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(photo credit: BLOOMBERG)
Neither Israel nor the Palestinians has made significant progress in investigating claims of war crimes committed during Operation Cast Lead, said a United Nations committee in Geneva on Monday.
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The committee was addressing the 16th session of the UN Human Rights Council, which on Monday debated a report on Israeli and Palestinian compliance with the 2009 conclusions of the UN fact finding mission led by South African judge Richard Goldstone.
The Goldstone panel looked into Israel’s military activity during Cast Lead and accused both Israel and the Palestinians of war crimes.
“As long as victims in Israel and in Gaza continue to lack confidence in the investigative processes [there can be] no genuine accountability and no justice,” Judge Mary McGowen Davis told the HRC.
Davis chairs the UN Human Rights Council’s committee of independent experts charged with monitoring compliance. She started Monday’s HRC session by reporting the results of her committee’s work.
Israel refused to cooperate with the Goldstone mission and won’t cooperate with the monitoring body because it believes both are biased against Israel.
Israel refused the monitoring committee access to Israel, the West Bank and Gaza, Davis said, and as a result, the committee operated under “considerable challenges and constraints.” In contrast, she expressed gratitude to the Palestinian Authority “for the extensive cooperation provided throughout our term.”
Davis added that many Israeli investigations into misconduct during Cast
Lead remain open. While Israel has dedicated “significant resources to
investigating over 400 instances of alleged misconduct in Gaza,” Davis
said, the duration of the investigations “could seriously impair their
She emphasized that “there is no indication that Israel has opened
investigations into the actions of those who designed, planned, ordered
and oversaw Operation Cast Lead,” and suggested that an Israeli public
panel of inquiry such as the Turkel Commission, with international
participants, could be used for such an investigation.
The committee also stated that there was no indication that any
investigations had been opened into Palestinian rocket and mortar
attacks against Israel, and recommended that the de facto authorities
“should make serious efforts” to do so.
Israel’s ambassador to the UN in Geneva, Aharon Leshno- Yaar, reminded
the committee that Israel’s southern border was still under attack from
Palestinian-launched rockets out of Gaza, and that there had been 150
such attacks in 2011.
“Every day over one million Israelis in southern Israel remain under a
constant state of attack. Kassam rockets, missiles and mortar attacks
indiscriminately fired by Palestinian militants are intentionally
directed toward innocent men, women and children,” Leshno-Yaar said.
“This past weekend alone over 50 mortars were lobbed from Gaza seeking
to kill more Israeli civilians. Hamas proudly took responsibility for
many of them,” the envoy continued. “In case it is unclear, Hamas, who
is euphemistically described here in Geneva as the “de facto authorities
in Gaza,” continues to be a terror organization, wantonly continuing to
threaten their own people and call for the destruction of the State of
Leshno-Yaar defended Israeli investigatory actions, which he said had
led to a number of policy changes. As much as possible, he said, Israel
works to comply with the United Nations.
The Palestinian representative to the Human Rights Council, Ibrahim
Khraishi, said the Palestinians would work with Israelis to “form a
fact-finding international independent commission to investigate this
criminal terrorist operation, if there are indications any Palestinian
is responsible.” The committee’s report, Khraishi said, indicates “in an
unambiguous manner that Israel continues to refuse to deal with the UN
General Assembly resolution” on compliance with the Goldstone Report.
On behalf of the Non- Aligned Movement, the Egyptian representative,
Heba Mostafa Rizk, expressed “dismay” at the lack of progress in
Goldstone-related investigations and at Israel’s “utter disrespect” for
international law, saying “justice delayed is justice denied.”
Joelle Hivonnet of the European Union encouraged the Israeli government
to ensure that its investigations comply with international standards,
but noted that no investigation had apparently been carried out by de
facto Hamas authorities into rocket and mortar attacks on civilians.
She stated that the EU “regrets that the principle of accountability is
not upheld when violations occur in the Gaza Strip.” She also encouraged
the Palestinian Authority to transfer all cases of Palestinian
civilians being tried before military courts to civilian courts.
Melanie Khanna of the United States stated that “the human rights record
of all states should be addressed under a robust common rubric,” and
decried the application of standards to Israel that were different from
those applicable to the rest of the world.