‘Leave All Politics and Selectivity at the Door and Take up the Cause of Justice,’ Urges General Assembly President, as Body Takes Up Report on Gaza Conflict
‘Leave All Politics and Selectivity at the Door and Take up the Cause of Justice,’ Urges General Assembly President, as Body Takes Up Report on Gaza Conflict
|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Sixty-fourth General Assembly
36th & 37th Meetings (AM & PM)
‘Leave All Politics and Selectivity at the Door and Take up the Cause of Justice,’
Urges General Assembly President, as Body Takes Up Report on Gaza Conflict
Palestinian Observer Says Israel Must Be Held Accountable for Crimes in Gaza,
Israeli Delegate Says Politicized Report Damages Efforts to Revitalize Peace Talks
During the special meeting convened by the General Assembly today to weigh the report of the Human Rights Council on the United Nations Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict, Arab and Non-Aligned delegations praised the survey, saying it had “unmasked double standards” regarding Israel’s actions in Gaza, while Israel’s envoy said the entire debate was hypocritical and that the report had been “conceived in hate”.
Less than three weeks after the Geneva-based Human Rights Council had endorsed the contentious report prepared by a fact finding commission led by South African jurist Richard Goldstone and which accused both Israel and Palestinian Hamas militants of war crimes in the December 2008 to January 2009 conflict, most speakers in the General Assembly threw their support behind the Mission’s findings and called repeatedly for justice and follow-up to its recommendations.
Many delegates today urged both the Israelis and the Palestinians to set up time-bound and independent investigations that would look at the serious violations of international humanitarian and human rights law that occurred during the Israel’s military operations in Gaza and which had been detailed in the 576‑page Mission report, informally known as the “Goldstone Report”. By combating impunity and generating accountability and justice, such investigations would help shape the conditions for a lasting peace in the wider Middle East region and curb future war crimes, many delegates said.
Israel’s representative delivered a scathing attack on the report and what her delegation viewed as bias on the part of both the Human Rights Council and the Fact Finding Mission. She said the United Nations had today launched yet another campaign against the victims of terrorists -- the people of Israel. “Today’s debate is anything but genuine and candid,” she said, declaring the Report had been “conceived in hate and executed in sin”.
She called the Fact Finding Mission a politicized body set up to reach predetermined conclusions. It was a product of the Human Rights Council, a body whose obsession with Israel had led it to pass more resolutions against that country than all Member States together. That same body had rejected any investigation regarding the constant firing of 12,000 rockets and mortars by Hamas over eight years on towns and villages in Israel. “ Israel believes in a vision of peace,” she said; in a vision, established by the United Nations, of two States for two peoples. But, the Goldstone Report and today’s debate only damaged efforts to revitalize regional negotiations and denied Israel of its right to self-defence.
The Permanent Observer of Palestine repeated judge Goldstone’s response to the criticisms and attacks hurled against the Mission’s members: the answers to those questions lay in the Report’s findings and its preparation had been guided by international law. Any criticism meant to evade responsibility for the violations would fail, because Palestine would follow up on the Report’s recommendations in all relevant international forums, including the Security Council and the International Criminal Court. “There is not other choice, crimes must be punished, and perpetrators of these crimes, no matter how strong they are, must be held accountable,” he said.
Aware that the Mission had investigated allegations against the Palestinian side, he rejected any equation of Israeli aggression and crimes with actions the Palestinian’s committed in response. The Palestinians took the allegations regarding possible Palestinian violations very seriously and were committed to their domestic legal investigation. Still, the Report had also confirmed that Israel’s aggressive intentions had no relation to what it publicly declared, especially its constant declaration of the issue of “right of self-defence” mentioned in the United Nations Charter. Of the 36 specific incidents in Gaza investigated by the Mission, with only one exception, the facts proved that there were no military targets that could justify the attacks by Israel, he said.
Despite the political sensitivities associated with the Report, the question before the Assembly was simple, said General Assembly President Ali Abdussalam Treki, as he opened the debate. “We have to answer whether the respect of human rights is universal or not? Whether we should be divided on human rights issues or should we remain united behind advocating their respect all over the world?”
“Let us be clear on what is at stake here: the human rights of nearly 2 million civilians,” Mr. Treki continued. “Without justice there can be no progress towards peace. Let us commit together to leave all politics and selectivity at the door and take up the cause of justice, based on one universal set of rules.”
Earlier in the meeting, Egypt’s representative introduced a draft resolution before the Assembly on the follow-up to the Report of the United Nations Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict (document A/64/L.11), which would have the Assembly affirm that all Parties had the responsibility to respect international humanitarian law, and underscore the importance of safety for all civilians, notably those in armed conflict. The resolution would also endorse the Human Rights Council report adopted at its twelfth special session, and would request the Secretary-General to transmit the Goldstone Report to the Security Council.
Speaking on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, the representative of Egypt urged the Assembly and other United Nations organs to act on the Report and findings of the Fact Finding Mission. He said immediate measures were required to secure the adoption of a resolution that called on Israel to launch an independent investigation into violations reported by the Mission. The Palestinian side should also launch such an investigation.
Monitoring and reporting were needed of both investigations to determine the course of further action, including by the Security Council. The Assembly had to demonstrate its unequivocal support for human rights and protection of civilians on both the Palestinian and Israeli sides, he added.
While some delegates called for the international community to use all avenues -- whether the Security Council or International Criminal Court -- to end impunity, others were more cautious on the path follow-up actions should take.
India’s representative, for example, welcomed efforts to document the injustices committed during the Gaza conflict, but had reservations about an unqualified endorsement of the Mission’s recommendations and some of the Report’s procedures, including involvement of the International Criminal Court and the Security Council. He said that India had a “deep association” with Palestine and believed that all concerned parties must take firm action against those responsible for violating human rights and humanitarian law. The international community, especially countries in the region, must play a positive role in creating an enabling atmosphere.
The representative of Brazil said the international community should not give up on the need for justice, even if a party refused to launch an independent investigation. The Goldstone Report was particularly eloquent proof of the urgency to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the accompanying violations of international humanitarian law. Brazil renewed its unwavering support for the peace process and urged parties to restart and sustain credible talks.
Also speaking today were the representatives of Senegal (in his capacity as Chairman of the Committee on the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People), Sweden (on behalf of the European Union), Syria (on behalf of the Organization of the Islamic Conference), Sudan, Iran, Turkey, Libya, Viet Nam, Bahrain, United Arab Emirates, Morocco, Lebanon, Oman, Liechtenstein, Japan, Algeria, Switzerland, Indonesia, Jordan, Cuba, Ecuador, Qatar, Norway, Nicaragua, Djibouti, South Africa, Tunisia, Kuwait and China.
The General Assembly will reconvene at 10 a.m. Thursday, 5 November, to consider the results of the high-level segment of the fifty-second session of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs and conclude its consideration of the Report of the Human Rights Council on its Twelfth Special Session.
The General Assembly met today, at the request of the Non-Aligned Movement and the Arab Group, to take up the Report of the Human Rights Council on its Twelfth Special Session (document A/64/53/Add.1), which contains the organization of work, decision and resolution adopted by the Geneva-based Human Rights Council at its Twelfth Special Session on the human rights situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, held on 15 and 16 October 2009.
The Human Rights Council concluded its Twelfth Special Session adopting a resolution that focused on continuing violations of human rights by Israel in the Occupied Palestinian territories, in particular in East Jerusalem, and endorsed the recommendations set out in the reports of the Fact Finding Mission, and called for their implementation.
In its resolution, adopted by a vote of 25 in favour to 6 against (Hungary, Italy, Netherlands, Slovakia, Ukraine, United States), with 11 abstentions, the Council strongly condemned all policies and measures taken by Israel, including those limiting access of Palestinians to their properties and holy sites particularly in Occupied East Jerusalem, on the basis of national origin, religion, sex, age or any other discriminatory ground, which were in grave violation of the Palestinian People's civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights.
That session was devoted to the Council’s consideration of the Report of the Independent International Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict (document A/HRC/12/48), which the President of the Assembly transmits to the Member States in his note, distributed on 29 October (document A/64/490).
The 576-page report was the output of the Mission headed by South African jurist Richard Goldstone and established by the Council on 3 April 2009. The Mission aimed to investigate violations of international human rights law committed before, during, or after the military operations conducted in Gaza between 27 December 2008 and 18 January 2009. The Mission included public hearings in Gaza on 28 and 29 June 2009 and in Geneva on 6 and 7 July 2009.
