(photo credit: Courtesy)
BERLIN – The chairman of the UN committee responsible for following up on the
findings of the Goldstone Report on Operation Cast Lead acknowledged on Saturday
that he had helped prepare an advisory opinion analyzing legal aspects of the
Israeli-Palestinian issue in the 1990s, but said he could not recall whether he
had done this work on behalf of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.
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case, said German jurist Christian Tomuschat, the legal work had been objective,
should not be regarded as “a blemish” and did not constitute a reason for him to
step down from the Goldstone follow- up panel.
asked Tomuschat to comment on information it received over the weekend to the
effect that he and four other international jurists prepared a brief for Arafat
in 1996 concerning the international law aspects of the peace process, which
suggested that Arafat should bring his case to the UN General Assembly, which
could then refer it to the International Court of Justice.
The fact that
Tomuschat had worked directly for one of the relevant parties should have been
disclosed to Israel when his appointment to the Goldstone follow-up committee
was made, but this was not done, according to the information received by the
The panel was appointed last month by the UN human rights
commissioner, Navi Pillay, and is about to start its work, with a view to
publishing a report in October.
Tomuschat’s appointment had already
attracted criticism from pro-Israel legal watchdogs because of his
characterization of Israel’s policy of targeted killings as akin to “state
Furthermore, the Post
learned over the weekend, Tomuschat has
already made plain his conviction that states are incapable of effectively
conducting investigations into alleged excesses by their military forces. His
established stance on this issue is relevant because the mandate of the panel
includes examining whether the Israeli judicial system is capable of properly
investigating the alleged IDF excesses documented in the Goldstone
Tomuschat set out this assessment in a study titled “The
Individual Threatened by the Fight Against Terrorism?” In that study, published
in 2002, he wrote: “In such instances, there is little hope that the judicial
system of the state concerned will conduct effective investigations and punish
the responsible agents. Nowhere have excesses committed by security forces been
In the same study, he also wrote that “If a state
strikes blindly against presumed terrorists and their environment, accepting
that together with the suspects other civilians lose their lives, it uses the
same tactics as the terrorists themselves. In this perspective, many actions
carried out by the Israeli military in the occupied Palestinian territories
would also have to be scrutinized very carefully.
“Normally,” he went on,
“states see themselves as guardians of human rights. However, by ordering the
systematic commission of war crimes and crimes against humanity they themselves
deserve the same blame as those targeted by them.”
Tomuschat said on
Saturday that he had done nothing that should require him to resign from the
committee, that he was “not biased” against Israel, and that he had been in
Israel many times and had participated in legal forums there.
acutely concerned about the Goldstone follow-up committee, whose mandate
includes examining the efficiency, independence and professionalism of Israel’s
court system and its adherence to internationally accepted standards.
fears the unprecedented UN investigation into the effectiveness of both the
Israeli civilian and military hierarchies, by a committee whose motives and
preconceptions it acutely mistrusts, could undermine the credibility of the
Israeli judiciary internationally and leave Israel vulnerable to censure in
international legal forums.
Critics of the panel, and its membership,
have asserted that it is incapable of performing its work fairly because all
three of its members are affiliated with the International Commission of
Jurists, which “has had a long history of anti-Israel bias going back to Jenin
[after the IDF’s Operation Defensive Shield in 2002],” according to Gerald
Steinberg of the NGO Monitor human rights watchdog. “Involving ICJ officials in
an UN-related commission is another illustration of the link between the UN
[Human Rights] Council and ideological NGOs,” he said earlier this
The other two committee members are Malaysian Param Cumaraswamy
and American Mary Davis.
Tomuschat, in a 2007 interview in which he
discussed Israel’s killing of Hamas spiritual leader Sheikh Ahmed Yassin in
2004, said, “Targeted killings are as ruthless as the attacks of
Asked if Israel’s targeted killings constituted “state
terrorism,” Tomuschat said, “It is very much in that direction.”