Goldstone opinion piece changes nothing at UN

UNHRC spokesman tells 'Post' that retired judge must submit formal letter for the body to consider rescinding his report.

Judge Richard Goldstone 311 (R) (photo credit: Reuters)
Judge Richard Goldstone 311 (R)
(photo credit: Reuters)
The United Nations Human Rights Council can only consider rescinding the Goldstone Report if its author, South African jurist Richard Goldstone, submits a formal written letter with such a request to the council, its spokesman told The Jerusalem Post on Monday.
The approval of the other three members of his fact-finding mission, which produced the report, would be needed for the UNHRC president to consider action, council spokesman Cedric Sapey said.
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He added that the council had not received any request from the fact-finding mission to rescind the report.
Sapey spoke with the Post after Goldstone wrote an opinion piece in Friday’s Washington Post, in which he said he had erroneously accused Israel of intentionally targeting Palestinian civilians when it attacked Gaza in December 2008 and January 2009.
This allegation was among the reasons the report concluded that Israel’s actions in Gaza constituted possible war crimes and crimes against humanity.
Since Friday, politicians and legal as well as human rights experts have speculated on what impact, if any, his opinion piece would have on initiatives to use the report to continue condemning Israel in the UN and possibly in the International Criminal Court.
Only one other member of the fact-finding mission, Desmond Travers, has commented on the matter since Friday.
“The tenor of the report in its entirety, in my opinion, stands,” Travers told the Associated Press.
The council has not responded to the opinion piece, but its spokesman did explain what it meant procedurally.
Sapey said Goldstone had written his opinion piece as a private individual and that a newspaper article alone would not immediately change council procedure.
An observer state to the council with the combined support of a member state, however, could use the letter as the basis for filing a resolution before the council at its next session or at a special session.
That resolution could ask that the council rescind the report, Sapey said.
Separately a move by a UN member state could be made to rescind the report at the United Nations General Assembly, which also endorsed the document, he said.
If no further action is taken either by the fact-finding mission or by a UN member state, then the report stands.
Last month, the UNHRC passed a resolution asking the General Assembly to endorse the report for a second time and to pass it on to the UN Security Council so it could consider referring the situation of the “occupied Palestinian territories” to the International Criminal Court.
At present, that resolution still stands and is expected to move forward to the UN General Assembly.