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Gazan human rights organizations hold press conference

ISM Gaza

3 October 2009

Following the Palestinian Authority decision on 2 October to defer the draft proposal endorsing the UN “Goldstone Report”, nearly twenty different human rights organizations issued a statement and held a press conference condemning the Palestinian Authority’s decision. Among the groups were the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR), Al Mezan Centre for Human Rights, Badil, Adalah, Defense for Children (DCI)-Palestine, and other women’s, prisoners’ and children’s rights groups from the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip.

PCHR, Al Mezan, Addameer and the Commission for Human Rights representatives spoke at a press conference in front of the bombed Ministry complex, targeted repeatedly by F-16 attacks during the winter Israeli massacre of Gaza.

Following the 23 day massacre of Gaza, Justice Richard Goldstone and a team of investigators conducted two visits to Gaza, during which they heard nearly 200 interviews, and reviewed thousands of documents, photos, and videos, reported the UK’s Guardian.

The report, 575 pages, found evidence of Israeli war crimes and crimes against humanity during their massacre of Gaza. Nearly 1500 Palestinians have died, during and following the massacre, as a result of injuries sustained during the attacks.

As Palestinian human rights organizations and international NGOs contended, the majority of those killed civilians.

While the United States accused the report of being biased (without clarifying exactly how, Goldstone pointed out), Israeli authorities did not cooperate with the UN investigation. Nonetheless, the UN report looked at what it called crimes committed by Palestinian resistance during the Israeli attacks.

“Justice delayed is justice denied. All victims have a legitimate right to an effective judicial remedy, and the equal protection of the law.”

This is the most important message from the human rights groups protesting the PA’s deferral.

“The crimes documented in the report of the UN Fact Finding Mission represent the most serious violations of international law,” the statement said. “Justice Goldstone concluded that there was evidence to indicate that crimes against humanity may have been committed in the Gaza Strip.”

The statement also notes that with the continued imposition of an all-encompassing siege on the population of Gaza, Israel’s violations of international law continue.

Aside from recognizing the validity of the UN report’s findings, the human rights groups point out that “International human rights and humanitarian law are not subject to discrimination, they are not dependent on nationality, religion, or political affiliation.
International human rights and humanitarian law apply universally to all human beings.”

And while NGOs from Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, legal groups from the US and politicians from Europe have all concluded that Israel committed the cited violations, since the end of the Israeli attacks, “no effective judicial investigations have been conducted into the conflict. Impunity prevails,” say the human rights groups.

The PA, which initially supported the findings of the “Goldstone report”, changed its mind after what is believed to have been intense pressure from the United States, as well as Israel, citing the peace process negotiations as a reason to postpone endorsing the report.

The day before the PA back-tracked, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu threatened that the endorsement of the UN report would hinder the ‘peace process’.

But the human rights groups disagree. “The belief that accountability and the rule of law can be brushed aside in the pursuit of peace is misguided. In such situations, international law demands recourse to international judicial mechanisms. Victims’ rights must be upheld. Those responsible must be held to account.”

Various Palestinian factions, including Hamas and the PFLP, have likewise strongly condemned the PA’s turn-around, calling it a ‘betrayal of the Palestinian cause’ and a confirmation of the ‘extent of the collaboration between and his aides with the Zionist enemy, against the Palestinian people’.

Al Jazeera reports that Mustafa Barghouti, a member of the Palestinian Legislative Council, said the PA decision was ‘totally unacceptable, unjustified and the public here is very angry at it’.

The article continues, “Regardless of the position of the PA, I think the civil society and different political and human rights organisation are going to proceed in demanding sanctions, actions against the Israeli apartheid system and the war criminals that committed these crimes,” said Barghouti.

Just days earlier, Abbas had further backed down on the issue of Israeli illegal settlement expansion, retreating from the Palestinian call to stop settlement construction. This about-face is also believed to be due to US pressure.

The PA reversals clearly seem to be serving their own interest and that of Israel and the US. Ma’an news reported Badil’s statement that “this deferral of the UN report “is against the interests of Palestinian victims and against the higher Palestinian interest as well as efforts to incriminate Israel for its illegal actions.”

Richard Goldstone, a Jewish South African with a long history of involvement in justice, according an IPS report said, “Without some form of truth-telling, there cannot be an enduring peace. Truth-telling and acknowledgement to victims can be a very important assistance to peace.”