Former war crimes prosecutor to head UN rights probe into Gaza conflict

Justice Richard Goldstone (file photo)

3 April 2009 – The former chief prosecutor of two United Nations criminal tribunals, Richard J. Goldstone, will lead an investigation into violations of human rights and international law during the recent conflict in the Gaza Strip, the Human Rights Council announced today.

Mr. Goldstone of South Africa, who prosecuted war crimes in both the International Criminal Tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda, has been appointed to head an independent fact-finding mission into Israel’s military offensive in Gaza, which had the stated aim of ending Hamas rocket attacks on its territory.

“I am confident that the mission will be in a position to assess in an independent and impartial manner all human rights and humanitarian law violations committed in the context of the conflict which took place between 27 December 2008 and 18 January 2009,” said Council President Martin Ihoeghian Uhomoibhi.

Mr. Uhomoibhi added that the four-member team would also “provide much needed clarity about the legality of the thousands of deaths and injuries and the widespread destruction that occurred.”

The appointment of Mr. Goldstone follows the adoption of a resolution at a Council meeting in January, which was convened to address “the grave violations of human rights in the occupied Palestinian territory, particularly due to the recent Israeli military attacks against the occupied Gaza Strip.”

“It is in the interest of all Palestinians and Israelis that the allegations of war crimes and serious human rights violations related to the recent conflict on all sides be investigated,” said Mr. Goldstone.

“It is my hope that the findings of this mission will make a meaningful contribution to the peace process in the Middle East and to providing justice for the victims,” added Mr. Goldstone, who has served for many years as a governor of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem.

The other members of Mr. Goldstone’s team include Christine Chinkin, Professor of International Law at the London School of Economics and Political Science at the University of London; Hina Jilani, Advocate of the Supreme Court of Pakistan and former Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Human Rights Defenders; and Colonel (retired from the Irish Armed Forces) Desmond Travers, member of the Board of Directors of the Institute for International Criminal Investigations (IICI).

The investigation announced today is separate from the UN Board of Inquiry, led by Ian Martin of the United Kingdom, which is probing incidents involving death and damage at the world body’s premises in Gaza during Israel’s military operation.


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