In the Report, presented to the Human Rights Council on 29 September of this year, Judge Goldstone urged the Council and the international community as a whole to stop impunity for violations of international law in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory. It also accused both Israel and Hamas militants of war crimes.
The Mission’s recommendations focused on seven areas: accountability for serious violations of international humanitarian law, reparations, serious violations of human rights law, the blockade and reconstruction, the use of weapons and military procedures, the protection of human rights organizations and defenders, and the follow-up to the Mission’s recommendations.
Separate recommendations were made to the Human Rights Council; the United Nations Security Council; the General Assembly; the State of Israel; Palestinian armed groups; the international community; the international community and responsible Palestinian authorities; the international community, Israel, and Palestinian authorities; and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).
In the first of four recommendations to the Assembly, the Mission said the Assembly should ask the Security Council for information on the measures taken to ensure accountability for serious violations of international humanitarian law and human rights that related to the Report’s facts and any other relevant facts related to military operations in Gaza, including the implementation of the Mission’s recommendations. The Assembly may remain apprised of the matter until it was satisfied that appropriate action was taken, at the domestic or international level, to ensure justice for the victims and accountability of the perpetrators. The Assembly may consider whether additional action within its powers was required in the interest of justice, including under its resolution 377 (V) on uniting for peace.
Secondly, the Mission recommended that the Assembly create an escrow fund to pay adequate compensation to Palestinians who have suffered losses and damage as a result of unlawful acts attributable to Israel during the December-January military operation and any actions connected to it. The Report said the Government of Israel should pay the required amounts into such a fund. The Mission further recommended that the Assembly tap into the expert advice of OHCHR on the best way to set up the escrow fund.
The Mission also recommended that the Assembly ask the Swiss Government to convene a conference of the high contracting parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949 on measures to enforce the Convention in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and ensure its respect in accordance with its article 1.
And in its last recommendation to the Assembly, the Mission recommended that the plenary body promote an urgent discussion on the future legal use of certain munitions referred to in the Report, particularly white phosphorous, flechettes and heavy metal, such as tungsten. The Assembly should draw, inter alia, on the expertise of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) for that discussion. The Mission recommended the Government of Israel place a moratorium on the use of such weapons.
Justice Goldstone, the head of the Fact Finding Mission and a former judge of the South African Constitutional Court, is also a former Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda.
The three other Mission members are: Professor Christine Chinkin, Professor of International Law at the London School of Economics and Political Science, who was a member of the High Level Fact Finding Mission to Beit Hanoun (2008); Ms. Hina Jilani, Advocate of the Supreme Court of Pakistan and former Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Human Rights Defenders, who was a member of the International Commission of Inquiry on Darfur (2004); and Colonel Desmond Travers, a former officer in the Irish Armed Forces and member of the Board of Directors of the Institute for International Criminal Investigations (IICI).
Statement by the General Assembly President
Opening the meeting, General Assembly President ALI ABDUSSALAM TREKI said the Assembly had gathered today to consider the Report of the Human Rights Council’s Twelfth Special Session and the report of the United Nations Fact Finding Mission on the War in Gaza, headed by the jurist Richard Goldstone.
Despite the political sensitivities associated with the Report, informally known as the “Goldstone Report,” Mr. Treki said the question before the Assembly was simple: “We have to answer whether the respect of human rights is universal or not? Whether we should be divided on human rights issues or should we remain united behind advocating their respect all over the world?”
The Report documented serious violations of international human rights and humanitarian law perpetrated against civilians, and called for concrete action by the Assembly and other United Nations organs to ensure redress for victims, protection for the vulnerable and accountability of all perpetrators, he continued. On 16 October 2009, the Human Rights Council had endorsed the Report’s recommendations.
“Let us be clear on what is at stake here: the human rights of nearly 2 million civilians. Without justice there can be no progress towards peace. Let us commit together to leave all politics and selectivity at the door and take up the cause of justice, based on one universal set of rules,” he said. Calling on the Assembly to “leave all politics and selectivity at the door,” he said the world body should protect the rights of victims. Indeed, a human being should be treated as a human being regardless of religion -- Muslim, Christian, Jewish, Buddhist -- race or nationality.
“For the sake of human rights, let us stand united,” he continued, he hoped the debate’s outcome would reflect this unity and meet the expectations of the international community.
Introduction of Draft
MAGED ABDELAZIZ (Egypt), speaking first on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, thanked the Assembly President for responding to the request from the Movement and the Arab Group to consider the Report of the United Nations Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict. His delegation was gravely concerned at the Goldstone Report’s findings, as well as by conclusions reached by both the Secretary-General’s Board of Inquiry and the Arab League Fact Finding Mission. All those surveys had confirmed that serious human rights violations and breaches of international law were committed during the Israeli military operations, launched on 27 December 2008 on the Gaza Strip, which caused high civilian casualties.
The Movement condemned all targeting of civilians and civilian infrastructure -- including United Nations facilities -- and recalled the prohibition of such acts under the Fourth Geneva Convention. There was a need for serious follow-up action on all those recommendations, and all concerned parties, including United Nations bodies, had to exert efforts in that direction. The utmost priority should be given to promoting respect for State obligations under international humanitarian law, and the Movement had taken into account the magnitude of violations of such law committed by Israel against defenceless Palestinian civilians.
As such, he urged the Assembly and other United Nations organs to act on the Report and findings of the Fact Finding Mission, in accordance with Human Rights Council resolution S-12/1, saying that immediate measures were required to secure the adoption of a resolution that called on Israel to launch an independent investigation into violations reported by the Mission. The Palestinian side should also launch such an investigation.
Moreover, he said monitoring and reporting were needed on both such investigations to determine the course of further action, including by the Security Council. The Assembly must demonstrate its unequivocal support for human rights and protection of civilians on both the Palestinian and Israeli sides. The global community must show resolve on the issue of accountability and ensure that international law was upheld in all circumstances, with a view for boosting the chances of peace in the region. Respect for and compliance with international law and United Nations resolutions would advance efforts for achieving a just, lasting and peaceful political settlement to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Reiterating the call for Israel to end its collective punitive measures against Gaza civilians, he said the Fact Finding Mission found that Israel’s blockade amounted to collective punishment and that the Israeli military operation was directed at Gaza’s population as a whole. Serious measures must be taken to ensure protection of civilians in the entire Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and especially to address the humanitarian and economic needs of those in the Gaza Strip. Israel must permanently open Gaza’s border crossings.
He regretted Israel’s continued obstruction of the import of construction materials into Gaza, as reconstruction in that area must urgently begin. Parties should take all steps, within their national legal systems and within three months, to launch independent investigations into serious international humanitarian law violations and report back to the monitoring mechanism. The Parties, United Nations organs and the global community must seriously confront the realities highlighted in the Goldstone Report and act responsibly in accordance with their Charter obligations and international law. The Movement was ready to engage in any action to guarantee the prosecution of those responsible for crimes against Gaza civilians, he added.
Speaking next in national capacity, he introduced the draft resolution on the Follow-up to the report of the United Nations Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict (document A/64/L.11), which affirmed that all Parties had the responsibility to respect international humanitarian law, and underscored the importance of safety for all civilians, notably those in armed conflict. The resolution endorsed the Human Rights Council Report adopted at its Twelfth Special Session, and requested the Secretary-General to transmit the Report to the Security Council. It urged Israel, within three months, to undertake independent investigations into violations of international humanitarian and human rights law, towards ensuring accountability and justice.
Moreover, he said the resolution urged the undertaking of investigations that were credible and in line with international standards. It requested the Swiss Government to undertake steps, as soon as possible, to reconvene a conference of the high contracting parties of the Fourth Geneva Convention, and ensure its respect in line with its article 1. It also requested the Secretary-General to report to the General Assembly in three months on the implementation of the resolution. In view of the resolution’s procedural nature and in compliance with international law -- against the waves of impunity and double standards -- he believed that all States would support the resolution.
RIYAD MANSOUR, Permanent Observer of Palestine, said the situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and the magnitude and scale of the illegal practices of the Israeli occupation -- the longest in modern history -- was a test for the international community. It was a test to judge the world’s commitment to upholding human rights and the relevant instruments of international law. Israel had to completely abide by all of its legal obligations and cease its violations and crimes.
He said he was standing before the Assembly pleading the case for the suffering Palestinian people, who, for more than 40 years under Israel’s brutal military occupation, had been deprived of their rights to self-determination and sovereignty over their own lands. Those same people had also been repeatedly subjected to displacement, killings, imprisonment and collective punishment. He said that sadly, all previous such appeals had failed to ignite international political will to effectively address Israel’s aggression and violation of international law. The widely supported Goldstone Report had clearly documented the current situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.
