General Assembly resumes debate on UN rights probe into Gaza conflict

November 5, 2009 11:33 pm 

UNITED NATIONS, Nov. 6 — The UN General Assembly Thursday resumed its debate on the report of the United Nations probe which found that both Israeli forces and Palestinian militants were guilty of serious human rights violations during the Gaza conflict earlier this year.

The plenary General Assembly session was adjourned on Wednesday afternoon after more than 30 countries spoke at the debate on the Goldstone report, which accused Israel and Hamas militants of war crimes in the 22-day Gaza conflict, which erupted on Dec. 27, 2008 and has left more than 1,400 Palestinians and 13 Israelis killed.

About 12 countries and one regional body, the League of Arab States which is the observer to the United Nations, are expected to take the floor at the open debate as the General Assembly resumed its plenary session at around 3:15 p.m. EST on Thursday.

The 192-member General Assembly began the debate on Wednesday on the report, the result of a three-month investigation, which was led by Justice Richard Goldstone, a former prosecutor at the UN war crimes tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda, and mandated by the UN Human Rights Council.

The four-member team found evidence that both Israeli forces and Palestinian militants committed serious war crimes and breaches of humanitarian law, which may amount to crimes against humanity, during the conflict in December 2008 and January 2009.

The report calls for a number of measures, including its referral to the UN Security Council, since neither the government of Israel nor the responsible Palestinian authorities have so far carried out any credible investigations into alleged violations.

In addition to the debate, the General Assembly is considering a draft resolution, tabled by the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) and the Group of Arab States, by which it would endorse the report, and request the Secretary-General to transmit it to the Security Council.

The non-binding resolution could easily be adopted by the General Assembly to back the implementation of the proposals contained in the Goldstone report despite opposition from Israel and its allies the United States and the European Union, diplomatic sources told Xinhua.

The General Assembly would also call for independent investigations by both the Israelis and the Palestinians within three months.

"What the Goldstone report essentially constitutes is another damning record of the Israeli crimes committed against our people under occupation," the Palestinian representative, Riyad Mansour, told the General Assembly on Wednesday, adding that its recommendations represent a significant contribution to the pursuit of accountability and justice.

The Palestinian permanent observer to the United Nations called on member states to support the draft resolution, which was an important step to end impunity and the absence of justice that obstructed peace efforts and prolonged the suffering of civilians.

Also on Wednesday, Ambassador Gabriela Shalev of Israel said that the fact-finding mission, with a "one-sided mandate," was a politicized body set up to reach pre-determined conclusions. "It is the product of the Human Rights Council in Geneva, a body whose obsession with Israel had led it to pass more resolutions against Israel than on all other UN member states put together."

"It makes explosive charges against Israel — yet the evidence provided to support such accusations is at best uncorroborated, and at worst false," she said.

Opening the meeting, which was slated to hear from more than 40 speakers, the president of the 64th General Assembly session, Ali Treki, said that despite the political sensitivities associated with the report, the question before the General 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?"

"Let us be clear on what is at stake here: the human rights of nearly 2 million civilians," said Treki, adding that "without justice there can be no progress towards peace."

The open debate follows a request from the Arab Group in New York, supported by the 118-member Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), to consider the report in the Assembly during the first week of November, according to a note issued by the spokesperson for the president of the General Assembly. (PNA/Xinhua)



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