Ex-Commander of British Forces in Afghanistan to Address U.N. Emergency Session on Goldstone Report



Col. Richard Kemp

Geneva, Oct. 15, 2009 — The former commander of British forces in Afghanistan will be addressing the U.N. special session on the Goldstone Report, speaking on behalf of UN Watch, an independent Geneva human rights group. See embargoed speech below.


UN Watch executive director Hillel Neuer issued the following comment on today’s extraordinary meeting of the UN Human Rights Council:

“Today’s meeting has nothing to do with human rights, and there’s no emergency, other than Palestinian President Abbas’ precarious political predicament. The Arab-sponsored draft resolution is entirely one-sided, condemning Israel while saying nothing about Hamas and its rocket attacks.”


“UN Watch calls on all council members to vote against the imbalanced resolution, and to deny Hamas terrorists the political victory they desperately crave, but which the world will only grant at its peril. We urge council members like Pakistan, China, Cuba and Saudi Arabia to end their strategy of focusing on Israel in order to hide the world’s real abuses, especially their own. With this being the council’s 6th special session on Israel — versus only 4 for the whole world combined — it’s tragic that once again politics is trumping human rights.”




Following speech by Col. Kemp is embargoed until delivery tomorrow, Oct. 16, 2009



UN Watch Oral Statement
UN Human Rights Council, 12th Special Session
Geneva, 16 October 2009

Delivered by Col. Richard Kemp

Thank you, Mr. President.

I am the former commander of the British forces in Afghanistan. I served with NATO and the United Nations; commanded troops in Northern Ireland, Bosnia and Macedonia; and participated in the Gulf War. I spent considerable time in Iraq since the 2003 invasion, and worked on international terrorism for the UK Government’s Joint Intelligence Committee.

Mr. President, based on my knowledge and experience, I can say this: During Operation Cast Lead, the Israeli Defence Forces did more to safeguard the rights of civilians in a combat zone than any other army in the history of warfare.

Israel did so while facing an enemy that deliberately positioned its military capability behind the human shield of the civilian population.

Hamas, like Hizballah, are expert at driving the media agenda.  Both will always have people ready to give interviews condemning Israeli forces for war crimes. They are adept at staging and distorting incidents.

The IDF faces a challenge that we British do not have to face to the same extent. It is the automatic, Pavlovian presumption by many in the international media, and international human rights groups, that the IDF are in the wrong, that they are abusing human rights.

The truth is that the IDF took extraordinary measures to give Gaza civilians notice of targeted areas, dropping over 900,000 leaflets, and phoning over 30,000 households. Many missions that could have taken out Hamas military capability were aborted to prevent civilian casualties. During the conflict, the IDF allowed huge amounts of humanitarian aid into Gaza. To deliver aid virtually into your enemy’s hands is, to the military tactician, normally quite unthinkable.  But the IDF took on those risks.

Despite all of this, of course innocent civilians were killed. War is chaos and full of mistakes. There have been mistakes by the British, American and other forces in Afghanistan and in Iraq, many of which can be put down to human error. But mistakes are not war crimes.

More than anything, the civilian casualties were a consequence of Hamas’ way of fighting. Hamas deliberately tried to sacrifice their own civilians.

Mr. President, Israel had no choice apart from defending its people, to stop Hamas from attacking them with rockets.

And I say this again: the IDF did more to safeguard the rights of civilians in a combat zone than any other army in the history of warfare.

Thank you, Mr. President.

UN Watch