A United Nations expert warns of efforts to "bury" a report by the world body’s fact-finding commission on the Israeli offensive against the Gaza Strip last January.
Ahead of a Friday vote in the UN General Assembly on a proposed extension for Israeli and Palestinian authorities to investigate the Gaza war crimes charges, Richard Falk criticized the bureaucratic process the report has been going through.
"I think its part of the wider effort basically to bury the recommendations of the Goldstone report, unnecessarily delaying the implementation of its recommendations," the UN’s special rapporteur on human rights in the Palestinian territories told Ma’an news agency.
He said the prolonged process made the UN less likely to hold accused war criminals accountable and that the delays would "remove the reality of what happened in Gaza from the collective memory of world society."
A UN Human Rights Council commission led by South African prosecutor Richard Goldstone looked into Israel’s three-week onslaught against Gaza in December 2008 and January 2009 and the deaths of more 1,400 Palestinians, mostly civilians, and 13 Israelis.
Goldstone’s report on the war crimes allegations highlighted deliberate targeting of Palestinian civilians by the Israeli army who strafed premises known to hold civilians, and gunned down unarmed people on the run — who had even waved a white flag at times.
The damning 575-page document also accused the Gaza-based Hamas movement for indiscriminate missile and rocket attacks on Israeli positions and risking civilian lives.
The report overwhelmingly endorsed in a UN General Assembly (UNGA) vote in November urged the foe sides to investigate the findings in three months and hold perpetrators accountable, before the report should be forwarded to the Security Council.
The UNGA’s Arab-backed resolution to be put to vote on Friday calls on Israel and the Palestinians "to conduct investigations that are independent, credible and in conformity with international standards," a demand neither of the two sides have managed to meet.
It also asks the UN chief Ban Ki-moon to report back to the assembly "within a period of five months on the implementation of the present resolution, with a view to the consideration of further action, if necessary, by the relevant UN organs and bodies, including the Security Council."
But Falk was skeptical about the five-month extension which he described as a delay with "no responsible reason," and what "doesn’t seem like an appropriate response."
"It’s been well over a year since the events occurred; there’s been ample scrutiny (of Goldstone’s findings)", he argued
While Israel’s veto-wielding ally, the United States, is largely expected to block any resolution in the UN Security Council on the Goldstone report, human rights advocates accuse Ban and other international organizations of yielding to political pressure and letting the war criminals off the hook.
Falk regretted the efforts in the General Assembly are "ultimately … a bureaucratic parallel to the veto that formally exists in the Security Council."
"It’s a real litmus test of the UN to surmount geopolitical pressures that collide with legal rights."