime and scandal’

Seven Palestinian groups joined Hamas leaders based in Damascus, Syria, on Sunday in issuing a statement of support for the postponement of the reconciliation deal.

They called Abbas’s decision to freeze action on the UN report a “crime and scandal”.

The groups emphasised the importance of reconciliation but said Abbas’s actions should not go unpunished.

In a televised speech from the conference in Damascus, Khaled Meshal, the Hamas leader, spelled out his party’s position.”When Goldstone investigated the criminal aggression by Israel against Gaza, this was an opportunity to indict Israel,” he said.

“But this group of Palestinian leaders [Fatah leadership] withdrew the report. This is the Goldstone scandal. A courageous leadership is a leadership that is frank with its people.

“Those who are accumulating political mistakes are today continuing their lies. This is not a leadership that deserves to be entrusted with the leadership of the Palestinians.

The Goldstone report recommended that the UN Security Council require both sides to carry out credible investigations into alleged abuses during the conflict – in which 13 Israelis and almost 1,400 Palestinians, including hundreds of civilian women and children, were killed.

Israel has rejected the report’s allegations while the US has called it deeply flawed.

But many Palestinians, and not just Hamas members, were outraged after Abbas withdrew Palestinian support for having the UN Human Rights Council forward the report to the 192-nation General Assembly for possible action.

In reaction, Abbas gave his own speech on Sunday in Ramallah – saying Hamas had its own reasons for not wanting to sign a reconciliation agreement.”This campaign by Hamas is aimed at serving their interests, which is to postpone the signing of the reconciliation agreement,” he said.

“They want to concentrate their rule and their regime in Gaza. They want to ensure the continuity of division in Gaza, that aims at weakening the Palestinian Authority.”

Unity ‘efforts continuing’

Some Palestinian parliamentarians are still hopeful that a reconciliation agreement might be reached by October 25.

Barghouti, the Palestinian politician, said despite the public media attacks, unity efforts are continuing.

“The Egyptians have provided a final copy of the agreement for reconciliation. And hopefully, by the 20th of this month, all parties will sign this agreement in preparation for a ceremony that would declare unity,” he told Al Jazeera.

“Delaying the Goldstone report vote would never have happened if we had had a united Palestinian leadership.

“Given that Israel has arrested large numbers of parliamentary members, the parliament is paralysed and unable to function – so this agreement needs to happen.”

But other Palestinians say the chances of national unity are slim.

Speaking to Al Jazeera on Monday, Azzam Tamimi, author of Hamas: Unwritten Chapters, said saving the reconciliation process while Abbas remains president is almost impossible.

“The overwhelming opinion in the Palestinian street now is that Abbas is a complete traitor. There is no coming back from that,” he said.

“And what makes this worse is the reality that, despite much hope for change with a new US government under President Barack Obama, it seems clear now that it was American pressure that forced Abbas not to back the UN war report.”

Tamimi said Washington’s policy towards the whole Palestine issue “has not changed, despite a new set of faces in the White House”.

Hamas-Fatah deal ‘to be delayed’

Posted in Fatah, Gaza war crimes investigation, Hamas, International community, Operation Cast Lead, Palestine, Pictures, War crimes with tags , , , , , , on 12/10/2009 by 3071km

Date published: Sunday 11th October 2009

Source: Al Jazeera English

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Egypt’s foreign minister has said that a unity deal between Palestinian factions Hamas and Fatah could be delayed until November.

Ahmed Abul Gheit said on Sunday that a senior Hamas delegation had asked Omar Suleiman, Egypt’s intelligence chief, for postponement of the deal scheduled to be signed on October 25.

The request followed heightened tensions between Hamas and Fatah over a UN-sponsored report on war crimes committed during Israel’s offensive on the Gaza Strip last winter.

The report authored by Richard Goldstone heavily criticised Isreal for “terrorising and targeting” civilians between last December and January.

Hamas also came in for criticism in the 575-page report.

About 1,300 Palestinians and 13 Israelis were killed during the conflict.

Hamas, the group which runs the Gaza Strip, has castigated Mahmoud Abbas, leader of Fatah and the president of the Palestinian Authority which rules the occupied West Bank, over the delay in endorsing Goldstone’s report at the UN Human Rights Council.

Endorsement of the report could have facilitated the eventual prosecution of Israeli officials responsible for the atrocities.

Hamas said that the decision “betrayed” the Palestinian victims of the offensive.

The long-delayed Palestinian deal would allow for co-operation in reconstruction of the Gaza Strip that was heavily bombarded in the offensive and prepare for elections in the first six months of 2010.

