UN rights council endorses damning Gaza report

The UN Human Rights Council endorsed a report Friday accusing Israel and the Palestinian hardliners Hamas of war crimes in the Gaza conflict, dealing a fresh diplomatic blow to the Jewish state.
Representatives attend a United Nations (UN) Human Rights Council session under a painting on the ceiling by Spanish artist Miquel Barcelo on September 29 at UN offices in Geneva. (AFP Photo)

   
Israel called the move a "diplomatic farce" and said it harms Middle East peace efforts, but the Palestinians welcomed the resolution, which they said should result in follow-up action from the UN Security Council.
   
Some 25 of the Human Rights Council's 47 members, led by Arab and African states, voted for the resolution. Six, including the United States, voted against, while 16 others either abstained or did not vote.
   
"We thought that the resolution had an unbalanced focus. And we're concerned that it will exacerbate polarization and divisiveness," said US State Department spokesman Ian Kelly in Washington.
   
But Kelly said the US vote against the resolution "in no way diminishes the deep concern that we have about the tragic events of last January and the suffering caused by the violence in Gaza and southern Israel."
   
Britain's Prime Minister Gordon Brown and French President Nicolas Sarkozy sent a joint letter to Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu urging that the report lead to improvements in the situation on the ground.
   
The resolution calls for endorsing "the recommendations contained in the report," produced by a fact-finding mission led by international war crimes prosecutor Richard Goldstone on the 22-day conflict that erupted on December 27, 2008.
   
When the fighting ended, 1,400 Palestinians and 13 Israelis had been killed.
   
It also "calls upon all concerned parties including United Nations bodies, to ensure their implementation."
   
Goldstone concluded that both Israel and Hamas, Gaza's rulers, committed war crimes and possible crimes against humanity during the conflict that Israel launched in response to rocket fire from the enclave.
   
The report also recommends referring its conclusions to the International Criminal Court prosecutor in The Hague, if Israel and Hamas fail to conduct credible investigations within six months.
   
Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat welcomed the outcome. "We hope this will be followed up in the UN Security Council to ensure such Israeli crimes are not repeated," Erakat told AFP.
   
Hamas also approved the move, thanking the nations that voted to endorse the report.
   
"We hope that vote will lead to a trial of the occupation leaders," said Hamas spokesman Taher al-Nunu. He did not react to the report's charges that Hamas also committed war crimes.
   
Israeli Interior Minister Eli Yishai dismissed the resolution as a "diplomatic farce" and an "anti-Israel decision."
   
Israel's foreign ministry said the resolution "impairs both the effort to protect human rights in accordance with international law, and the effort to promote peace in Middle East."
   
Israel said it was an "unjust" resolution that "ignores the murderous attacks perpetrated by Hamas and other terrorist organisations against Israeli civilians."
   
US ambassador Douglas Griffiths said that US officials "worked for a resolution that recognised the right of a state to take legitimate action to protect its citizens in the face of threats to their security while also condemning violations of international law regardless of the actor.
   
"Regrettably," Griffiths said, "this is not the resolution that is before us today."
   
Goldstone himself criticised the resolution, which endorses his report but never directly condemns Hamas, an Islamist movement the United States and European Union consider a terrorist organisation.
   
"This draft resolution saddens me as it includes only allegations against Israel," he told the Swiss newspaper Le Temps ahead of the vote.
   
In their letter, extracts of which were released by Downing Street, Brown and Sarkozy said: "We want international discussion of the Goldstone report to be managed in a way that supports an improvement of the situation on the ground, including the security of Israel and the Palestinians, and the humanitarian situation in Gaza."
   
Brown and Sarkozy "recognise Israel's right to self defence and are convinced that peace is the best guarantee for Israel's and Israelis' security."
   
The two leaders also called on Netanyahu to give humanitarian convoys access to Gaza, proceed with an independent probe into the conflict and share the findings, halt settlement activity in the Occupied Territories and resume negotiations along the lines laid out by the United States.
 

Source: AFP

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