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UN agrees to 'Goldstone session'

The UN Human Rights Council will hold a special session in Geneva, as requested by the Palestinian Authority, in which the Goldstone report is expected to be addressed, Al Jazeera has learnt.

The session will begin on Thursday and is expected to last into the following day.

The request by the Palestinian Authority (PA) is co-sponsored by the 18 member states of the human rights council.

Those members are: Bahrain, Bangladesh, Bolivia, China, Cuba, Djibouti, Egypt, Gabon, Indonesia, Jordan, Mauritius, Nicaragua, Nigeria, Pakistan, Philippines, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Senegal.


 

The meeting will be the 12th special session of the council, following the Security Council's open debate on the Middle East expected in New York on Wednesday.

Policy change

The Palestinians have pressed for a vote on the report at the UN Human Rights Council, effectively a policy reverse by Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, whose government had earlier agreed to delay the vote for six months.

That decision, apparently made under US pressure, sparked sharp criticism and protests across Palestinian society.

Should a vote takes place by the council, the matter could be referred to higher UN bodies that could, in theory, push for a war-crimes prosecution.

The news of the UN special session comes a day after Binyamin Netanyahu, Israel's prime minister, lashed out against the Goldstone report, which criticises Israel for deliberately targeting civilians during its war on Gaza earlier this year.

He called the report, compiled by a team led by Richard Goldstone, a South African judge, a "distorted report, written by this distorted committee".

"This report encourages terrorism and threatens peace," he said, and announced that he would never allow any of the country's leaders or soldiers to be put on trial for war crimes.


Disproportionate force

The Goldstone report accuses Israel of using disproportionate force, deliberately targeting civilians and destroying civilian infrastructure during a three-week offensive against Hamas from December to January.

The report, which focused primarily on the actions of Israel, also accused Hamas of war crimes by deliberately targeting civilians and trying to spread terror with rocket attacks.

Israeli officials across the board have condemned the report, saying their country had little choice but to respond to those rockets.

They also blame Hamas for civilian casualties in Gaza, saying fighters from the Palestinian faction which has de facto control of the territory, took cover in residential areas during the war.

But Goldstone's strong credentials as a respected jurist, his Jewish faith and past support for Israeli causes have made it hard for Israel to dismiss the claims.

About 1,400 Palestinians and 13 Israelis died as a result of the 22-day Gaza conflict which lasted from December into January.

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