Sunday, June 14, 2009

UN Fact Finding Mission on Gaza War begins: call for submissions

By Mary Rizzo • Jun 11th, 2009 at 21:45 •




Fax: (41-22) 928 9003, Telephone: (41 22) 928 9205, E-mail:

Call for Submissions

Pursuant to Resolution S-9/1 of the United Nations Human Rights Council (HRC), adopted on 12 January 2009 at the conclusion of the 9th Special Session of the Council, the President of the Human Rights Council established, on 3 April 2009, an International Independent Fact Finding Mission mandated “to investigate all violations of International Human Rights Law and International Humanitarian Law that might have been committed at any time in the context of the military operations that were conducted in Gaza during the period from 27 December 2008 and 18 January 2009 whether before during or after.

The President of the Council, Ambassador Martin Ihoeghian Uhomoibhi, appointed the following as members of the Fact Finding Mission: Justice Richard J. Goldstone, former Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda and current Spinoza Fellow at the Netherlands Institute for Advanced Study in the Humanity and Social Sciences; Professor Christine Chinkin, Professor of International Law at the London School of Economics and Political Science, University of London; Ms. Hina Jilani, Advocate of the Supreme Court of Pakistan and former Special Representative of the Secretary General on Human Rights Defenders; and Colonel (retired from the Irish Armed Forces) Desmond Travers, member of the Board of Directors of the Institute for International Criminal Investigations (IICI).

The United Nations Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict is pleased to invite all interested persons and organizations to submit relevant information and documentation that will assist in the implementation of the Mission's mandate.

Submissions should focus on events and conduct that occurred in the context of the armed conflict that took place between 27 December 2008 and 19 January 2009. The Mission considers that, for the purposes of its mandate, events since June 2008 are particularly relevant to the conflict.

The Mission would be grateful if submissions were presented as concisely as possible.

Due to time constraints the Mission would be grateful to receive submissions in English, but will also accept submissions in Arabic or Hebrew.

Unless otherwise indicated by the author, the Mission will assume that submissions can be made public. Please indicate whether you wish parts or whole submissions to be treated as confidential.

Any information submitted to the Mission in writing should be sent to the Secretariat of the Fact-Finding Mission c/o OHCHR, G. Motta 48, Geneva, or at the email:, no later than 30 June 2009.

8 June 2009

THAT was the formal calling, and I hope many are able to contribute.

THIS is what was written about the Chairman of the Commission:

Mideast war crimes investigation has an unusual chief in Richard Goldstone

by Alexander Higgins/Associated Press

Sunday April 19, 2009, 10:16 PM

GENEVA — The Palestinian human rights debate has taken a new turn with the appointment of Richard Goldstone, a Jew with close ties to Israel, to head a U.N. investigation into atrocities allegedly committed in Israel's recent war with Hamas.

Goldstone, who played a prominent role in the campaign against apartheid in his native South Africa, rose to global prominence in 1994 when he became U.N. chief prosecutor for war crimes.

That made him the point man to investigate two of the worst human rights disasters of the time: genocide in the former Yugoslavia and in Rwanda.

Now the 70-year-old judge is turning to the Israeli-Palestinian dispute, and the U.N.'s demand to investigate the three-week war in which more than 1,000 Palestinians died as Israel waged an offensive to stop Hamas rocket attacks that have killed more than 20 Israelis.

The investigation called by the 47-nation Human Rights Council was only supposed to look at Israeli conduct, but Goldstone didn't accept the assignment until the council's Nigerian president, Martin Uhomoibhi, said it would also look at Palestinian actions.

Asked how he felt as a Jew leading an investigation that involves the Jewish state, Goldstone said: "It certainly came to me as quite a shock."

Goldstone, who is on the board of governors of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, said, "I've taken a deep interest in Israel, in what happens in Israel, and I have been associated with organizations that have worked in Israel."

But he said he intends to live up to his reputation for impartiality.

As head of a five-member South African judicial commission in the early 1990s he criticized all political groups — from President F.W. de Klerk's white-led government to Nelson Mandela's African National Congress and its rival, the Inkatha Freedom Party.

The large contingent of Arab and other Muslim countries on the U.N. human rights body has led to a stream of condemnations of Israel almost to the exclusion of human rights problems elsewhere.

The council followed form again in January when it drew up the demand for a mission "to investigate all violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law by the occupying Power, Israel, against the Palestinian people."

Previously Israel has rejected council investigations, calling them biased, and an Israeli official said Wednesday his government was unlikely to cooperate with the Goldstone probe because it distrusts the U.N. rights council.

But Yousef Rizka, political adviser to Gaza Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas, said Goldstone's team would be welcome in Gaza.

"They will find the full cooperation by the Palestinian government and the Palestinian people, because the crimes of the occupation are clear and no one can underestimate it," Rizka said.

No date has been set for the investigators to travel to the region.

Aharon Leshno Yaar, Israel's ambassador to U.N. organizations in Geneva, said: "It is clear to everybody who follows this council and the way that it treats Israel that justice cannot be the outcome of this mission."

It doesn't matter that the president of the council has broadened the mandate, Leshno Yaar told The Associated Press. "It's not his authority," nor does the choice of Goldstone make any difference, he said.

New York-based Human Rights Watch said that it has criticized the council in the past "for its exclusive focus on Israeli rights violations."

But Israel should cooperate because Goldstone can be trusted to make the inquiry "demonstrate the highest standards of impartiality," the group wrote to U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and 27 European foreign ministers.

The international criticism of the Gaza offensive has deepened a sense among Israelis that their country is being treated unfairly. They see a double standard in the U.N. council's call to investigate Israel but not the Islamic militants who for years have been firing rockets into Israeli towns and villages.

Uhomoibhi, the council president, said he instructed Goldstone to produce a report "that truly reflects the events on the ground, and that includes dealing with all violations in an impartial and objective manner."

Goldstone said after being appointed April 3 that an impartial investigation of alleged war crimes before, during and after the December-January fighting was in the interest of both Israelis and Palestinians.

"I am already on public record as having expressed my deep concern for the heavy loss of innocent lives in Gaza and Israel," Goldstone said.

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Mary Rizzo is an art restorer, translator and writer living in Italy. Editor and co-founder of Palestine Think Tank, co-founder of Tlaxcala translations collective. Her personal blog is Peacepalestine.
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