Ban gives General Assembly Cast Lead report

NGO detractors say it offers no new insights.

Cast Lead 311 (photo credit: Associated Press)
Cast Lead 311
(photo credit: Associated Press)
NEW YORK – United Nations Secretary-General Ban Kimoon submitted a report to the General Assembly Wednesday on alleged war crimes committed by both Israel and the Palestinians during Israel’s Cast Lead offensive last year.
The report is partially an implementation of recommendations contained in the Goldstone Report. Based on a factfinding mission led by Justice Richard Goldstone, the Goldstone Report determined that Israeli forces and Palestinians had committed war crimes and breaches of humanitarian law during the conflict, and recommended further investigation.
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“In March 2010, I again visited Gaza and Israel,” Ban wrote in a foreword to the report, adding that he was and remains “deeply affected by the widespread death, destruction and suffering in the Gaza Strip, as well as moved by the plight of civilians in southern Israel who have been subject to indiscriminate rocket and mortar fire.”
Ban’s report consists of inputs received from the Israeli and Palestinian sides on their respective efforts to investigate the alleged violations.
The Israeli component of the report, 41 pages, notes that since January 2010, Israel has made “significant progress investigating allegations of misconduct by the IDF during the Gaza Operation,” stating that Israel has “devoted extensive resources to conducting thorough and independent investigations, including interviews of hundreds of IDF soldiers and Palestinian civilians.”
Additionally, the Israeli component states, the IDF has conducted command investigations of operational activity, with 47 criminal investigations and criminal prosecutions of four soldiers in separate incidents.
Additionally, it notes that six officers have been disciplined or subject to command sanctions.
“Israel’s investigations are ongoing, and Israel remains committed to investigating allegations regarding violations of the Law of Armed Conflict,” the report notes, adding that the IDF has made “numerous changes to its operational procedures and policies in order to further enhance the protection of civilians from the hazards of battle and the protection of private property during military operations.”
In the Palestinian materials in Ban’s report, it is asserted that “Israel has repeatedly claimed that its attacks on Gaza were necessitated on the grounds of self-defense because of the launching by Palestinian armed resistance groups of rockets and mortars against its territory and civilian population. It must be stressed that there are no verifiable or reliable estimates of the numbers of rocket launchings or mortar shelling, where they originated from, where they landed and what, if any, damage they caused, except with respect to certain deaths reported by Israel and consisting at the highest reported figure of 13 casualties over a period of four to five years (including three or four military personnel who would be considered valid military targets under international humanitarian law),” the report adds.
The Palestinian component of the report calls to lift all blockades on Gaza, and for Israel to allow for complete freedom of Palestinian movement.
It also calls for the release of Palestinian prisoners.
The Palestinian component additionally states that “Palestinian armed resistance groups who hold Israeli soldier Gilad Schalit in detention should release him on humanitarian grounds; pending such release they should recognize his status as prisoner of war, treat him as such, and allow him ICRC visits.”
Despite its 247-page length, Ban’s report has met with detractors from non-governmental organizations for being a compilation of independent investigations rather than offering any new insights.
“Israeli investigations still fall far short of being thorough and impartial, while Hamas appears to have done nothing at all to investigate alleged violations,” Iain Levine, program director at Human Rights Watch, said in a statement following Ban’s report.
We regret that the secretarygeneral merely passed on the reports he received from Israel and the Palestinian side instead of making the failings of these investigations clear.”
Joe Stork, deputy director of the Middle East division of Human Rights Watch, told The Jerusalem Post that Israel should mount investigations separate from those of the IDF, also investigations of overarching policies as well as instances of individual wrongdoing.
He did note, however, that, in contrast, “Hamas seems to have done nothing in that regard.”