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National Lawyers Guild Calls for Urgent Action on Goldstone Recommendations

February 4, 2014 at 12:05 pm

NEW YORK – October 30 – The National Lawyers Guild (NLG) calls on the United States not to block Security Council action on the Goldstone Report [3] concerning war crimes and possible crimes against humanity committed in Gaza when it votes in the UN Security Council.

The Goldstone Report recommends that the Security Council require the Government of Israel to launch independent investigations “into the serious violations of international humanitarian and international human rights law reported by the [Goldstone Fact Finding] Mission [paragraph 1969a]. The Goldstone Report also recommends that the Security Council “refer the situation in Gaza to the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court” if Israeli authorities do not initiate “good-faith investigations that are independent and in conformity with international standards” [paragraph 1969c].

Hamas has agreed to initiate investigation [4] but so far Israel has refused [5] to launch an independent, impartial investigation.

Should the U.S. veto Goldstone’s recommendation to refer the situation in Gaza to the International Criminal Court, allowing the “culture of impunity” identified by Goldstone to continue, the National Lawyers Guild urges the General Assembly to itself implement this and other recommendations of the Goldstone Report.

1. The UN General Assembly can do the equivalent by establishing an Article 22 tribunal to prosecute the perpetrators. Article 22 of the UN Charter [6] provides, “The General Assembly may establish such subsidiary organs as it deems necessary for the performance of its functions.”

2. Alternatively, the General Assembly can facilitate prosecution at the International Criminal Court by adopting a resolution accepting Palestine as a state for the purpose of ICC jurisdiction [7] in that court, a suggestion made in a July 22, 2009 New York Times op-ed by John Dugard [8], a South African professor of international law who served as a judge on the International Court of Justice, as a special rapporteur on Human Rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territories for the former UN Commission on Human Rights, and as a member of the UN International Law Commission.

3. As recommended in the Goldstone Report [paragraph 1971a], the General Assembly can also take action under Uniting for Peace Resolution 377 [9], which states that “if the Security Council, because of lack of unanimity of the permanent members, fails to exercise its primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security. . . the General Assembly shall consider the matter immediately with a view to making appropriate recommendations to Members for collective measures. . . to maintain or restore international peace and security.”

Responding to the U.S. opposition to the Goldstone Report, Navanethem Pillay, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, stated [10], “Accountability for breaches of international humanitarian law and for human rights violations, as well as respect for human rights, are not obstacles to peace, but rather the preconditions on which trust and, ultimately, a durable peace can be built.”

The Goldstone Report recognized the ongoing blockade of Gaza by Israel and noted that “Israeli incursions and military operations in the Gaza Strip did not stop after the end of the military operations of December – January.” [paragraph 1915] Action is especially urgent because the blockade and military incursions continue.

NLG President David Gespass said, “The current U.S. position is incompatible with any standard of justice. It is incompatible with President Obama’s speech to the UN General Assembly on September 23, 2009, when he said ‘The world must stand together. We must demonstrate that international law is not an empty promise.’ The Israeli officials who planned and committed the war crimes and crimes against humanity identified by the United Nations Fact Finding Mission remain in power in Israel to this day, they continue the illegal blockade of Gaza, and they continue planning and executing military operations there and in the occupied West Bank. If the U.S. position prevails the culture of impunity will continue. The U.S. must not be allowed to obstruct justice. If Israel continues to refuse to launch an independent investigation, and if action by the UN Security Council is blocked by a U.S. veto, the UN General Assembly should act. Justice delayed is justice denied.”