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Thursday, September 17, 2009

The Goldstone mandate

The Australian makes a serious mistake on the Goldstone Commission's mandate, which I suspect has been repeated elsewhere. Let's get it right.
In calling in January for an investigation, the original HRC resolution blamed Israel for "massive violations of human rights", a determination before the investigation had even begun which, Israel said, exposed the council's bias.

Justice Goldstone, an eminent jurist, refused to accept the HRC invitation to head the investigation until its mandate had been expanded to include the firing of rockets and mortars by the Palestinians into Israel.
As Human Rights lawyer Irwin Cotler pointed out last month in the Jerusalem Post, the mandate was not legally changed.
Goldstone admits that he also refused the appointment - at least initially. "More than hesitate, I initially refused to become involved in any way [with the inquiry], on the basis of what seemed to me to be a biased, uneven-handed resolution of the UN Human Rights Council," he explained. But he felt comfortable enough to proceed when the then-president of the Council, Martin Ihoeghian Uhomoibhi, purportedly expanded the mission's mandate for him, even though the enabling resolution behind the inquiry would remain unchanged, and though he would still be accountable to the Council that passed this resolution.

HOW GOLDSTONE could have considered his personal conversation with Uhomoibhi sufficient to quell his fears is surprising to say the least. One-sided or not, the mandate in the enabling Human Rights Council resolution is the one that determined the scope and tenor of the "fact-finding" mission. Uhomoibhi could no more have altered that mandate unilaterally than Goldstone could have himself, in defiance of the Council.

Indeed, any faith Goldstone possessed in the re-definition of his mandate should have dissipated when Uhomoibhi publicly stated on the day the inquiry was announced: "I am confident that the mission will be in a position to assess in an independent and impartial manner all human rights and humanitarian law violations committed in the context of the conflict which took place between 27 December 2008 and 18 January 2009."

The alleged expansion of the mandate's timeframe that Goldstone apparently fought for, to include reference to Hamas's provocation (apparently from June 2008), was nowhere to be found in the description of his mandate.
Moreover, even if the mandate was meant to include 'Palestinian' rocket fire, the way that the mandate was phrased was still biased.
The mission's mandate is tainted through more subtle ways of prejudging its conclusions as well. For instance, the council's enabling resolution refers to the Gaza as being "occupied Palestinian territory." Such a description is loaded, and ignores the reality on the ground - that Israel fully withdrew from Gaza years ago. Indeed, the territory's status under international law remains unclear. By adopting this vernacular, the council - and Goldstone himself, who uses a similar characterization - implicitly predetermines an essential part of its analysis. For under international law, what constitutes a legitimate response will be very different depending on whether rocket attacks are coming from territory a state "controls," or whether they are coming from territory that is controlled by the attacking terrorist government, as in the case of Hamas.

In the end, whatever bargain Goldstone personally struck about his mandate, and whatever intentions he has of examining both sides of the conflict, his work will nonetheless be regrettably tarnished by its connection to the UN Human Rights Council, and may well be manipulated to satisfy the council's ends.

AND THUS we are left with the reality that Judge Richard Goldstone, previously shocked to the core, has become the leader of a mission that is tainted to the core.

Curiously, as a result of the reference to 'occupied Palestinian territory,' the International Committee of the Red Cross is said to have 'scrubbed' its website to delete previous references to Gaza being autonomous.


Daled Amos sends me the map.

There is also this:
18-12-2008 Operational update

ICRC activities in Israel and the occupied and autonomous territories: July-September 2008
The ICRC’s work in Israel and the occupied and autonomous territories are aimed at achieving faithful application of international humanitarian law, in particular the Fourth Geneva Convention concerning the protection of civilians against the effects of armed conflict and occupation.


At 10:32 PM, Blogger NormanF said...

The worst blow the Goldstone Commission inflicted upon Israel is to ridicule all the Israeli concessions for peace. Israelis are being convinced nothing they do will ever be good enough for the world.

What could go wrong indeed


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