At the same time, he said criticism and attacks hurled against the members of the Fact Finding Mission, and to such critics, he repeated Judge Goldstone’s response: the answer to these questions existed in the Report’s findings and its preparation was guided by international law. If those attacks were meant to evade responsibility for the violations, the efforts would fail because Palestine was determined to follow up on the Report and its recommendations in all relevant international forums, including the Security Council and the International Criminal Court, until accountably for the perpetrators was realized.
The Mission’s investigation led to findings that clearly confirmed that Israel committed serious human rights violations and grave breaches of international humanitarian law, including the Fourth Geneva Convention, amounting to war crimes and even crimes against humanity, against the Palestinian people.
The Goldstone Report had also confirmed that Israel’s aggressive intentions had no relation to what it publicly declared, especially its constant declaration of the issue of “right of self-defence” mentioned in Article 51 of the United Nations Charter. Of the 36 specific incidents in the Gaza Strip investigated by the Mission, with only one exception, the facts proved that there were no military targets that could justify the attacks by Israel. The investigation concluded that the Israeli military campaign was planned as a systematic attack aimed at punishing, humiliating, and terrorizing the Palestinian civilian population, diminishing its domestic economic capacity and creating a sense of dependency and vulnerability, he said.
Aware that the Mission investigated allegations against the Palestinian side, he rejected any equation of Israeli aggression and crimes with actions the Palestinian’s committed in response. The Palestinians took the allegations regarding possible Palestinian violations very seriously and were committed to their domestic legal investigation.
Saying today’s discussion should not become another opportunity to express sympathies, he called on the international community to uphold justice and international law and protect the political and international legal systems. “There is no other choice, crimes must be punished, and perpetrators of these crimes, no matter how strong they are, must be held accountable,” he said.
The draft resolution before the Assembly was a serious, responsible and collective effort to address the serious human rights violations and grave breaches of international humanitarian law committed during the Israeli military operations in Gaza. He hoped that Member States would strongly support the draft. It was an important step to end impunity and the absence of justice that obstructed peace efforts and prolonged the suffering of civilians.
PAUL BADJI (Senegal), speaking in his capacity as Chairman of the Committee on the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, said the December-January events in Gaza remained vivid, not least because the situation on the ground had barely improved. Almost 10 months after hostilities had ended there had been no progress on re-opening borders or on reconstruction. On 31 December 2008, immediately after the start of the Israeli offensive in Gaza, the Committee had condemned the deadly military assault and destruction as a total disregard of international humanitarian law.
He said that the international community had reacted promptly in one voice to the violations in the Gaza Strip. Several missions were dispatched to establish facts on the events. The Secretary-General established a Board of Inquiry, the League of Arab States set up an Independent Fact-Finding Committee on Gaza, and the results of these enquiries showed widespread violations of international human rights law, and the possibility that war crimes had been committed by both sides. Civil society organizations reported the same. Last July, the Committee had convened to examine the results of investigations, and desired to strengthen adherence to international law.
He said that the United Nations Fact Finding Mission had presented its comprehensive and balanced account of events, and noted that Israel had refused to cooperate with that Mission, denied it access to Israel and the West Bank and had failed to respond to a comprehensive list of questions. Israel had virulently condemned the report. Palestinian authorities in Gaza and the West Bank had cooperated with the Mission. The report concluded the Israeli military operation was directed at the people of Gaza as a whole, in a continuing policy aimed at punishing the Gaza population, and in a deliberate policy of disproportionate force aimed at the civilian population. The destruction of water sanitation systems, concrete factories and houses were the result of deliberate and systematic policies which made daily life for civilians difficult.
The Mission had also found that repeated acts of firing rockets and mortar rounds into southern Israel by Palestinian armed groups constituted war crimes and might amount to crimes against humanity, by failing to distinguish between civilians and military targets, he continued. The report had also urged the release of the Israeli corporal Gilad Shalit. The Mission submitted ample and unbiased evidence that both groups had committed serious war crimes. The report also called for follow-up action by parties, including the United Nations. The Committee was of the view that the perpetrators of serious crimes on either side be brought to justice and be held accountable for their actions. “It is only by respecting and ensuring respect for international law, including international humanitarian and human rights law, that the international legal system can now fulfil its purpose,” he said.
ANDERS LIDÉN ( Sweden), speaking on behalf of the European Union and associated countries, expressed deep concern over the deteriorating humanitarian and human rights situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. The Union urged the Palestinian Authority and the Government of Israel to enter into serious peace negotiations as soon as possible, respecting previous agreements and international law. All Road Map commitments should be fulfilled. Further, a political solution, with two States -- Israel and an independent, democratic, contiguous and viable Palestinian State -- living side by side in peace and security, should be ensured. For genuine peace, a way must be found to share Jerusalem as the future capital of two States. The Union will not recognize any changes to the pre-1967 borders other than those agreed by both parties.
Calling on both parties to fully adhere to international humanitarian and human rights law, he said all allegations of violations of those laws must be thoroughly investigated and those responsible must be held accountable. Further, a durable solution to the Gaza crisis must be achieved through full implementation of Security Council resolution 1860 (2009). Gravely concerned at the humanitarian situation there, the European Union called for the sustained, immediate an unconditional opening of crossings. It reaffirmed its support for the proposed United Nations-led civilian reconstruction activities in Gaza. All violence must completely stop, including a sustained halt of rocket attacks at Israel. Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit must be released. Palestinian prisoners should also be released in greater numbers, giving priority to minors.
Continuing, he said the United Nations Fact Finding Mission had presented a “serious report,” which the European Union was committed to seriously assessing. It had taken note of the Mission’s recommendations and had emphasized obligations of all parties to the conflict to respect international law. It had condemned all targeting of civilians and United Nations facilities during the conflict. Combating impunity was an overarching human rights priority for the European Union and it urged the parties to launch appropriate, credible and independent investigations into possible violations of international human rights law and humanitarian law in accordance with international standards. In that regard, appropriate follow-up should be made.
BASHAR JA’AFARI (Syria), speaking on behalf of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), said the international community had witnessed Israeli illegal and intensifying colonization measures in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, ongoing settlement activities, and persistent aggression against Islamic and Christian holy sites in Al-Quds Al-Sharif. It had also witnessed the transfer of more Israeli settlers, continued construction of the separation wall in and around the Holy City, including changing of its demographics and geographic character, restrictions on movement of Palestinians and unlawful detention, house demolition and continued digging and excavation around Al-Aqsa Mosque.
He said the Organization of the Islamic Conference had condemned those violations and expressed serious concerns about the grave situation, especially the inhumane Israeli blockade and dire humanitarian crisis. He said that earlier in the year, the international community had “witnessed with horror” the events in the Gaza Strip. All independent reporting on the 23 days of Israeli aggression pointed to serious violation of international human rights and humanitarian law by Israel. Reports revealed significant violations of international human rights and law by Israel.
The Goldstone Report confirmed the violations, he continued. Thus, the Human Rights Council had endorsed paragraph 3 of its resolution regarding the inevitable request to the Security Council to shoulder its responsibilities. OIC had expressed its regrets at continued non-cooperation on the part of Israel with the Fact Finding Mission and other independent missions that had been mandated to investigate human rights violations in Gaza. That attitude reflected an “above the law mentality” and constituted a clear refusal to acknowledge concerns of the international community.
“The United Nations [inability] to bring Israel under the umbrella of the international law had harmed the image of the [Organization] in our Islamic world,” he said. The humanitarian situation was turning worse for the Palestinians living under illegitimate occupation, they live in fear, and the OIC cautioned that Israel’s illegal measures imperilled the establishment of a viable State of Palestine. He reiterated his delegation’s call on the international community, especially the Security Council, to address the continuing political and humanitarian crisis and to lend crucial support towards the resumption of credible, sustained and results-oriented peace processes, to the satisfaction of the Palestinian people.
GABRIELA SHALEV ( Israel) conveyed the condolences of her Government and people to the most recent victims of terrorism: the more than 150 people slaughtered in Baghdad by suicide terrorists, the more than 100 terrorist victims in Peshawar and Rawalpindi, Pakistan, and the families of the six United Nations employees murdered in Kabul, Afghanistan. “Terrorism deprives people of their most basic human right -- the right to life,” she said.
