Judge Richard Goldstone’s fact finding mission on Gaza will hold hearings in Geneva this week. Following was our interactive dialogue with his team in May. As can be seen, regrettably our questions were never really answered. And Prof. Christine Chinkin did not tell the truth when she denied already having pronounced herself on the very matter the mission is supposed to determine…
Judge Goldstone: Denounce the Gaza Inquiry’s Biased Mandate
UN Watch Intervention
NGO consultation meeting with the
United Nations Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict
Geneva, 7 May 2009
Thank you, Judge Goldstone, for this opportunity to exchange thoughts with you and your mission. You have a distinguished reputation for ability, integrity and dedication to the cause of international human rights, and UN Watch very much appreciates our dialogue today.
We wish to share with you several concerns concerning the nature of this Mission, and then look forward to hearing from you.
The conflict that erupted in Southern Israel and Gaza earlier this year was a tragedy for all of the innocent victims. The question is how the international community can become part of the solution.
Regrettably, the actions of the UN Human Rights Council have instead become part of the problem. Instead of dealing with genocide in Darfur and other gross violations around the world, it has been pathologically obsessed with vilifying Israel, to the point of demonization.
The Council has devoted more than eighty percent of all its resolutions on country situations to the one-sided condemnation of Israel. It has devoted more special sessions to the condemnation of Israel than to the rest of the world combined. Its permanent investigation on Israel examines only one side of the conflict, and presumes Israeli guilt in advance. To carry out that task, which is supposed to require impartiality, the Council last year named Richard Falk, someone who has accused Israel of planning a Holocaust against the Palestinians, and who argues, as recently as several months ago, that the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 may have been an inside job by the U.S. government.
Judge Goldstone, we urge you, please, not to associate your good name and reputation to the disreputable actions of this body concerning Israel. Even if you conduct an impeccable mission, on what basis can we expect the Council, the body to which you shall report, to do anything but use it, directly or indirectly, to legitimize its grossly biased record?
This is our primary concern. We also have several specific questions.
First, we would appreciate it if you could clarify one question concerning your mission, which the Council created by Resolution S/9-1. The terms of this resolution deliberately excluded any scrutiny of Hamas or other actors in the region. It called for “an urgent, independent international fact-finding mission … to investigate all violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law by the occupying Power, Israel, against the Palestinian people throughout the Occupied Palestinian Territory, particularly in the occupied Gaza Strip, due to the current aggression.”
This mandate prejudges everything. It prejudges one side as the aggressor, and prejudges that same side as having the monopoly on violations. For that reason, many countries, including the European Union, Switzerland and Japan, refused to support it, and many distinguished individuals declined offers to join the mission.
While it was reported that you received additional terms from the Council President, is not your mission funded, framed and governed by the Council resolution? Will you be asking the Council itself to make the necessary changes?
Second, regarding the requirement of impartiality, some have noted that you signed a statement during the January conflict that was seen as a criticism of Israel’s actions in Gaza, one that made no mention of Sderot. Did you also sign a statement while Hamas attacked Israel repeatedly in the preceding years?
Others have noted that your colleague on this Mission, Professor Chinkin, signed a separate and far harsher statement during the conflict, one that “categorically rejected” Israel’s contention that it was acting under self-defence. How can someone be impartial after already rejecting the principal argument of one side of the conflict? Should she not recuse herself?
Third, we are concerned that your faith is liable to be misused by the Council to legitimize its biased record against Israel. On April 3, 2009, you were quoted by Agence France Presse as saying that it had been “quite a shock, as a Jew, to be invited” to head the Gaza mission. But why did this shock you? Are you not aware that Richard Falk, the council’s permanent investigator on alleged Israeli violations, is Jewish, and that this was the main reason that the Arab states insisted on naming him to the post?
In summary, we are certain that you will try to conduct an impeccable mission, but we are deeply concerned by the underlying mandate, and the ways in which the Council is likely to use your good reputation to legitimize its disreputable record concerning Israel. Thank you.
Judge Goldstone: First, I will carry out the mandate I hope with integrity. I have no preconceived notions at all. I have been a judge for more than a quarter of a century and I think I have gotten used to the dealing with contentions in difficult situations in my own country and other countries.
The fact that I am Jewish, as far as I am concerned, is irrelevant. I regard myself first and foremost as a human being. And I hope that I can understand the trials and tribulations of people who have been put in unfortunate positions and victimized. We are, as the mandate indicates, to look at all allegations on both sides.
The letter I signed, I signed because I thought it was a very even-handed statement, which didn’t make any allegations of guilt on either side. As far as I was concerned, the signatories to that letter expressed their shock at some of the violations that have been committed. It didn’t say on which side or the other, and I think that’s why I felt free, and it incidentally had nothing to do with this mission. The timing was quite coincidental. When I signed that statement I had no idea that I would be invited to take this position, and when I had been invited to take this position that statement hadn’t been published. So the one had absolutely no connection with the other.
Professor Chinkin: Perhaps two points. The first one: I was of course a member of the earlier fact finding mission on Beit Hanun. And in that we made a very strong statement relating to the firing of rockets into southern Israel. We very strongly regretted that, because we were unable to interview people in southern Israel that we were unable to give as rounded a picture of the situation as we had hoped, and we very much concluded that what we needed was further, full evidence to be able to come to any categorical conclusions. So that even in, what again, some people considered to be an uneven mandate, we tried very much to address those issues. Whether we succeeded or not is obviously your own judgment.
With respect to the letter in question, again that was way before any question of any fact-finding mission, and the letter concerned the very particular issue about the legality of the use of force, what we call as international lawyers the jus ad bellum, whereas this mandate is the human rights and international humanitarian law, the jus in bellum, which are very different legal questions.
And again, I can only repeat what Judge Goldstone has just said: that I, along with all others member of the mission, intend fully to act with total integrity, and look at the facts of what had occurred on the basis of the evidence, on the basis of the evaluation, on the basis of all materials that we can cover.
And all I can say is, that I hope that all parties — and I stress all parties — will facilitate our work, and explain to us where they are coming from, and what the allegations are. I think it’s in their interest.
Professor Chinkin did not tell the truth. In fact, her January 11, 2009 statement in the Times expressly accused Israel of committing infractions of both jud ad bellum (denying Israel was acting in self-defence) and of jus in bellum (that Israel violated international humanitarian law).
Chinkin and her colleagues said that Israel was guilty of acting “contrary to international humanitarian and human rights law.” In addition, she accused Israel of committing “prima facie war crimes.” Indeed, this was the very title of the statement: “Israel’s bombardment of Gaza is not self-defence – it’s a war crime.”
Since Chinkin therefore pronounced herself on the very point that the inquiry is meant to determine — whether or not violations were committed in January — how can she possibly not be disqualified?
We urge Judge Goldstone to uphold this most basic principle of natural justice, and instruct Chinkin to recuse herself.