The United Nations General Assembly announced late Wednesday it will meet next week to consider a report that accused both Israeli forces and Palestinian militants of war crimes and possible crimes against humanity during the offensive in Gaza last winter.
The Geneva-based Human Rights Council endorsed the report by an expert panel chaired by South African Judge Richard Goldstone on Oct. 16 and recommended that the General Assembly take it up during the current session.
General Assembly President Ali Treki received a letter from the president of the Human Rights Council transmitting the report and requests from Arab nations and the 118-member Nonaligned Group of mainly developing nations asking the assembly to consider its findings and recommendations during the first week of November, Assembly spokesman Jean Victor Nkolo said.
He said Treki intends to convene a plenary meeting of the General Assembly on Nov. 4.
The Goldstone report concluded that Israel used disproportionate force, deliberately targeting civilians, using Palestinians as human shields, and destroying civilian infrastructure during its incursion into Gaza to root out Palestinian rocket squads.
It accused Palestinian armed groups of deliberately targeting civilians and trying to spread terror through its rocket attacks on southern Israel. Hamas, the Palestinian Authority’s main rival, controls Gaza and most armed groups in the territory.
The report recommended that the Security Council require both sides to carry out credible investigations within three months into alleged abuses during the conflict – in which 13 Israelis and almost 1,400 Palestinians, including hundreds of civilians, were killed – and to follow that up with action in their courts.
If either side refuses, the investigators recommended that the Security Council refer the evidence for prosecution by the International Criminal Court, the world’s first permanent war crimes tribunal, within six months.
Even if the report eventually gets to the Security Council, there is little chance it will take any action, primarily because of objections by the United States, Israel’s closest ally which has veto power and has said the report is biased and should not be taken up by the UN’s most powerful body.
The resolution approved by the Human Rights Council condemns Israel’s failure to cooperate with Goldstone’s fact-finding mission, endorses the report’s recommendations and calls on the UN and other bodies to ensure they are implemented.
The report has set off an uproar in Israel with the country’s leaders calling the document biased and accusing the Human Rights Council of being hostile to Israel.
Ban told a news conference he looks forward to the General Assembly’s debate and decision.
“I will decide my own course of action upon that,” he said.
The secretary-general reiterated that alleged violations of international human rights and humanitarian laws must be investigated and those responsible should be held accountable.
“I have called repeatedly on both the Israeli government and the Palestinians to carry out full, independent and credible investigations,” he said.
Ban also urged Israel to accept UN proposals for the reconstruction of Gaza, noting that 10 months after hostilities ended there has been no progress on rebuilding homes, buildings and infrastructure – or on reopening the territory’s borders.