States had a duty to pursue those who engaged in such barbaric tactics, she said, and States sponsoring terrorism -- Members of the United Nations -- that actively engaged in the smuggling of weapons, ammunition and terrorists, must be held accountable. Yet, today, rather than confront terrorism, the General Assembly had chosen again to detach itself from reality.
“Today’s debate is anything but genuine and candid,” she said, as the world body launched yet another campaign against the victims of terrorism -- the people of Israel. The Report before delegates had been “conceived in hate and executed in sin.” With a one-sided mandate, the Fact Finding Mission was a politicized body set up to reach pre-determined conclusions. It was a product of the Human Rights Council, a body whose obsession with Israel had led it to pass more resolutions against that country than all Member States together.
That same Council had rejected any investigation regarding the constant firing of 12,000 rockets and mortars by Hamas, over eight years, on towns and villages in Israel. The basic human rights of nearly one million Israeli citizens had not mattered then, she said. Cynical political manoeuvres, not principles, had brought the Council to export the report to New York, which itself was “irreparably tainted”, she said. It bent both fact and law, and Justice Goldstone himself had publicly conceded that, if his Mission had been a judicial inquiry, a member of his team would have been disqualified for outright bias against Israel.
Nonetheless, the Report made sweeping judicial determinations of criminal wrongdoing in the absence of crucial information, she explained. In certain cases, it had made conclusions based on the absence of evidence to the contrary. In others, the authors’ mere opinions had served as evidence. Time and again, it inverted Israel’s unprecedented extensive efforts to save civilians, as proof that any civilian casualties had been deliberate. “This is not honest fact-finding.”
Moreover, Justice Goldstone admitted that the Mission had deliberately selected incidents so as to evade the complex dilemmas of confronting threats in civilian areas, she said. The Report had ignored the complexity of military challenges in fighting terrorists in urban warfare, and overwhelming evidence that Hamas intentionally operated from densely populated areas, and from within hospitals and mosques. It had dismissed Israel’s independent legal system and extensive criminal investigation of charges of misconduct.
Israel was committed to acting in accordance with international law and investigating every allegation of misconduct by its forces. “ Israel believes in a vision of peace”, she said; in a vision, established by the United Nations, of two States for two peoples. But, the Goldstone Report and today’s debate only damaged efforts to revitalize regional negotiations and denied Israel of its right to self-defence. If her country was to make concessions for peace, it must be assured of its right to defend itself. Terrorists would not have impunity as they turned Israel’s gestures of peace into weapons of war.
ABDALMAHMOOD ADDALHALEEM MOHAMED ( Sudan) reiterated on several occasions that Israel’s barbaric war against Gaza was not a secret. It had been seen by people near and far, and millions all over the world had followed it through mass media. The fact that Israel had been terrorizing the Palestinian people was no longer anything new or controversial, he added. In that regard, there had been major violations of human rights and international humanitarian laws. Such violations had defied numerous key international instruments and resolutions. Despite yet another episode of a war of genocide, Israel had, nonetheless, not been able to kill the will and steadfastness of the Palestinian people.
The Goldstone Report attached importance to the fact that the United Nations General Assembly “is the pulse of the people.” The Human Rights Council’s Fact Finding Report came up with many legal and documentary conclusions. It had said that Israel had committed war crimes against humanity and that it had breached the Fourth Geneva Convention, thus violating the rights of the Palestinian people. The Mission had also investigated reports in which Israel had deliberately destroyed water and sanitation life lines. Israel, he said, had systematically targeted civilians and used people as human shields, humiliating them, all of which amounted to war crimes. It had even targeted and destroyed mosques, which violated the rights of the Palestinian people. Israel’s denial of responsibility had put a weighty burden on the Palestinian people, thus fomenting further acts of violence, he added.
The Organization had to face up to its historical obligations, to respond to the Palestinian people’s right to self-determination, to their own State and to Israel’s withdrawal from all Occupied Territories, he stressed. Nonetheless, he deplored the fact that Israel had, yet again, started another war against Al-Quds Al-Sharif, razing buildings and constructing new settlements in their place, marking yet another disaster for the Palestinian people. Israel’s de facto legal and administrative authority in the Golan Heights violated United Nations Charters and the Geneva Convention. The Goldstone Report had unmasked double standards by those who had paid lip service to justice and revealed hypocrisy, revealing that credibility and justice were selective and harmful to the Organization’s reputation. He paid tribute to the Human Rights Council and called on the General Assembly to remain seized of the matter.
MOHAMMAD KHAZAEE (Iran), said that the Goldstone Report had not only confirmed that serious violations against international humanitarian law and gross human rights violations had taken place during the military aggression against the Palestinian people, but that war crimes and crimes against humanity had also been carried out. He went on to describe the death and injury toll that had resulted from the occupying regime’s “wilful” and direct attacks on Palestinian civilians.
He also noted that during the Gaza conflict, that regime had resorted to deadly weapons such as white phosphorous and flechette missiles and used Palestinians as human shields, which was prohibited under international humanitarian law. The military aggression in Gaza as well as a longstanding humanitarian blockade had “violated blatantly and grossly” all of the Palestinian people’s human rights. He said the Fact Finding Mission had ascertained that Israeli armed forces had breached the Fourth Geneva Convention with regard to wilful killing and had violated the right to life, giving rise to individual criminal responsibility.
The resolution adopted at the Twelfth Special Session of the Human Rights Council provided a crucial opportunity for the United Nations to hold the Israeli regime accountable for crimes against humanity, bringing an end to a prolonged culture of de facto impunity that had denied the Palestinian victims of such war crimes justice and allowed that regime’s violations to go unchecked. He said Iran supported the Report’s recommendation that the General Assembly should be able to consider whether additional action, within its powers, were required in the interest of justice. The Assembly should also consider taking measures with regard to ensuring accountability for serious violations of international humanitarian and human rights law.
ERTUĞRUL APAKAN (Turkey) aligning himself with Sweden’s statement on behalf of the European Union, condemned the disproportionate use of force and the punitive measures which had harmed the well-being of the entire population of Gaza, saying such acts and policies by Israel had led to a true humanitarian tragedy and had left the people of Gaza without civic infrastructure, livelihood and proper means to lead a dignified life.
Pointing out that the declared ceasefire had not resulted in the ending of the suffering of the Palestinians in Gaza, he declared that Security Council resolution 1860 (2009) had not been implemented and the people of Gaza continued to live under siege, as tight restrictions on the crossings hindered redressing the deep wounds caused by the Israeli operation and returning to their daily lives. As a result, reconstruction had stopped, public health was in jeopardy, and there was no economic and trade activity to speak of.
He said the Justice Goldstone Report of the Fact Finding Mission vividly depicted the scene in Gaza and gave a very detailed account of the events that took place at the start of the year. While some viewed that report as a threat to the peace process, Turkey preferred to see it as an opportunity for Israel to rectify the situation in Gaza, as well as an opportunity for the international community to address the deprivation and hardship of the Palestinian people and not to look the other way.
To that end, he called for implementation of the report’s recommendations, noting that credible investigations into the alleged violations could in fact help build confidence between the parties, thereby contributing to the peace efforts in the region. Turkey believed in lasting peace in the Middle East and firmly supported efforts to reactivate the peace process in all its tracks within the framework of the relevant Security Council resolutions, Madrid Principles, Arab Peace Initiative and the Road Map obligations. However, Turkey also believed that it was no longer possible to remain indifferent to the situation in Gaza, and declared that it was time for the United Nations to combat impunity, uphold accountability and act coherently on the issue because justice and peace were two sides of the same coin, and peace could not be achieved without delivering justice.
IBRAHIM O.A. DABBASHI (Libya) said there was no doubt that today’s meeting was of particular importance, as it marked an attempt to make the Zionist occupiers face their responsibility, and give credibility back to the United Nations. Zionist crimes in Palestine began with the arrival of the first settlers and had become systematic since the establishment of the Israeli State, which was based on “genocide”, ethnic cleansing and the collective transfer of Palestinians from their lands, among other things.
He recalled various massacres of Palestinians since the 1940s -- including at Baldat al-Shaikh (1947), Tantura (1948), Kibia (1953), Khan Yunis(1956) Al-Aqsa Mosque (1990), Jenin Camp (2002), Sabra and Shatila (1982), Al Qana (1987 and 2006), and the latest, in Gaza. Indeed, modern technology had allowed the world to witness such crimes, with the killing of one child seen on television. “Where is justice”, and the conscience of the world, he asked? Israel had always been above the law.
