Arabs seek UN-backed probe into alleged Gaza war crimes



UNITED NATIONS, Gerard Aziakou- Arab nations held frantic talks at the UN General Assembly Wednesday to try and secure European backing for a resolution calling on Israelis and Palestinians to probe alleged war crimes in Gaza.
Arab and non-aligned states want EU nations to back a draft text endorsing a UN report that examined the conduct of Israel and Palestinian militants' during a 22-day conflict in the Gaza Strip that ended in January.



Arabs seek UN-backed probe into alleged Gaza war crimes
The report, produced by a panel led by former judge Richard Goldstone, has provoked a firestorm of controversy, with the US House of Representatives condemning it Tuesday as "irredeemably biased and unworthy of further consideration or legitimacy."
Some 43 representatives were scheduled to speak during debate in the 192-member assembly, but diplomats said a vote on the text was not expected until Thursday afternoon at the earliest.
Sponsors of the text are keen to secure broad support, but the resolution faces opposition from EU states because it essentially endorses the Goldstone report, which they view as biased.
They also oppose reference to possible Security Council action if the report's findings are not implemented.
Goldstone, a South African Jew and respected former international prosecutor, recommended that Israel and the Islamist movement Hamas that rules Gaza face possible prosecution before the International Criminal Court in The Hague if they fail to conduct credible investigations within six months.
Israel, which has mounted a vigorous campaign to discredit the report, slammed Wednesday's debate as "yet another campaign against the victims of terrorism, the people of Israel."
"The Goldstone report and this debate do not promote peace. They damage any effort to revitalize negotiations in our region. They deny Israel's right of self-defense," Israel's UN Ambassador Gabriela Shalev told the assembly.
"From its inception in a one-sided mandate, the Gaza fact-finding mission was a politicized body with predetermined conclusions," she added.
A key finding of the UN report was that Israel used disproportionate force in response to repeated rocket attacks by Gaza-based militants and failed to take adequate measures to protect civilians during its onslaught.
Riyad Mansour, the Palestinian representative to the UN, highlighted the report's conclusion that the Israeli military onslaught "was planned in all of its phases as a deliberately disproportionate and systematic attack aimed at punishing, humiliating and terrorize the Palestinian civilian population."
He also warned that efforts by Israel and its supporters would not deter Arab states from following up the recommendations in relevant international forums including the UN Security Council and the International Criminal Court.
The draft recommends that Switzerland, in its capacity as depositary of the Geneva Conventions, move to convene a conference on enforcement of the conventions in occupied Palestinian territory, including east Jerusalem.
The text also asks UN chief Ban Ki-moon to monitor the implementation of the draft resolution and report back to the General Assembly within three months with "a view to considering further action, if necessary, by the relevant UN organs and bodies, including by the Security Council."
The resolution faces certain opposition from the United States, Israel's staunchest ally, and possibly from other Western countries that see it as one-sided.
But speaking on behalf of the EU, Sweden's UN Ambassador Anders Liden urged Israel and the Palestinians to "launch appropriate, credible and independent investigations into possible violations."
He described the Goldstone report as "serious" and said the EU was "committed to assessing it seriously."
A simple majority is needed for passage of the resolution and the sponsors can count on broad support among nonaligned, African and Muslim-majority countries, which make up the bulk of the UN membership.
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Thursday, November 5th 2009
Gerard Aziakou
           


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