Statement by Palestinian Rights Groups

The Goldstone Report at the UN General Assembly: States Must Ensure
Victim’s Rights and Not Compromise the Rule of Law

Joint Press Release issued by
Adalah – Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel * Addameer *
Al Dameer Association for Human Rights * Al-Haq – Law in the Service of
Man * Al Mezan Centre for Human Rights * Arab Association for Human
Rights * Badil Resource Center for Palestinian Residency and Refugee
Rights * Defence for Children International-Palestine Section * Ensan
Center for Human Rights and Democracy * Jerusalem Legal Aid Center *
Palestinian Centre for Human Rights * Ramallah Center for Human Rights
Studies * Women’s Center for Legal Aid and Counseling

Today, 4 November 2009, the General Assembly will meet to discuss the
Report of the UN Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict (the
Goldstone Report). A draft Resolution has been presented to the General
Assembly for debate, and it is evident that those who claim to speak on
behalf of human rights and international law are failing in their
mandate. The draft Resolution is a politically motivated compromise,
intended to obtain support for a Resolution without substance, one which
fails to protect victims’ rights or to pursue accountability. While the
draft addresses certain demands, it does not explicitly include
operational steps for the implementation of the Recommendations of the
Goldstone Report, and absolutely fails to bring remedy and redress to
victims.

There can be no compromise on the fundamental principles of human rights
and international law. If international law is to prove capable of
protecting civilian populations and of averting future atrocities, then
it must be enforced. Each individual’s basic human right to equal
protection of the law and to an effective judicial remedy must be
ensured. Those accused of committing international crimes must be
investigated, tried, and prosecuted.

In supporting this draft the PLO are following the traditional policy of
attempting to secure a Resolution by consensus. Too often have the
rights of Palestinians been negotiated away in order to provide the
appearance of political progress, and too often has progress manifested
itself as mere maintenance of the status quo, which for decades has
denied Palestinians their fundamental rights.

Impunity must not be allowed to prevail. International law, and the
respect for the fundamental human rights of peoples throughout the
world, must not be subject to the whim of powerful States. As
Palestinians and representatives of the victims we demand justice, and
the possibility of a peaceful future.

The General Assembly must request that the Security Council not only
consider the Goldstone Report, but also implement its recommendations.
Domestic investigations are essential; however, if these are not
conducted credibly and in accordance with international standards – as
past experience would suggest is the likelihood – then the consequences
must be clear. Should attempts be made to shield alleged war criminals
from justice, then the Security Council must take appropriate action,
and the situation must be referred to the International Criminal Court.

It is also essential that, as recommended in the Goldstone Report, the
General Assembly act now to ensure reparations for the victims of
Operation Cast Lead. It is unacceptable that the illegal blockade of the
Gaza Strip continues to this day and that reconstruction and recovery
have been denied. The General Assembly must establish an escrow fund to
handle reparations owed to the victims by Israel, and act to end this
illegal blockade. The continued suffering of innocent civilians cannot
be condoned by the United Nations.

At the Human Rights Council in September, the political vacillation of
the PLO, the anti-accountability agenda of some of the most powerful UN
member states, and a callous disregard for the victims of Operation Cast
Lead saw the first attempt to bury the Goldstone Report. As the
representatives of the Palestinians at the UN the PLO must ensure a
second attempt is not successful, and must re-focus its efforts towards
ensuring that a Resolution fully endorsing the Goldstone Report and its
detailed recommendations be adopted by a majority of the General
Assembly; a ‘consensus’ Resolution will effectively nullify the decision
of the Human Rights Council’s Special Session, repudiate the rule of
international law, and implicitly endorse further impunity for those who
target civilians.

Palestinians do not want to be part of a consensus that buries the
Goldstone Report, and denies victims’ legitimate rights. Palestinians
should neither be forced to negotiate on the Recommendations of the
Goldstone Report, nor to compromise their fundamental rights under
international law. It is essential – at the risk of condoning impunity
and the commission of future international crimes – that the General
Assembly:

a) fully endorse the Report of the Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza
Conflict;
b) urge the Security Council to endorse the Report, and to expeditiously
pursue all accountability mechanisms presented therein; particularly a
referral to the International Criminal Court in the absence of good
faith investigations by the parties to the conflict;
c) demand that credible internal domestic investigations and
prosecutions be carried out by the parties to the conflict in accordance
with international standards of impartiality, independence, promptness
and effectiveness;
d) establish of an independent committee of experts in international
humanitarian and human rights law to monitor any domestic legal or other
proceeding taken by the parties of the conflict and publicly report to
the UNGA and Security Council;
e) remain fully appraised of the matter until appropriate action is
taken at the domestic or international level in order to ensure justice
for victims and accountability for perpetrators;
f) establish an escrow fund for the purpose of compensating the victims
of violations of international law committed during Operation Cast Lead;
g) request Switzerland to convene a conference of the High Contracting
Parties to the Geneva Conventions to ensure its respect;
h) promote an urgent discussion on the use of munitions such as white
phosphorous (as mentioned in the Report), and a moratorium on their use
by Israel.