Goldstone: Israel's Eichmann trial brought about the concept of universal jurisprudence

Former Hague Court prosecutor to lead UN's Gaza fact-finding mission.

Judge Goldstone 248.88 (photo credit: Courtesy )
Judge Goldstone 248.88
(photo credit: Courtesy )
Judge Richard Goldstone, a Jewish South African judge who was the Hague International Court's war crimes prosecutor for Rwanda and Yugoslavia and who will be heading the UN Human Rights Council's latest mission to investigate alleged Israeli war crimes during Operation Cast Lead, has said he always found it hard to fathom that Jews could perpetrate racial discrimination. Goldstone told the video portal that "from a very early age, I found it difficult to understand how Jews could participate in racial or other forms of discrimination, having been on the receiving end for so many centuries." During apartheid and after it, Goldstone led several investigative committees of inquiry into government violence and abuse of political activists. He also won large amounts in compensation for victims. When he was offered the job of heading the UN's war crimes investigation unit, many people thought he would be crazy to accept the post. "We wouldn't have had an international criminal tribunal in the Hague if the Rwanda and Yugoslavia war crimes cases hadn't been successful," Goldstone told "The Nuremberg and Eichmann trials fascinated me as a young student," he went on. "Nuremberg was a watershed - we wouldn't have international criminal law today in its form without Nuremberg. The Israeli courts' approach to Eichmann brought about the concept of universal jurisdiction for what are international crimes, and that has become the law." The fact that Goldstone, a Jew and an internationally respected legal heavyweight, will be heading the UN mission to Gaza, may make it harder for Israel to refuse to cooperate with the fact-finding mission. Goldstone is not as outwardly anti-Israel as some of the other members of previous fact-finding missions that have dealt with this issue. The official Israeli position is that since the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council is blatantly biased against Israel, it is not possible for the body to conduct a fair review of the Gaza war. The Foreign Ministry still has to take a formal decision on the matter, but ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor told The Jerusalem Post earlier this week that "this is not a fact-finding mission, but a sad farce." The mandate for Goldstone's mission calls for the investigation to focus on Palestinian victims of the three-week operation against Hamas, which began in late December. But Goldstone said his team would investigate "all violations of international humanitarian law" before, during and after the conflict that ended January 18. Israel said it had responded to eight years of Hamas rocket fire at Israeli communities in the South before launching Operation Cast Lead. Goldstone was born in South Africa on October 26, 1938, and has spent his career working in many areas of human rights. In the aftermath of apartheid, he chaired the Commission of Inquiry Regarding Public Violence and Intimidation (the Goldstone Commission), easing the transition to democracy in his native country, where he also served as an inaugural member of the Constitutional Court. Following his appointment as chief prosecutor of the UN war crimes tribunals for Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia in 1994, Goldstone helped shepherd these courts for two years. He filed genocide and war crimes charges against Bosnian Serb leaders Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic for their roles in the "ethnic cleansing" of Bosnian Muslims, among other allegations. Besides prosecuting international war crimes, Goldstone was a member of an international panel to monitor the inquiry into Nazi activity in Argentina, chaired the International Independent Inquiry on Kosovo and took part in the investigations into the Iraq Oil for Food program. Goldstone also serves on the board of directors for several nonprofit organizations that promote justice, including Physicians for Human Rights, the International Center for Transitional Justice, the South African Legal Services Foundation and Human Rights Watch.