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[News] 1 year after Gaza : HRN Exclusive interview with Justice Goldstone

It has been a year since the military operations in Gaza. However, justice and accountability on the grave human rights violations during the operation have not been achieved yet.

In November 2009, Justice Goldstone, a head of the UN Fact-Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict, accepted an exclusive interview with Human Rights Now.

Human Rights Now is glad to introduce the whole interview here. 

The UN Fact-Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict, established by the UN Human Rights Council, chaired by Justice Goldstone, investigated human rights violations related to the Gaza Conflict. The Mission found that war crimes were committed by both Israel and Palestinian armed groups and noted a referral to the International Criminal Court.

Despite approvals of a report of the Mission by the UN General Assembly and the UN Human Rights Council, the UN Security Council has not dealt with it yet.

All copyrights of this interview belong to Human Rights Now. The interview may not be copied, distributed or translated without written permission.

Interview with Justice Goldstone (Kazuko Ito Secretary General, Human Rights Now)

14 November, 2009 in Vienna

(Before you accepted the head of the mission, you might have had hesitation. Why did you decide to accept the mandate?)

I hesitated to accept the mandate, because the Council resolution was not even handed.
That is why I rejected first.
But, it turned out that the structure of the mission includes both side investigations.
Under this condition, I accepted the mandate and did my best to conduct fair investigation.

(What makes your report special compare to previous fact finding mission's report? The report has great impact, since you identified the war crimes and talk about the ICC)

I think that nothing is special.
I just did proper thing. Other fact finding mission did the same thing, for example Darfur mission found war crime, and recommend the referral to the ICC.

(But in case of Israel and Palestine, things are usually different. I know this is the first mission established by the UN Human Rights Council, but anyhow, it is quite new thing that war crime and the referral to the ICC is discussed clearly in UN official finding related to OPT.)

We just want to be fair applying international law.
If the gravity of the human rights violation is the same level, the finding and recommendation should be the same.

(Why did you make recommendation to the Security Council to refer the case to the ICC)?

Because it was the only way to achieve justice for victims in this case.
Israel is not the state party to the Rome Statute of the ICC, so you need to obtain a Security Council Resolution.

(You found that killings of civilians during this military action constitute war crimes. But Israel argues that casualities of Palestine people was collateral and it's Hamas's responsibility to have Palestine people as human shield. How do you respond to argument of Israel?)

Among the cases we investigated, we did not find any case that Hamas used Palestine people as human shield. But we did not investigate all cases, so I do not know if there is any such case.
But, even if the Hamas used Palestine people as human shield, it is not justified to conduct disproportionate attack on civilians.

(Now, Human Rights Council and General Assembly passed resolutions to support your report. What do you expect the international community to do next?)

If the Security Council does not act immediately, international community should put more and more pressure to make both sides conduct the proper investigation.
Of course, I hope the Security Council to do the right thing to achieve justice for victims.

(Regrettably, many western countries abstain or against the General Assembly and Human Rights Council resolution, by saying it is politically unbalanced, how is your reaction?)

Why did Japan abstain?

(I remember, the Japanese government said that the resolutions are highly political, or not well balanced.)

I have not heard clear reason why the western countries and Japan claimed that my report is not well balanced. I want to ask the reason clearly. It was very disappointing.

(How do you think the allegation that seeking justice undermines the peace process of Middle East?)

No, achieving justice does always good for peace.

(It is true especially for the case of Middle East. Human rights violation is the basis of the conflict, and people suffer from human rights violation for such a long time without any justice and accountability.)


(What is your last massage to the international community?)

All crimes and violations wherever it was done should be dealt with in the same way under international law.

(Did your work as the head of the mission finish?)

Yes, I finished my job. Now, it is work of civil society to achieve justice.
Good luck.

Global civil society coalition urges UN General Assembly to support Goldstone recommendations on Gaza

The General Assembly will meet on 4 November to consider the report of the United Nations fact-finding mission on the Gaza conflict, which found evidence that both Israel and the Palestinians committed serious war crimes during the hostilities earlier this year.

 Human Rights Now, among 40 NGOs around the world, sent open letter to all member states of UN General Assembly to support the recommendation of the Goldstone report and work to adopt a resolution to ensure justice and accountability for victims of the Gaza conflict.

See the whole letter;

A global coalition of civil society organizations from every corner of the world, ranging from Human Rights Now in Japan to the South African Council of Churches, have urged members of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) to support the recommendations of the Goldstone Report and work to adopt a resolution which will ensure accountability for victims of the Gaza conflict earlier this year.

In the letter from the groups, which include Physicians for Human Rights in Israel, the Democracy Coalition Project, the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights in Gaza, Open Society Institute, and the Centro de Estudios Legales y Sociales in Argentina, the NGOs urge the adoption of a resolution by the 64th UNGA which calls upon the Israeli Government and relevant Palestinian authorities to launch "credible, independent investigations of the findings of the Goldstone Report...[that] will promote accountability among all parties to the conflict and put an end to the culture of impunity."

During the 12th Session of the Human Rights Council, Justice Richard Goldstone presented a report of the United Nations Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict that found evidence of serious violations of human rights and humanitarian law committed by both Israeli forces and Hamas fighters. Goldstone concluded that State parties should start criminal investigations where there is evidence of grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions of 1949. The letter specifically asks the United Nations to ensure an independent international mechanism is established to assess investigations by Israeli and Palestinian authorities.

The organizations urge the international community to demonstrate its unequivocal support for human rights and the protection of Israeli and Palestinian civilians. "The international community must demonstrate resolve on the issue of accountability on both sides of this conflict and ensure that international law is upheld. It is this approach which will strengthen the chances of peace and justice for Israelis and Palestinians," the letter states.

Among the 40 current signatories of the letter are the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel, Human Rights Watch, Asian Legal Resources Centre, Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union, Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies, Federation Internationale des Ligues des Droits de l'Homme, International Center for Transitional Justice, and the International Commission of Jurists.