Tensions between Hamas and Fatah have been high since the former won parliamentary polls in January 2006 and then expelled pro-Fatah forces from Gaza in June 2007.

Israel says Gaza war was ‘necessary’ and ‘proportionate’

Posted in Gaza war crimes investigation, Hamas, Israel, Operation Cast Lead, War crimes with tags , , on 01/08/2009 by 3071km

Date published: 31st July 2009

Source: BBC News

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An Israeli government report has said that the Israeli military campaign in Gaza earlier this year was “necessary and proportionate”.

The war and its conduct have been widely criticised, with Israel and Hamas accused of war crimes.

Palestinian sources say about 1,400 Gazans died in the conflict. Thirteen Israeli died.

The report said 100 inquiries had been launched into the conduct of soldiers and 14 criminal investigations opened.

According to the United Nations, the Israeli military campaign left more than 50,000 homes, 800 industrial properties and 200 schools damaged or destroyed, as well as 39 mosques and two churches.

The UN Human Rights Council has appointed former South African judge Richard Goldstone to investigate whether war crimes were committed during the conflict.

Israel has declined to co-operate, accusing the UN Human Rights Council of bias against it.

Allegations persist against the Israeli military about killings of unarmed civilians, the use of civilians as human shields and indiscriminate destruction of property.

Israeli officials insist troops went to great lengths to protect civilians, that Hamas endangered non-combatants by firing from civilian areas and that homes and buildings were destroyed only when there was a specific military need to do so.

The conflict lasted for 22 days, ending on 18 January.

‘Incessant’ rockets

“Israel had both a right and an obligation to take military action against Hamas in Gaza to stop Hamas’ almost incessant rocket and mortar attacks,” the report, issued on Thursday, said.

It says 12,000 rockets and mortars were fired at Israel between 2000 and 2008 – nearly 3,000 in 2008 alone.

The report explains that damage caused to UN facilities by Israeli strikes should be blamed on Hamas, which Israel says set up rocket launchers nearby.

Allegations that dozens of Palestinian civilians were killed or wounded by white phosphorus shells are dismissed.

The report detailed steps aimed at limiting civilian casualties. It says 2.5 million leaflets were dropped and 165,000 phone calls made warning civilians to leave areas that would be targeted.

It also says that humanitarian aid was allowed into Gaza throughout the conflict.

Palestinians have said it was not safe to leave their homes to try to escape fighting and shelling, that they were unable to access the humanitarian aid.

Israel says investigating 100 Gaza war complaints

Posted in Gaza war crimes investigation, Hamas, IDF, Operation Cast Lead, War crimes with tags , , , , , on 30/07/2009 by 3071km

Date published: 30th July 2009

Source: Reuters

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JERUSALEM, July 30 (Reuters) – Israel said Thursday it was investigating 100 complaints of misconduct by its forces in a Gaza offensive this year and admitted its troops had fired white phosphorous munitions but not in violation of international law.
A 163-page government statement issued in anticipation of a United Nations war crimes investigation headed for completion next month defended the 22-day as a “necessary and proportionate” response to Hamas rocket fire at Israel.
Some 1,400 Palestinians, many of them civilians, and 13 Israelis were killed in the Dec. 27-Jan. 18 operation and Israel has repeatedly rebuffed war crimes charges by several human rights groups.
In its report published by the Israeli Foreign Ministry, Israel calls the war its response to shootings by Hamas Islamist militants in Gaza of 12,000 rockets over eight years alongside suicide bombings that killed 1,100 in Israel.
It restated Israel’s insistence it complied with international law in the 22-day campaign, adding it was “conducting comprehensive investigations” into 100 pending complaints after inquiries from U.N. and human rights groups.
Thirteen criminal files have also been opened, most involving allegations Israeli soldiers used civilians as human shields or perpetrated property damage, the report added.
Israel previously has said internal investigations by its armed forces had found no evidence of serious misconduct by troops in the Gaza fighting.
Israel also admitted outright for the first time in the report that its army had “used munitions containing white phosphorous” in Gaza, but denied violating international law, saying it had not fired such weapons inside populated areas.
Previously Israel had said it was investigating allegations that it fired weapons with phosphorous, which cause serious burns, without directly denying or confirming it had done so.
Israel has not cooperated with a United Nations probe headed by former chief U.N. war crimes prosecutor Richard Goldstone, accusing the organisation of bias against the Jewish state.
But the investigation due in August seemed a catalyst behind Israel’s report, in addition to charges published this month by 30 Israeli veterans saying they were encouraged to minimise their own casualties rather than avoid civilian deaths in Gaza.
“There are constant efforts to keep this issue on the agenda, and we reached the conclusion we should prepare a complete explanation so there would be a clear Israeli statement as to why we did what we did and how,” an Israeli ministry official said.

AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL: Impunity for war crimes in Gaza and southern Israel a recipe for further civilian suffering

Posted in Everyday life in Gaza, Gaza, Gaza reconstruction, Gaza war crimes investigation, Hamas, IDF, International community, Israel, Israeli occupation, Israeli politics, Non-violent resistance, Operation Cast Lead, Palestine, Siege, USA foreign policy, War crimes with tags , , , , , , , , on 02/07/2009 by 3071km

Date published: 2nd July 2009

Source: Amnesty International

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Israeli forces killed hundreds of unarmed Palestinian civilians and destroyed thousands of homes in Gaza in attacks which breached the laws of war, Amnesty International concluded in a new report published on Thursday. Operation ‘Cast Lead’: 22 days of death and destruction, is the first comprehensive report to be published on the conflict, which took place earlier this year.

“Israel’s failure to properly investigate its forces’ conduct in Gaza, including war crimes, and its continuing refusal to cooperate with the UN international independent fact-finding mission headed by Richard Goldstone, is evidence of its intention to avoid public scrutiny and accountability,” said Donatella Rovera, who headed a field research mission to Gaza and southern Israel during and after the conflict.

“The international community, led by the UN Security Council, must use all its leverage to ensure that Israel cooperates fully with the Goldstone inquiry, which now offers the best means to establish the truth.”

Hamas and other Palestinian armed groups fired hundreds of rockets into southern Israel, killing three Israeli civilians, injuring scores and driving thousands from their homes. “Such unlawful attacks constitute war crimes and are unacceptable,” added Donatella Rovera.

The report, based on evidence gathered by Amnesty International delegates, including a military expert, during field research in January and February, documents Israel’s use of battlefield weapons against a civilian population trapped in Gaza, with no means of escape.

The scale and intensity of the attacks on Gaza were unprecedented. Some 300 children and hundreds of other unarmed civilians who took no part in the conflict were among the 1,400 Palestinians killed by Israeli forces.

Most were killed with high-precision weapons, relying on surveillance drones which have exceptionally good optics, allowing those observing to see their targets in detail. Others were killed with imprecise weapons, including artillery shells carrying white phosphorus – not previously used in Gaza – which should never be used in densely populated areas.

Amnesty International found that the victims of the attacks it investigated were not caught in the crossfire during battles between Palestinian militants and Israeli forces, nor were they shielding militants or other military objects. Many were killed when their homes were bombed while they slept. Others were sitting in their yard or hanging the laundry on the roof. Children were struck while playing in their bedrooms or on the roof, or near their homes. Paramedics and ambulances were repeatedly attacked while attempting to rescue the wounded or recover the dead.

“The deaths of so many children and other civilians cannot be dismissed simply as ‘collateral damage’, as argued by Israel,” said Donatella Rovera. “Many questions remain to be answered about these attacks and about the fact that the strikes continued unabated despite the rising civilian death toll.”

More than 3,000 homes were destroyed and some 20,000 damaged in Israeli attacks which reduced entire neighbourhoods of Gaza to rubble and left an already dire economic situation in ruins. Much of the destruction was wanton and could not be justified on grounds of “military necessity”.

The Israeli army has not responded to Amnesty International’s repeated requests over the past five months for information on specific cases detailed in the report and for meetings to discuss the organization’s findings.

“For its part, Hamas has continued to justify the rocket attacks launched daily by its fighters and by other Palestinian armed groups into towns and villages in southern Israel during the 22-day conflict. Though less lethal, these attacks, using unguided rockets which cannot be directed at specific targets, violated  international humanitarian law and cannot be justified under any circumstance,” said Donatella Rovera.

In addition to locally made Qassam rockets, Palestinian militants often fired longer-range Grad-type rockets smuggled into Gaza via the tunnels on the Egyptian border, which reached deeper into Israel and placed many more Israeli civilians at risk.

“Five months on, neither side has shown any inclination to change its practices and abide by international humanitarian law, raising the prospect that civilians will again bear the brunt if fighting resumes,” said Donatella Rovera.

Under international law, states have a responsibility to exercise universal jurisdiction and start criminal investigations in national courts, wherever there is sufficient evidence of war crimes or other crimes under international law, to arrest and bring to justice alleged perpetrators.