The procedure followed in establishing the facts in Gaza left no doubt about the Goldstone Report’s authority or professionalism of the Mission, he said. The Report reflected all the facts and drew important conclusions. It was a neutral report which concluded that a well-equipped Israeli army had committed crimes against a besieged people deprived of basic necessities. It found that the destruction of the area’s only flour facility deprived civilians of food supplies, and violated international law. The destruction of a poultry facility and water wells, the latter of which had not been used for aggressive purposes, constituted war crimes.
He said there were serious doubts that Israel would conduct an independent inquiry and about the segregation of its justice system. In such circumstances, there would be no way to hold criminals responsible for their crimes. The Assembly had heard that the peace process between Israelis and Palestinians was important, but Israel’s security had been guaranteed, without restriction, by major Powers.
Moreover, Israel occupied regional lands and continued to build settlements, which changed the demographics in Palestinian Territories, he said. Arab States had declared that peace was their strategic choice -- did the Zionist entities need any better guarantee? There was no peace process; rather, there was a political process that aimed to swindle Palestinians and Arabs, and allow Israel to tighten control over Palestinian land. Israel was well on its way to achieving that goal. There was pressure for States to not implement the recommendations of the Fact Finding Mission. If they were not implemented, it would mean that Israel was above the law. He hoped for a unanimous adoption of today’s resolution.
BUI THE GIANG (Viet Nam), aligning himself with the statement made on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, said that despite tireless efforts towards regional peace, this year had regrettably begun with Israel’s military incursions into the Gaza Strip, which left thousands of Palestinians dead or injured. Israel’s continued blockade and collective punishment against Gaza further deepened Palestinians’ trauma, while, just miles away, civilians in southern Israel also lived under constant threat of rocket and mortar attacks.
He commended the United Nations Fact Finding Mission’s efforts, notably in the absence of Israeli cooperation, to gather witness testimony and establish facts to ensure a balanced Report. Viet Nam was preoccupied by the Report’s finding that Israel had failed to take precautions, required by international law, to minimize the loss of civilian life and flagrantly violated the principle of proportionality and distinction. He shared concerns that rocket and mortar attacks were a threat to southern Israeli communities and, in that context, supported calls for respecting international law, ending impunity and establishing responsibility through accountability mechanisms. Viet Nam also recognized pledges by Palestine and Israel to investigate reported violations and looked forward to prosecutions.
The explosive nature of the regional situation made it all the more imperative for parties to renounce the use of force and take steps to ensure safety and security for civilians, among other things. He urged Israel to freeze its illegal activities related to settlements and the separation wall, open all crossings into Gaza and ensure the unimpeded delivery of humanitarian assistance and reconstruction materials. He also urged Palestinian factions to proceed with efforts to form a national unity Government in the interests of future Statehood and wider Middle East peace. Viet Nam supported a two-State solution and stood ready to contribute to a just and lasting peace, based on the Quartet-backed Road Map, Arab Peace Initiative, Madrid terms of reference, and relevant Security Council resolutions.
TAWFEEQ AHMED ALMANSOOR ( Bahrain) said he was grateful that today’s meeting had been held, and that, at the request of the Arab Group, a follow-up to the Goldstone Report had been carried out. His country had endorsed the adoption of the Human Rights Council Report on the situation in Gaza. He hoped it would bring about justice and uncover Israel’s violations of human rights and international laws there. He called on the international community to protect civilians living in the Occupied Territories.
The Goldstone Report had sensitized the global community to matters on the ground. That, he said, could not be ignored. Israel’s military aggressions had claimed many lives, among them that of women and children, through unjustified acts of violence and banned chemical weapons against defenceless people. Those wanton acts of aggression had been widely condemned by the international community and the United Nations, which was why Justice Goldstone had been summoned to carry out a Fact Finding Report.
He went on to say that Israel had pursued implementation of its political goals through Gaza and the West Bank. Its aim was to undermine, humiliate and cripple the Palestinian people economically. Since impunity had created a crisis of justice in the territories, he urged for action to be taken. Bahrain believed that that was within the ambit of the International Criminal Court. Crimes of war and crimes against humanity had become paramount and could not be condoned. The international community had to prosecute persons responsible, which would subsequently help end violence and restore peace in the Occupied Territories. If Israel did not comply with international rules, the Security Council would have to take action. The highly credible Goldstone Report would place the international community before a stringent test, which was after all impelled by international norms. The question remained, could the global community now rise to the terms of such a challenge.
AHMED AL JARMAN ( United Arab Emirates) said that after reading parts of the Goldstone Report, his country had been deeply shocked by the findings, which reflected the gravity of human rights violations committed by Israel during its war on the Gaza Strip. The Report’s facts and conclusions, which only accounted for 36 tragic incidents, captured Israel’s systematic human rights violations against defenceless Palestinians, which amounted to war crimes and crimes against humanity that were punishable by international criminal law.
Israel’s military strikes did not differentiate between civil and military targets, often targeting houses, hospitals and densely populated areas and thus killing up to 1,400 Palestinians. Furthermore, the Israeli military had also targeted United Nations buildings and facilities where refugees and homeless Palestinians had taken shelter. Gaza’s continuous political and economic isolation and crippling restrictions on basic humanitarian assistance, had dramatically affected its humanitarian and social situation, he added.
He called on the global community to take urgent actions based on the respective recommendations set out in the Goldstone Report, in order to prompt Israel to end its human rights violations, which had fuelled further violence and instability in the region and gridlocked the Middle East peace process. The Report had urged Israel to start an impartial and independent investigation to make those responsible for taking part accountable for their part in such crimes. He called on Switzerland to take necessary steps to hold a conference in the spirit of the 1949 Fourth Geneva Convention. The Assembly must remain abreast of the matter, once the United Nations Secretary-General had submitted reports on it.
MOHAMMED LOULICHKI ( Morocco) thanked the Assembly President for holding today’s important meeting to consider the resolution adopted by the Human Rights Council. He endorsed the report. International reports highlighting the situation underscored the seriousness of acts committed by Israeli forces in Gaza, of which the Goldstone Report was one. During the December 2008 to January 2009 period, Israel had not respected the most basic elements of international law, which led to more than 5,000 casualties. The Goldstone Report had objectively assessed the attack on Gaza, described as an enormous violation of international humanitarian law and human rights law. Independent investigations were needed.
He would have hoped that, after the adoption of resolution 1860 (2009), the “Israeli war machine” would have ended such practices, alleviated restrictions on the movement of peoples and property, and allowed Palestinians a minimum means of subsistence. However, Israel had closed checkpoints, blocked humanitarian assistance and impeded reconstruction efforts. It continued its actions in Al‑Quds, forcing Arab inhabitants to leave and thereby changing the demographic nature of that area. Its actions around the Al-Aqsa Mosque and neighbourhood were also incompatible with international law. He reiterated Morocco’s condolences to all those targeted in Al-Aqsa and Al-Quds.
Morocco had continually underscored the need for the United Nations, and the Pope, to focus on the dangers of Israeli acts, which endangered regional peace and security, and to respect the special nature of Al-Quds, he explained. At the most recent meeting on Al-Quds, organized in part by Morocco, an appeal was launched to halt all immoral practices against Al-Quds and to respect the freedom of all religions. Resorting to force and a policy of “fait accompli” would only further deteriorate the situation.
He said the peace process was the sole option, and must work within the framework of the Road Map and other agreements among the involved parties. Morocco supported the Quartet’s vision of two States and requested that the process started under the guidance of the United States continue. Such efforts must be accompanied by a change in attitude of the Parties involved. He expressed hope that Israel would start to deal with Palestinians as human beings who had the same rights as Israelis. That would be the only way to achieve peace and justice.
NAWAF SALAM ( Lebanon), addressing Israel’s charge that Judge Goldstone was biased, said, indeed he was –- particularly when he had joined the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia and the Independent Commission on Kosovo. Israel had accused that respected jurist of seeing “with only one eye”, which was also true -- it was the eye of justice. Inside Israel, there were some who had attacked the Fact Finding Mission’s conclusions. The paradox was that, if one assumed that Judge Goldstone had political motivations, they would only be to save Israel from itself. He was a self-described Jew who had always supported Israel. His daughter, in a 16 September interview, also said her father was a Zionist who loved Israel.
The Mission had pursued a comprehensive approach based on data collection, including witness interviews, field visits and analysis of video and satellite images. It had made requests for forensic information. The avalanche of attacks against his work served no purpose other than to divert attention from the Report’s conclusions, the most important of which showed that Israel’s military operation in Gaza could only be understood by looking at events prior and subsequent to its incursion –- including the blockade. There was also increased land appropriation, demolition of homes, restrictions on the movement of people and assistance.
