2 octobre 2009,
Weeks of intensive activities by Israel and the United States has resulted in a six months deferment of a vote by the UN Human Rights Council on the adoption of a report prepared by a panel headed by Justice Richard Goldstone, which followed an investigation into alleged war crimes by the Jewish state and Hamas during the Gaza War.
Goldstone is former chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda.
The Palestinian Authority dominated by Fatah, late in the week decided to go with the deferment after lobbying by Israel. So confident was Israel of Fatah siding with Israel, its envoy to the United Nations on Thursday announced the Palestinian Authority would not support a vote Friday. It was widely expected until then that the council would adopt the report and refer it to the Security Council to take action.
Israel’s announcement Thursday embarassed Fatah which had to deny the report saying its position had not changed. However by Friday a vote was dead in the water.
Deferment of action on the report gives Israel and its supporters another six months to build its case that the report is biased against the Jewish state. The United States presured Fatah through the week arguing that any action taken on the Goldstone report would hamper peace negotiations.
The U.S. agrees with Israel that in its view the report is one-sided. Asked about the report the day after it was released, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said, "We believe that the mandate for the Goldstone report was one-sided, and that many of the recommendations are appropriately dealt with by the institutions within Israel ; therefore, we believe that the appropriate venue within the international system is the Human Rights Council. We and other nations will be engaged about that, but we have grave concerns about the recommendations."
U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Michael H. Posner went further a day later using terminology adopted by Israel. "We disagree sharply with many of the report’s assessments and its recommendations and believe it to be deeply flawed," he said.
Israel did not co-operate with Goldstone’s four-member panel. "Israel basically was the equivalent of being summoned to a court in which its guilt was already presumed, in which one of the jurors had already declared Israel guilty, and which the witnesses for the prosecution were, in fact, the murderers. I can’t think of any country in the world which would participate in such a farce of justice," Israel’s Ambassador to the U.S. Michael Oren said.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spent last weekend in Washington telephoning members of the U.S. Congress campaigning against the adoption of the report, in additon to pressing Israel’s case against Iran.
The Human Rights Council which on Friday was expected to vote on a resolution adopting the Goldstone report will now consider it at its next session, scheduled to take place in March 2010 in Geneva.
The council was told the co-sponsors of the resolution, the Organization of the Islamic Conference, the Arab group, the African group, and the Non-Aligned Movement, had requested that discussion of the resolution be deferred until the next session "to allow more time for members to consider the contents of the fact-finding probe."
Presenting his report to the Council at the start of this week, Justice Goldstone called for an end to impunity for those found to have committed human rights violations.
“It is accountability above all that is called for in the aftermath of the regrettable violence that has caused so much misery for so many,” he said.
Justice Goldstone had urged the Council to implement a number of measures, including a referral of the mission’s report to the Security Council, since neither the Government of Israel nor the responsible Palestinian authorities have so far carried out any credible investigations into alleged violations.
Apart from Justice Goldstone, the other members of the fact-finding team are Christine Chinkin, Professor of International Law at the London School of Economics and Political Science at the University of London ; Hina Jilani, Advocate of the Supreme Court of Pakistan and former Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Human Rights Defenders ; and retired Colonel Desmond Travers, member of the Board of Directors of the Institute for International Criminal Investigations.