6 November 2009
Press Conference

Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Press Conference by General Assembly President on Human Rights Council


Report on Fact Finding Mission on Gaza Conflict


In the final analysis, said General Assembly President Ali Abdussalam Treki of yesterday’s 114 votes in favour of the resolution on follow-up to the report of the United Nations Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict -- there was great support for the text.  (See Press Release GA/10883)


At a Headquarters press conference this afternoon, Mr. Treki said that the Assembly’s adoption of the resolution -- by a vote of 114 in favour to 18 against, with 44 abstentions -- was significant, as it highlighted the Assembly’s role in addressing human rights, peace and security.  All, without exception, had condemned human rights violations and insisted on the conduct of proper investigations -- even those countries that had abstained from the vote or had objected to the text.


By the text, the Assembly endorsed the report of the Geneva-based Human Rights Council on its twelfth special session, held on 15 and 16 October, which supported recommendations of the Fact Finding Mission on the 27 December 2008 to 18 January 2009 Gaza conflict.  The Mission had been led by South African Justice Richard Goldstone, and its 576-page report -– known as the Goldstone Report -- concluded that Israel and Hamas had committed possible war crimes.


The vote was a strong declaration against impunity, and in support of justice and accountability, Mr. Treki said.  The Assembly would remain seized of the matter, and all concerned must devote their efforts to implementing the text.  Those countries that had abstained from the vote, nonetheless, had agreed that there had to be follow-up to the situation.  All had spoken highly about the Goldstone Report and said that the Israelis and Palestinians both should conduct inquiries in a manner that left no doubt about their credibility.


“The world is united on human rights,” he declared.


Taking questions, first on the follow-up he expected from the Security Council, Mr. Treki said it was extremely important that an overwhelming majority of States had voted in support of the Human Rights Council report and of Judge Goldstone.  By the text, the Assembly had asked the Secretary-General to refer the Goldstone Report to the Security Council, and he expressed hope that the Council would discuss the matter.


In addition, he said that a request to Israel had been made to conduct credible investigations, in accordance with international standards, to get to the bottom of the charges detailed by the Fact Finding Mission.  The Palestinian side had been requested to do the same, within a three-month period.


Importantly, the Swiss Government, as depositary of the Geneva Convention on the Protection of Civilians in Time of War, had agreed to the Assembly’s request to study the Gaza findings, he said.  Justice Goldstone had spoken of the use of white phosphorous, a prohibited weapon, which violated international law.


He expressed hope that the High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention would hold a meeting, with the participation of international experts, which would take into account a report prepared by the League of Arab States, as well as other facts unearthed by European investigators and independent parties.


Further, he said, the Assembly, by the text, had asked Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to introduce a report on the issue within three months.  “There was a cooperative and democratic spirit in the meeting,” he added.


To a comment that Israel was currently investigating some 24 separate incidents in Gaza, and a query on whether he expected Hamas to undertake a similar inquiry, he said: “I hope you have accurate information.”  He had heard officially that Israel had not agreed to the principle of the investigations.  There was a division -- the Prime Minister indicating a possibility of conducting them, while the Minister of Defence had refused.


Moreover, he recalled that Israel’s representative yesterday had asked which Palestinian party would undertake the investigations, and the resolution’s co-sponsors had responded clearly, through Egypt’s delegate -- noting that Hamas had previously said it would endorse the Report and conduct investigations.  Hamas had also had reaffirmed that it was a democratically elected body, which would shoulder its responsibilities.


Israel was now expected to declare its readiness to conduct investigations, he said -– but the country had not made it absolutely clear that it would do so; it had rejected the resolution.  Nonetheless, he expressed hope that the Israeli Government would respond positively to the resolution and conduct the investigations.


“This would be extremely helpful in determining the facts of the situation and serve the search for peace,” he said.  It was important for peace talks to resume, once measures agreed by the Quartet had been implemented and settlement activities halted.


Asked whether he thought any further action would be taken by the Security Council or the International Criminal Court, he said that the Council was the “master of its own decisions”; he did not know.  With its responsibility to maintain international peace and security, and to protect human rights, he believed the Council would have a role to play.  “I hope it will rise up to that responsibility,” he said.


To a question on whether it would have been important for the Assembly to have garnered more votes on the resolution, if it had conceded to the European Union’s request to change the word “endorse” to the word “welcome” in reference to the Human Rights Council report, he said the text’s co-sponsors, which had led the negotiations, could address that.  Indeed, the European Union was divided -– some States supported the resolution, others had not.  Those European countries that had abstained had agreed with the essence of the text and had spoken positively of it.


By way of example, he pointed to Sweden’s delegate, who had spoken in support of the resolution’s main issues and respect for human rights.  That was a positive position, to a large extent.  The division was due to the fact that each country had its own interests, associations and commitments.  But, in the end, there was great support for the text, he said.


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For information media • not an official record