He said the report had found that Israel repeatedly failed to distinguish between civilians and combatants. Its destruction of Gaza’s food supply and water‑sanitation facilities resulted from a systematic policy of Israeli-armed forces. Palestinians’ dignity had been assaulted in the vandalizing of houses and in the way people had been treated when their homes were entered, which painted an overall image of humiliation. A deliberately disproportionate attack designed to terrorize civilians diminished people’s ability to provide for themselves.
Regarding the legal consequences, he said the report found that Israel had failed to take precautions to avoid or minimize the loss of life and damage to civilian objects, which violated international humanitarian law. Further, Israel had disrespected the principle of proportionality and violated international law.
Finally, he said Israel’s use of white phosphorous was illegal; its use of human shields violated the right to life, guaranteed by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Israel seriously violated the Fourth Geneva Convention, through its killing, torture and widespread property destruction, which required criminal responsibility. Israel had deprived Gaza’s population of decent work, food, shelter and the right to leave their homes. For all such reasons, impunity was a prerequisite for justice. He called on the Assembly to vote in favour of the resolution.
FUAD AL-HINAI(Oman), endorsing the statements made on behalf of the Organization of the Islamic Conference and Non-Aligned Movement, said the Assembly was debating highly important issues, including the violation of human rights and the viciousness of Israeli aggression, and massacre of civilians. The invasion of Gaza had led to 1,400 civilian deaths, as well as to the bombings of houses and the headquarters of the United Nations, which enjoyed immunity.
Oman welcomed the conclusions and recommendations of the Fact Finding Mission, which had been endorsed by the Human Rights Council. The Goldstone Report accused Israel of war crimes, and a policy of collective punishment and violations of the Fourth Geneva Convention. He said the report laid out many crimes, including using Palestinian civilians as human shields.
The international community had to take a firm stand against Israel and compensate the victims. The pursuit of the perpetrators of the crimes would make Israeli officials move forward on the Mideast peace process and establish a just and comprehensive peace. Ignoring the Mission’s recommendations would be the worst setback in the field of human rights since the adoption of the Human Rights Declaration. Oman called on the Security Council to discharge its full responsibility as the body in charge of international peace and security.
B. K. HARIPRASAD, Member of Parliament, India, said his Government condemned the violations of international humanitarian law and human rights law committed during the Gaza conflict. It was imperative that all concerned parties adhere to such laws, and any refusal to do so “should rightly receive the strongest possible opprobrium of the international community”. He made clear, however, that the topic of today’s discussion was the report of the Human Rights Council at its twelfth session; the Goldstone Report had been discussed a number of times prior to the current meeting.
While participating in the Council’s special session, India had noted the report’s merits while also pointing out the importance of not losing sight of its weaknesses. The report itself admitted that its findings did not necessarily reach the standard of proof applicable in criminal trials, and that the Fact Finding Mission should have addressed its recommendations to the Council and not to other institutions in the United Nations. He remarked that the report had also been discussed by the Security Council, and said his Government had watched that discussion carefully, as well as events that had led to the convening of that meeting.
He said India had a deep association with Palestine, with a commitment stemming back to its own struggle for independence. It believed the solution should be based on relevant United Nations resolutions, the Arab Peace Initiative and the Quartet-backed Road Map, resulting in a sovereign, independent, viable and united Palestine living within secure and recognized borders, side by side at peace with Israel. It had recently enhanced its contribution to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA). One major obstacle to peace was lack of trust, with added obstacles being terrorism and an escalating humanitarian crisis.
All concerned parties must take firm action against those responsible for violating human rights and humanitarian law. The international community, especially countries in the region, must play a positive role in creating an enabling atmosphere. He stressed, however, that while welcoming the efforts to document the injustices committed during the Gaza conflict, India had reservations in making an unqualified endorsement of its recommendations and some of the procedures adopted by the report, including on involvement of the International Criminal Court and Security Council.
CHRISTIAN WENAWESER ( Liechtenstein) said his delegation was disappointed at the Human Rights Council’s two decisions on the report of the United Nations Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza conflict. He hoped that today’s debate would lead to “responsible and appropriate” decision by the United Nations’ only universal body. He said the Goldstone Report was part of the larger framework of accountability, a topic with which the United Nations system had been struggling for some time.
On one hand, both the Assembly and the Security Council had intensified their efforts to enhance the protection of civilian populations in armed conflict, on the other had, it was regrettable that, despite such strides, international humanitarian law was still being violated and that above all, there had been no consistent efforts to ensure accountability. He asked why such a report had been done on military operations in Gaza, when possible massive violations of international humanitarian law in the context of counterinsurgency operations in other parts of the world had not been subjected to any such investigations.
“We are facing a problem of selectivity that we are familiar with from the braider human rights discourse,” he said, adding that turning a blind eye would not be the best approach. Nonetheless, over the past decade, the Organization had made remarkable progress in accountability and the fight against impunity, he added. International law obliged actors to step up efforts against unchecked impunity, which was, after all, the bedrock of the International Criminal Court since it embodied the notion of complementarity. Turning to the report, he noted that it had some very disturbing findings that would require a criminal investigation. He thus hoped that a resolution, which was due to be adopted after the debate, would focus on ensuring that all parties to the conflict would investigate and prosecute allegations of violations against international humanitarian law. He said those would have to be carried out in line with global standards and that the General Assembly should, once again, be able to take up the matter on the basis of the United Nations Secretary-General’s report.
YUKIO TAKASU ( Japan) said his country was seriously concerned about the increasing number of civilian fatalities and casualties taking place in armed conflicts around the world, which were a violation of human rights law. He said the Fact Finding Mission had taken great pains to ensure balance by investigating acts committed by the Palestinian side and the Israelis as it reported serious violations of humanitarian law by both sides.
The international community should never overlook those findings and he hoped both sides would take appropriate steps in a timely manner to conduct internationally-credible investigations. It was essential that the Assembly and other relevant United Nations organs conduct discussions conducive to constructive dialogue on the Gaza situation and other ongoing efforts. The Assembly should encourage Israel and the Palestinian Authority to engage in constructive dialogue in the hope it would help reach a resolution on the ground, he said.
MOURAD BENMEHIDI ( Algeria) hailed Justice Richard Goldstone’s professional and courageous conduct in compiling the report on Israel’s recent military offensive in Gaza. He was pleased to see plenty of angry outpouring at Israel’s impunity -– a lack of accountability his country had condemned firmly. The well-documented report evoked indignation, describing in some detail how Israeli violence had taken Palestinians hostage, leaving behind it a trail of victims and destruction, he said.
It would be morally wrong to put both Israel and the Palestinian people on the same footing by making them equally responsible for their acts, he warned. Algeria refused to see the situation as a conflict and described it instead as a brutal military act of aggression by Israel, which had resorted to barbaric tactics to wage war against civilians under the international community’s gaze. Israel’s history was studded with crimes against humanity, which had been perpetuated by its expansionist goals. Recent aggression in Gaza had gone as far as to threaten the very norms of international law. It had shown that once again, to reach its goals, Israel was ready to trample international laws and the principles on which the Organization had been founded.
Israel had not put forth a firm and rigorous attitude towards the severity of the situation, which had led to the disruption of the Middle East peace Process. Algeria fully supported concerns raised by the General Assembly in today’s meeting, as well as those raised when the Security Council had considered the matter. It had become natural for the Security Council to exercise its prerogative as Israel’s deadly aggression was leading the Middle East towards a dangerous revival of violence, which threatened to destroy the international community’s efforts towards peace. He concluded by urging States to adopt the resolution that the Arab Group had put forward based on recommendations of the Goldstone Report. By so doing, all that would remain would be an end to the inertia that had gripped the Organization with regard to Israel and an end to that country’s culture of impunity.
As his delegation had stated before the Human Rights and Security Councils, PETER MAURER ( Switzerland) said the Goldstone Report was highly credible, and that his country was concerned that different parties had committed very serious crimes. It would be irresponsible to not advance the matter and it was essential that parties to the conflict conducted their own independent inquiries, according to international standards. That responsibility was, first and foremost, their own. But if the parties to the conflict did not have the will or means to conduct the necessary inquiries and legal proceedings, then the international community would have to insure the violations did not go unpunished.
