By KHALED ABU TOAMEH
The Palestinian Authority has come under heavy criticism for agreeing to defer the draft proposal at the UN Human Rights Council endorsing all recommendations of the UN Fact Finding Mission regarding Operation Cast Lead in the Gaza Strip.
Some Palestinians went as far as accusing the PA leadership of "helping Israel bury its crimes" in the Gaza Strip, while others called for putting those responsible for the deferral on trial for betraying the interests of the Palestinians.
Hundreds of Palestinians demonstrated in various parts of the Gaza Strip against the PA's decision to kill the proposal.
At Friday's meeting of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, Pakistan, on behalf of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, formally asked to defer until March the resolution endorsing the report. The decision to defer the vote was taken by PA President Mahmoud Abbas after heavy US pressure.
Members of Abbas's Fatah faction also condemned the move and called for an emergency meeting of the Fatah Central Committee to discuss the matter.
According to reports, PA Economics Minister Bassam Houry resigned on Saturday in protest.
Under the title "Justice Delayed is Justice Denied," several Palestinian human rights organizations issued a statement condemning the PA's action, accusing its leaders of succumbing to US pressure.
"This deferral denies the Palestinian people's right to an effective judicial remedy and the equal protection of the law. It represents the triumph of politics over human rights. It is an insult to all victims and a rejection of their rights," the statement said.
The statement noted that South African Justice Richard Goldstone had concluded that there was evidence to indicate that crimes against humanity may have been committed during the operation.
"All victims have a legitimate right to an effective judicial remedy," the groups said, "and the equal protection of the law. These rights are universal: they are not subject to political considerations.
"As human rights organizations we strongly condemn the Palestinian leadership's decision to defer the proposal endorsing all the recommendations of the Fact Finding Mission, and the pressure exerted by certain members of the international community. Such pressure is in conflict with the United States' international obligations, and is an insult to the Palestinian people."
Last Thursday, chief PA negotiator Saeb Erekat denied that the PA had decided to withdraw its demand for an endorsement of the Goldstone findings. However, the PA envoy to the UN, Ibrahim Khraisheh, surprised Palestinians when he confirmed that the request had been withdrawn.
PA Social Welfare Minister Majeda al-Masri described the contradictory statements as an embarrassment for the PA. She also condemned the PA's move and called for an investigation into the reasons behind the decision.
A senior US official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Washington exerted strong pressure to persuade the Palestinian leadership that going ahead with the resolution would harm the peace process.
The Obama administration wants to revive peace talks that broke off last year, though Abbas rejects a return to negotiations without an settlement freeze.
US Assistant Secretary of State Michael Posner said Friday that the delay could allow Israelis and Palestinians time to review the report's findings themselves.
"I think it actually provides some opportunity for there to be a more meaningful discussion of the merits of the report by both sides," he said.
Goldstone said his findings stand and expressed hope that the report is not being buried.
"The deferral of six months does not mean impunity for serious violations will continue," he said. "I reiterate that providing, and not denying, justice to victims of violations is the only path to durable peace."
Tovah Lazaroff and AP contributed to this report.
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