In the more than sixty years since the establishment of the United Nations, one of the key goals of the organization, and of civil society globally, has been to ensure respect for the frameworks of international human rights and humanitarian law
that have been developed under its protection. At the heart of this project of ensuring respect for human rights and for the maintenance of international peace and security is the pursuit of accountability.
The importance of the Report of the United Nations Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict (the Goldstone Report), and the necessity of its wholehearted endorsement and implementation by the international community of states, lies firstly in the failure of Israel to have complied with the Human Rights Council’s request that it cooperate with the investigations of the Fact Finding Mission. Secondly, and crucially, in the response of the Israeli Government to the Report’s adoption by the Human Rights Council, which has seen Israeli PM Netanyahu publicly declare that Israel will not initiate any investigation into members of its armed forces or body politic who planned, ordered, prepared, or carried out military attacks during Operation Cast Lead.
The 64th session of the United Nations General Assembly (GA), presents member States with the opportunity to ensure the full endorsement of the Fact Finding Mission Report through the adoption of a comprehensive Resolution. The failure of States to fully endorse the Report or to ensure that concrete actions be taken at the GA, will not only represent a severe blow to the victims of Operation Cast Lead, but will further marginalize the role of international law as a mechanism of ensuring accountability and facilitating justice.
As Palestinian human rights organizations, we endorse each of the recommendations of the impartial, credible, and thorough Report of the Fact Finding Mission. The Fact Finding Mission’s impartiality is evidenced by its examination of actions taken by both Palestinian armed groups and the Occupying Power, Israel, during ‘Operation Cast Lead’, and we reassert the importance of holding to account all parties, be they Palestinian or Israeli, who may have carried out war crimes or crimes against humanity. The credibility of the Fact Finding Mission Report is affirmed by the substance and conclusions of other reports on Operation Cast Lead such as those published by the UN High Commissioner on Human Rights and the Arab League Independent Fact Finding Committee.
As Palestinian human rights organizations, we urge all States to take concrete actions to endorse and implement the recommendations of the Fact Finding Mission Report. We are calling for the Palestinian representatives at the UN to request the GA to adopt a Resolution fully endorsing the Report and its recommendations, and creating effective mechanisms for its implementation. We are calling for the GA to:
a) fully endorse the Report of the Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict;
b) urge the Security Council to endorse the Report, and to expeditiously pursue all accountability mechanisms presented therein; and report to the GA on the progress in this matter;
c) demand that credible internal domestic investigations and prosecutions be carried out by the parties to the conflict in accordance with international standards of impartiality, independence, promptness and effectiveness;
d) remain fully appraised of the matter until appropriate action is taken at the domestic or international level in order to ensure justice for victims and accountability for perpetrators;
e) establish an escrow fund for the purpose of compensating the victims of violations of international law committed during Operation Cast Lead;
f) request Switzerland to convene a conference of the High Contracting Parties to the Geneva Conventions to ensure its respect;
g) promote an urgent discussion on the use of munitions such as white phosphorous (as mentioned in the Report), and a moratorium on their use by Israel.
It is no less crucial that over the coming weeks and months, given the statements from several of the Permanent Member States of the Security Council that they will oppose consideration of the Report in that forum. Should the Security Council fail to ensure accountability as demanded in the Report, and by the victims, the GA should prepare for further additional action in the interests of justice, including under resolution 377 (V) Uniting for Peace. Were the GA to remain inactive in light of the Goldstone findings and recommendations, it will send a clear message to Israel, as well as to other states, that even the most manifest and egregious violations of international law will be tolerated by the UN, suggesting therefore that international law has no meaningful role to play in the resolution of conflict. Such a scenario cannot be countenanced. We therefore encourage specific action be taken by the UN Secretary-General, as recommended in the Report, to develop a policy to integrate human rights in peace initiatives in which the United Nations is involved, especially the Quartet, and request the High Commissioner for Human Rights to provide the expertise required to implement this recommendation.
Ultimately, we urge all States, and the GA, to act now to end the impunity which persists in so much of the world when it comes to such egregious violations of international human rights and humanitarian law as are documented in the Fact Finding Mission’s Report. Continued impunity for the perpetrators of the most serious international crimes, including grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions, war crimes, and crimes against humanity, represents a significant threat to international peace and security, a situation which the GA must rapidly act to overcome.
s Justice Goldstone stated before the Human Rights Council: “It is time for action”. As Palestinian and Israeli human rights organizations we stress that it is also time for the Member States of the United Nations to ensure that political considerations are not permitted to triumph over the fundamentals of the rule of international law and the pursuit of accountability and justice, upon which the maintenance of peace and security is, and must be premised.
Adalah – Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel
Khalil Abu Shammala
Al Dameer Association for Human Rights
Al-Haq – Law in the Service of Man
Al Mezan Centre for Human Rights
Ingrid Jaradat Gassner
Badil Resource Center for Palestinian Residency and Refugee Rights
Director: Defence for Children International-Palestine Section
Ensan Center for Human Rights and Democracy
Jerusalem Legal Aid Center
Palestinian Centre for Human Rights
Ramallah Center for Human Rights Studies
Maha Abu Dayieh
Women’s Center for Legal Aid and Counselling