The Assembly should consider the creation, if necessary, of an independent committee of experts in international humanitarian law and human rights to oversee the proceedings of the parties in this respect, he said. Combating impunity was an indispensable condition for a lasting peace and the prevention of future crimes. Switzerland strongly believed in a negotiated solution to the Israeli‑Palestinian conflict and called on all parties to respect their obligations under international humanitarian law and with regard to human rights.
HASAN KLEIB ( Indonesia) aligned his statement with that made on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement saying that civilians in Gaza had suffered for far too long. Indeed, the illegal blockade and closure of the Gaza crossings by Israeli authorities had weakened the Palestinians and inflicted long-term damage. It was also creating more animosity and propelling the cycle of violence in the region. The Israeli military operation in Gaza had worsened the already dire humanitarian situation.
Indonesia fully agreed with the Report’s observations. The Israeli offensive had been a deliberate assault meant to punish, humiliate and terrorize the civilian population, he continued. The effect had been to force the civilian population into an ever-increasing sense of dependency and vulnerability. He said that Indonesia, as a country that had risen from the ashes of colonialism, was well aware that policies of humiliation only made oppressed societies grow stronger and increased their will to prevail over their oppressors. Israel would do well to learn from history.
Indonesia commended the Mission on its recommendations and urged all parties to follow up on these recommendations. He said it was “high time” for the Assembly to consider the substance and recommendations of the Report and decide on the way forward. There was perhaps no international issue more important to Indonesia than efforts to find a peaceful, just, lasting and comprehensive settlement for any protracted conflict in Asia or elsewhere. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict drew Indonesia’s attention and compassion, he said. Indonesia supported efforts to achieve a settlement based on all relevant Security Council resolutions.
MARIA LUIZA RIBEIRO VIOTTI ( Brazil) called the Goldstone Report an important and serious document. The Fact Finding Mission had investigated potential violations of human rights law on both sides of the Gaza conflict in a rigorous and balanced manner and its conclusions merited careful study. Brazil was convinced that the Report should be implemented primarily by the concerned Parties, with the international community’s full support. The Israeli Government and relevant authorities in Gaza had to create time-bound, independent and credible investigations. Brazil believed that the investigations required international monitoring, which could be done in a number of ways, she said.
It was important to respond to concerns that an effective follow-up to the Goldstone Report could jeopardize Israel’s right to self-defence and support within Israel for credible peace negotiations. Brazil fully recognized Israel’s right to defend its people and territory against all types of aggression. The international community had heard repeatedly that Israeli public support for the peace process would erode if the population, especially in the South, felt threatened. Yet Israel was bound by international law as it defended itself. Those in control of Gaza were also bound by international humanitarian law and were accountable for violations, she said.
While possible that any Party could refuse to launch an independent investigation, the international community should not give up on the need for justice, she said. The Goldstone Report was a particularly eloquent proof of the urgency to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and accompanying violations of international humanitarian law. Brazil renewed its unwavering support for the peace process and urged parties to restart and sustain credible talks.
MOHAMMED F. AL-ALLAF ( Jordan) said the Goldstone Report was more evidence of the failure of military solutions to problems in the Middle East, and Israel’s future in the region could only be attained through the resumption of serious peace talks on all tracks. The Fact Finding Mission’s work had been performed within its mandate, and the Report only added to others that had chronicled Israel’s destruction in the Middle East. Israel’s actions in Gaza were a legal and moral violation of its responsibility as an Occupying Power under international humanitarian law. He regretted Israel’s lack of cooperation with the Mission and asked that it cooperate to address the massive destruction of property, including that of UNRWA.
Jordan had suffered occupation, he explained, noting that it had been proven that violence would only deepen the sense of despair for all in the region. The time had come for the international community to help prevent the atrocities seen in Gaza. The United Nations had a responsibility to ensure that Report not be “mothballed” and that its recommendations be pursued. It was Jordan’s policy to respect international humanitarian law and human rights and it was everyone’s responsibility to avoid contravention of such instruments. Highlighting the constant siege of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip and West Bank, and the partition of Palestinian land, he cautioned that Israel’s practices in Jerusalem would touch off another spiral of violence that would further set back peace talks, given its unique status to Muslim and Christian peoples. Those practices could not be reconciled through a peace approach and would not serve Israel’s efforts in the region.
LUIS A. AMORÓS NÚÑEZ MOSQUERA ( Cuba) attached great importance to the Assembly’s consideration of the Goldstone Report, an objective document drafted with professionalism and impartiality. Israel’s rejection of its conclusions bore out that country’s non-respect of the international community’s view and rejection of Security Council resolutions. Israel’s criminal blockade and border crossing closures only compounded the difficult living conditions of Palestinians. In Gaza, Israel had flagrantly violated international law and those responsible continued to enjoy impunity, mainly because of the protection provided by one Super Power, which provided it weapons. Israel’s impunity had allowed continuance of those illegal policies.
Among its findings, the Mission had confirmed that the blockade and incursion in Gaza constituted collective punishment, formulated to that end by Israeli authorities. Given that, he urged the international community to ensure that those responsible were tried for such crimes. Moreover, the General Assembly should adopt a resolution outlining appropriate measures to avoid such situations in the future. Israel must end its human rights violations in Palestinian Territories, including its settlements, particularly in East Jerusalem. The Report presented a new opportunity to consider the Palestinian question in greater depth.
DIEGO MOREJÓN ( Ecuador), endorsing Egypt’s statement on behalf of the Non‑Alignment Movement, reiterated his Government’s full respect for the standards and principles of international law. He condemned the violence in the Middle East, which prevented the achievement of a comprehensive solution to the Arab‑Israeli conflict. His Government also condemned Israel’s military operations in the Gaza Strip, which had caused extensive loss of life and material damage. Israel’s blockade only compounded the suffering of those trying to achieve a State.
He noted that Ecuador had taken into account the Report’s objective recommendations to the United Nations, Israel, Palestinian authorities and the international community. His country also had noted with concern Israel’s scant support to the Fact Finding Mission, as outlined in the Report, and its grave violations of international law, international humanitarian law and international human rights law. Israel also was less prepared to undertake criminal investigations that met international requirements. He urged that the conflict be settled, respecting rights of Israelis and Palestinians to live within sovereign States with safe and recognized borders.
NASSIR ABDULAZIZ AL-NASSER (Qatar), aligning his statement with that made on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, said the world had witnessed the tragic consequences of Israel’s military aggression against defenceless Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. The Goldstone Report pointed to crimes committed by the Israeli army and Government that amounted to war crimes and crimes against humanity, including murder, torture and serious physical and psychological harm to civilians.
He said the Report described events that showed Israel’s systematic policy of collective punishment, including the shelling of the al-Fakhoura school, run by UNRWA. Such crimes violated international humanitarian and international human rights law, specifically the Fourth Geneva Convention. The Goldstone Report was not the first to refer to Israeli violations of international law, he said, citing the United Nations Secretary-General’s Board of Inquiry, among other reports. Even prior to the recent war in Gaza, various reports had revealed atrocities committed by Israel, including that by Martti Ahtisaari, who led the United Nations Fact Finding Mission on the Massacre of Jenin.
He wondered about the fate of the Board of Inquiry’s report, which noted that Israeli armed forces had deliberately carried out strikes against United Nations headquarters. The General Assembly and the Security Council had to follow-up on the Fact Finding Mission’s recommendations in Gaza. To neglect them would “send the wrong message in the wrong direction”. To Israel’s charge that the Goldstone Report was biased, he said the Fact Finding Mission had not limited itself to violations by Israel; it considered charges against the Palestinian side. Yet, it had not found evidence to support Israel’s claims that Palestinian groups had used hospitals and mosques as bases for military activities.
Finally, he said holding Israel accountable for such violations did not create obstacles to resuming the peace process. Turning a blind eye would only deepen the humanitarian crisis that resulted from Israel’s military aggression, blockade of Gaza and settlement policy. The draft resolution would endorse the Human Rights Council report and request the United Nations Secretary-General to transmit the Goldstone Report to the Security Council. Its adoption would be a first step towards ending impunity and achieving justice.
MORTEN WETLAND ( Norway) said that in recent years, there had been too many instances in which effective protection had not been provided to vulnerable groups in armed conflict. “We have seen too many victims, both children, women, innocent bystanders. We have seen parties to armed conflicts acting in ways which we cannot accept and which are unlawful under international humanitarian law,” he said, adding that: “We have a responsibility to act. We can and must restore the role of international humanitarian law and the full respect for fundamental principles which are at the foundation of the United Nations.”
