US urges Israel to probe Gaza crimes

Geneva, September 30: The United States called on its close ally Israel on Tuesday to conduct credible investigations into allegations of war crimes committed by its forces in Gaza, saying it would help the Middle East peace process.

Michael Posner, US Assistant Secretary of State, said that Hamas leaders also had a responsibility to investigate crimes and to end what he called its targeting of civilians in Israel and use of Palestinians as human shields.

The UN Human Rights Council held a one-day debate on a report issued this month by Richard Goldstone, a South African jurist and former UN war crimes prosecutor.

His panel found the Israeli army and Palestinian activists committed war crimes and possibly crimes against humanity during their December-January war. Israel did not cooperate with the UN inquiry and has rejected the report as biased. “We encourage Israel to utilise appropriate domestic (judicial) review and meaningful accountability mechanisms to investigate and follow up on credible allegations,” Posner said in a speech to the Geneva forum.

“If undertaken properly and fairly, these reviews can serve as important confidence-building measures that will support the larger essential objective which is a shared quest for justice and lasting peace,” he said. But he also said Goldstone’s report was “deeply flawed”, without providing any details. Washington disagreed with the report’s “methodology and many of its recommendations”, he said.

Goldstone told a news conference it was encouraging that the US “has called for acceptable investigations of the allegations by both sides. I think that’s important support.”

Earlier, he said a lack of accountability for war crimes committed in the Middle East had reached “crisis point”, undermining any hope for peace in the region.

Goldstone’s report urges the UN Security Council to refer the allegations to the International Criminal Court in The Hague if either Israeli or Palestinian authorities fail to investigate and prosecute those suspected of such crimes within six months. “International courts are courts of last resort, not first resort,” he said on Tuesday.
Israel’s Ambassador Leshno Yaar rejected the report as “shameful” and “one-sided”.

Ibrahim Khraishi, Ambassador of the Palestinian delegation, urged the Council to adopt the report which he called objective. “My people will not forgive the international community if the criminals are left without punishment,” he said.