In this op-ed, Justice Goldstone contrasts the investigations conducted by the Israeli military into alleged violations by Israeli forces with the Hamas de facto administration’s failure to investigate alleged violations by Palestinian armed groups in Gaza. He also comments that the Israeli military investigations indicate that civilians in Gaza “were not intentionally targeted as a matter of policy” by Israeli forces.
Based on this op-ed the Israeli government has called for the UN to retract the UN Fact-Finding Mission Report. The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and Euro-Mediterrenean Human Rights Network (EMHRN) find that in order to accurately inform the debate, it is important to highlight certain issues.
The Report of the UN Fact-Finding Mission, uncovered evidence indicating widespread commission of war crimes and possible crimes against humanity by Israel and the Palestinian side. These findings were corroborated by international organisations including Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and the International Federation for Human Rights, by Israeli and Palestinian human rights organisations as well as in the Fact-Finding Mission mandated by the Arab League.
Key allegations about Israeli violations relate to widespread indiscriminate attacks, the choice of targets, use of certain prohibited weaponry, and the extensive destruction of public and private infrastructure. Despite Justice Goldstone’s personal re-consideration of Israel’s intent to strike civilians, as expressed in his opinion piece, no credible evidence has come to light to contest the validity of these claims.
Based on the conclusions of international, Palestinian and Israeli human rights organisations, the incidents specified in the UN Fact-Finding Mission Report have been insufficiently investigated, domestically, in accordance with international law. The two reports of the UN Committee of Independent Experts mandated to “monitor and assess any domestic, legal or other proceedings undertaken by both the Government of Israel and the Palestinian side” have concurred with the assessment of these organisations.
Among others, the Committee notes that “there is no indication that Israel has opened investigations into the actions of those who designed, planned, ordered and oversaw Operation Cast Lead.”
In the over two years since Operation Cast Lead, Israel and the Palestinian side have failed to conductgenuine investigations, and where appropriate, prosecutions.
To-date one Israeli soldier has served 7.5 months in jail for the theft of a credit card and two others have received three month suspended sentences for using a Palestinian child as a human shield. These three convictions, and the ongoing trial of a fourth soldier, have been the only concrete judicial outcomes of Israeli Operation Cast Lead investigations. It is noted that neither these indictments nor the sentences handed down for the human shield conviction reflect the gravity of the actual crimes committed. It appears that the majority of other investigative procedures have been closed without charge.
All alleged international crimes must be subject to genuine investigation, and, if appropriate, those responsible must be prosecuted in accordance with the requirements of international law. In light of the domestic authorities’ failure to conduct such investigation, the International Criminal Court now constitutes the most appropriate forum, as recommended by the Human Rights Council on 25 March.
It is essential that the current controversy – which does not relate to the principal substantive allegations of international crimes arising from Operation Cast Lead – is not used to further impunity. The Government of Israel’s call for a ‘retraction’ of the Report is unfounded, and inappropriate.
The equal application of the law is the very least that victims on all sides deserve.