It’s been nearly four full months since the United Nations called upon both Israel and Palestinians to conduct independent and impartial investigations into alleged violations of international humanitarian law during the 2008-09 conflict in Gaza and Southern Israel. These violations were reported upon in the so-called Goldstone Report. Amnesty International and the rest of the international community are still waiting for the two parties to give an adequate response.
Today (Feb. 26), the United Nations voted 98-7 with 56 countries absent to provide an additional five months for the parties to conduct these investigations. To date, both Israel and Hamas have issued reports that fall woefully short of being effective and independent. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, in his response to the reports, found little to praise in them but unfortunately fell short of an assessment of whether they met the criteria set by the UN.
This disappointment gets to the crux of the matter. There are powerful efforts to ensure that the Goldstone Report doesn’t get acted on. Amnesty International believes the report is a means toward justice in a conflict in which the evidence suggests war crimes were committed. And more importantly, in its insistence that all sides to the conflict be judged by a single international standard, it also provides a way toward a long-term sustainable peace in a region that hasn’t had it for nearly 75 years.
Today’s UN resolution contains the elements that AI is calling for, although AI had lobbied for the text to be more explicit in terms of the assessment required from the Secretary-General at the end of the five months.
But if the UN allows both parties to dither and shirk their international responsibilities, the vote will be meaningless. It’s particularly disappointing that the United States was one of the seven negative votes today. US support for the Goldstone report and process is essential to its effectiveness.
We want the United States and all members of the UN to support this resolution and provide some strength to a process that offers promise but which can easily be derailed. The goal must be to have Israel and Palestine conduct credible and thorough investigations that are monitored by a UN-mandated body of legal experts. And in five months down the road, if the parties have not done so, the UN Security Council should refer the situation to the International Criminal Court. That would be an act with teeth.