Palestinian human rights groups slam UN resolution delaying action on Gaza war crimes report

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Palestinian rights groups slam Gaza vote at UN

GENEVA — Palestinian human rights groups sharply criticized a U.N. resolution — backed by their own government — that delays action on a report alleging war crimes during the 2009 Gaza conflict.

The vote Wednesday by the 47-nation U.N. Human Rights Council effectively freezes the so-called “Goldstone report,” which had called on Israel and the Palestinian militant group Hamas to probe and prosecute any war crimes or face scrutiny by the International Criminal Court.

“This resolution is a betrayal of victims’ rights,” said Maysa Zorob of the Palestinian group Al-Haq. Nearly 1,400 Palestinians and 13 Israelis were killed during Israel’s three-week incursion into the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip last year.

Zorob particularly criticized the Palestinian Authority for backing the resolution, telling reporters in Geneva that it “reflects a lack of genuine commitment to justice.”

Palestinian officials at the Human Rights Council said they were still hoping the recommendations in the report could be enforced at a later date.

A U.N.-appointed expert panel led by South African Judge Richard Goldstone proposed in September 2009 giving both sides six months to carry out credible investigations into alleged abuses. If they failed to do so, the powerful U.N. Security Council was supposed to refer the evidence for prosecution by the ICC, the world’s first permanent war crimes tribunal. This deadline was repeatedly postponed, in part at the request of the Palestinian Authority, prompting angry street protests by ordinary Palestinians and condemnation around the Arab world.

Rights groups say the latest delay shelves the report for another six months, and possibly forever.

Raji Sourani, director of the Palestinian Center for Human Rights, said backing the resolution was a “grave mistake” by the Palestinian Authority of President Mahmoud Abbas.

“Human rights are being sacrificed for the sake of politics,” he said, referring to fragile peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians that resumed four weeks ago.

A separate resolution in the council endorsed the findings of an independent expert panel that concluded the Israeli raid on a Gaza-bound aid flotilla was “clearly unlawful.”

The United States, which joined the council last year, voted against both resolutions. European countries mostly abstained.

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