He went on to say that humanitarian agencies and workers had been threatened and there were clear cases where impartial agencies, protected under international humanitarian law, were denied access to victims in need. Norway emphasized that parties to the conflict bore the primary responsibility to investigate and prosecute possible violations of humanitarian law conducted by forces under their command. It was necessary to prevent a culture of impunity.
He noted that the Goldstone Report was comprehensive, well-documented and well-prepared. The Fact-Finding Mission had interpreted its mandate to include actions by parties that constituted violations of humanitarian law. That was important, for its value extended beyond the conflict in question as the international community continued to study the limits of permissible action and the extent of proportionality in modern warfare. The report raised allegations that Israel and Palestinian groups might have been responsible for grave violations of international human rights and humanitarian law, and therefore it was obliged to deal with it in a meaningful manner. It was his view that the Assembly send “a clear and unambiguous message” on the follow up to the report. “We must secure a coordinated approach by relevant United Nations organs and avoid competing processes. It is essential to ensure that the decision by the United Nations General Assembly complements the ongoing process in the Human Rights Council,” he said.
MARIA RUBIALES DE CHAMORRO ( Nicaragua) said that it was essential for the plenary to discuss the Goldstone Report. Her country fully endorsed Egypt’s statement on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement. She said it was unacceptable that Israel still violated international humanitarian and human rights laws, which had led, among other things, to the obstruction of reconstructing the Gaza Strip, as outlined by the Report. It had also confirmed atrocities committed by Israel and its use of disproportionate force by bombing among other places, schools, water and food-supply outlets, homes and hospitals. Over a fifth of the 1,400 people that had died during that military offensive were minors, she specified.
She said the Palestinian side had always wanted to support and cooperate with the Fact Finding Mission, while Israel refused to cooperate with it. It was shameful that the international community still allowed Israel to ignore repeated calls for it to end its barbaric acts against the Palestinian people, depriving them of their right to sovereignty and self-determination. She urged the Assembly and other United Nations bodies to give it serious consideration and to act on the Report’s conclusions. Not acting would make Member States complicit in Israel’s violations.
Nicaragua agreed with the United Nations Fact Finding Missions that some of Israel’s actions could justify that crimes against humanity had been committed. Concrete measures had to ensure the safety of all civilians in all of the Occupied Territories so that after 60 years, the vicious cycle of impunity would end and Israel’s flagrant violations of international laws would cease. She said that all legal measures had to be applied to end Israel’s impunity and its violations of human rights. That would only become possible once the United States of America had discontinued its support for Israel. Otherwise, without that support, the occupation of Arab and Palestinian territories and continued massacres would have never occurred in the first place. Nicaragua appealed for the liberation of the Palestinian people.
ROBLE OLHAYE ( Djibouti) said that in a “rare display of balance and fairness”, the Goldstone Report had assessed blame to both Israel and the Palestinians, citing war crimes on both sides. As underscored by Amnesty International, the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court held domestic authorities and institutions primarily responsible to investigate and prosecute violation of these laws. If there was no effort to follow through on those requirements by the country or party in question, or if it was unable to do so, there was an international justice mechanism that could be activated.
In that context, Israel’s military assault on Gaza had much wider legal and moral implications that extended beyond the immediate confines of Palestine and Israel, as Palestinians sought redress for the war crimes committed in Gaza. “Despite the massive efforts deployed by Israel to minimize damage to its reputation, it was increasingly evident that it would be hard for Israel to effectively counter the Report’s international credibility,” he said. Hamas was exploring the creation of a Committee to present its case with regard to firing unguided rockets into civilian areas of Southern Israel.
The Mission had interpreted its mandate as requiring it to place the civilian population at the centre of its concerns regarding the violations of international law. While Israel complained about the abuse coming from Hamas, it ignored the powerful missiles fired into densely populated Palestinian cities that caused hundreds of deaths. Much of Israel’s activity was collective punishment and the Goldstone Report noted that Israel tried to portray its actions as a response to Palestinian rockets, when Israel’s real target had been the people of Gaza as a whole. The vicious nature of Israel’s actions was underscored by mass detentions, people killed while trying to surrender, destruction of houses and schools.
BASO SANGQU (South Africa) praised members of the Fact Finding Mission led by Justice Richard Goldstone for the outstanding manner in which they had discharged their responsibility and their commitment to promoting and protecting human rights in the affected region, but regretted the Israeli Government’s refusal, despite numerous approaches, to cooperate, including an implicit refusal to give the Mission access to Gaza, the West Bank and to southern Israel.
Continuing, he condemned “in the strongest possible terms”, the acts of sheer aggression, as well as the gross and systematic violations of human rights carried out by the Israel Defense Forces during their intrusion into occupied Gaza in the latter part of December and into the first part of the year. “In an act of utter disregard of its obligations in terms of international humanitarian law and international human rights law, the Israel Defense Forces launched direct attacks against civilians with lethal consequences,” he said, adding that the Israelis had used human shields, in violation of an earlier ruling by the Israeli Supreme Court outlawing such conduct.
He added that the current situation in the Middle East should be understood in the context of the ongoing Israeli military occupation of Palestinian territory and other Arab territories, dating back to 1967, and the associated denial to the right of self-determination of the Palestinian people. In that regard, South Africa strongly believed that the full implementation of the report of the Fact Finding Mission to the occupied Gaza Strip and its recommendations was crucial to addressing the pernicious acts of impunity and would contribute greatly towards ensuring accountability.
GHAZI JOMAA (Tunisia), agreeing with the conclusions of the Goldstone Report, said the General Assembly and the Security Council were concerned with civilian protection during war and conflict. Israeli aggression against Gaza showed the true situation in the region. There was a need to provide an impetus to the peace process and create conditions conducive to it. Israel’s actions against women and children, and destruction of property -- including homes and United Nations offices -- only fuelled violence and anger, and contravened international efforts. They could not serve the cause of peace. The Goldstone Report reflected objectively upon the atrocities committed against Palestinians and he insisted that such actions stop. Dedicated to international law, Tunisia urged giving the Report’s conclusions full attention and serious follow-up to adopt the necessary measures.
Continuing, he said the peace process was the sole way to avoid another crisis and the best way to guarantee the lives of innocent civilians. The Palestinian cause must establish an independent State. In that context, Tunisia reiterated its appeal to oblige Israel to abolish its settlement policy, unconditionally lift its blockade and resume negotiations on the basis of the Arab Peace Initiative, among other efforts. All must help Palestinians overcome the suffering caused by the Gaza war and provide humanitarian assistance through the United Nations, as outlined under Security Council resolution 1860 (2009).
KHALAF BU DHHAIR ( Kuwait) commended Judge Goldstone’s Fact Finding Mission Report for exposing human rights violations and war crimes committed by Israel against the inhabitants of Gaza. He said that, if there was not a strong international preventive measure taken in response to the violations documented therein, Israel would only become more immune to accountability. That would jeopardize the credibility of the United Nations, he stressed.
He called for the High Contracting Parties of the Geneva Conventions to convene a meeting to examine the violations of human rights and he urged that Israel be pressured into implementing the recommendations of the Report and establish credible national courts and commissions to prosecute the perpetrators of war crimes. Further, he appealed to the international community and the United Nations to take firm actions to prevent the encroachment of the Al-Aqsa Mosque and surrounding area. He urged that the Goldstone Report “remain alive”, and that Member States work together to implement its recommendations, as well as support the draft Arab resolution.
ZHANG YESUI ( China) opened by saying that the Chinese Government followed very closely the humanitarian situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and Gaza. “The blockade imposed on the Gaza Strip over the years, particularly the military action started at the end of last year, has inflicted a serious humanitarian crisis on the Palestinian people and caused enormous casualties to innocent civilians,” he said, adding that: “Our hearts go out for the plight of the Palestinian people.” On the other hand, he understood the security concerns of Israel and was equally saddened by the civilian casualties of Israel. Such concerns should not be the reason for excessive use of force.
To truly improve the humanitarian situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, he hoped Israel would heed the call of the international community, open the border crossings into Gaza, and ensure unfettered access of humanitarian and reconstruction supplies to Gaza, stop demolishing Palestinian houses and restrictions on normal activities. He also hoped the international community would give political, moral, financial and technical support to the Palestinians. The Middle East peace process was at a critical juncture and the human rights situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory presented a big challenge to the efforts to resume the Middle East peace process. He called on all parties concerned to remain engaged in cooperation with relevant United Nations organs and agencies, and carry out independent investigations. Political negotiation was the only way out of the cycle of violence, and thus, the parties concerned needed to exercise restraint and refrain from moves that may aggravate tensions.
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