“Those responsible for war crimes and other serious violations must not be allowed to escape accountability and justice,” said Donatella Rovera.

Among other recommendations, the report calls on states to suspend all transfers of military equipment, assistance and munitions to Israel, Hamas and other Palestinian armed groups until there is no longer a substantial risk that such equipment will be used to commit serious violations of international law.

It calls on Israel to commit not to carry out direct, indiscriminate or disproportionate attacks on civilians; or use artillery, mortars and white phosphorus weapons in densely populated areas; and to end its blockade on the Gaza Strip, which is collectively punishing the entire population.

The report urges Hamas to renounce its policy of unlawful rocket attacks against civilian population centres in Israel and to prevent other armed groups from carrying out such attacks.

Gaza ‘war crimes’ hearing under way

Posted in Gaza, Gaza war crimes investigation, Hamas, Israel, Operation Cast Lead, Siege, War crimes, West Bank with tags , , , , , , on 28/06/2009 by 3071km
Date published: 28th June 2009

Source: Al-Jazeera English

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The UN fact-finding mission will hold public hearings in Gaza and Geneva on the 22-day Israeli offensive

A public hearing organised by a UN team investigating alleged war crimes by Israel and Hamas during the Gaza war is under way.

As part of its investigations into the December 2008 – January 2009 Gaza conflict, the UN fact-finding mission will listen to testimony from victims of the conflict for two days in Gaza City and hold a second round of public hearings on July 6 and July 7 in Geneva.

During the Gaza hearing, which began on Sunday and is being screened live for the public and the media, the mission will hear from victims of alleged violations and from experts on the context and impact of the Israeli siege and military operations.

The public hearings, which are a part of the information-gathering work of the fact-finding mission, will enable victims, witnesses and experts from all sides in the conflict to speak directly to the international community.

In Geneva, the mission will hear from victims of alleged violations in Israel and the West Bank, as well as from experts on a variety of military and legal issues.

Geneva has been chosen as the venue of the second round of hearings since the fact-finding mission has so far not received permission to enter Israel to hold the sessions in southern Israel and the West Bank.

‘Hearings limited’

The public hearings were called for by Richard Goldstone, head of the 15-member team and previously a member of the South African constitutional court.He has also investigated war crimes in Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia.

“The purpose of the public hearings in Gaza and Geneva is to show the faces and broadcast the voices of victims – all of the victims,” Goldstone said on Thursday, at the end of a four-day fact-finding trip to Gaza.
Goldstone also added that the public hearings in both Gaza and Geneva will augment the ongoing investigations of the fact-finding mission.

“The hearings are limited in time and scope”, he said.

“The fact that not all important incidents and events are the subject of the public hearings should in no way be interpreted as meaning that the other incidents are of lesser importance or of less concern to the mission”.

The hearings are only one aspect of the mission’s investigative work.

Al Jazeera’s Sherine Tadros, reporting from Gaza, said: “The aim of this mission, according to Goldstone, is to broadcast the voices and to show the faces of the victims.”This is not about compensation or legal recourse. What the victims want is an opportunity to tell the world what happened in the hope that people will remember their story and the killings of their loves ones will not go unnoticed,” she said.

The mission is due to complete a report with its findings in August.

Israeli offensive

Israel launched its 22-day offensive against Gaza’s Hamas rulers and the Gazan people on 27 December.

The operation killed more than 1,400 Palestinians, including more than 900 civilians, among them scores of children, according to Palestinian officials and human rights groups.

It also destroyed thousands of homes and heavily damaged Gaza’s infrastructure.

Gaza’s reconstruction is being hampered by Israel’s blockade of Gaza [EPA]

Israel claims the death toll was lower and most of the dead were Hamas fighters.Thirteen Israelis were also killed during the fighting.

Gaza’s reconstruction is being hampered by Israel’s blockade of Gaza which dates back to June 2007 when Hamas took control of the territory.

Since then, Israel and Egypt, which control Gaza’s only border crossing that bypasses Israel, have kept the territory of 1.5 million aid-dependent people sealed to all but essential humanitarian supplies.

Israel has insisted that the blockade is necessary to prevent Hamas from arming itself, but human rights groups say it is a collective punishment.

The fact-finding mission is mandated by the UN to investigate all violations of international human rights and humanitarian laws that might have been committed at any time in the context of the military operations conducted in Gaza.

During the public hearings, witnesses and experts will speak about incidents and experiences regarding loss of life, attacks on physical integrity, destruction of industry and livelihood, and the effects of prolonged conflict on mental health, among others.