Goldstone's Statements Do Not Trump International Justice

A woman shows blood on her hands during the Gaza war in 2009.

The 26 undersigned human rights organizations express great concern over the attempts undertaken by Israel to bury the recommendations and conclusions of the Goldstone Report, viewing them as clear attempts to ensure impunity for perpetrators of war crimes in the Occupied Palestinian Territories and Israel during Operation Cast Lead in December 2008 and January 2009, during which more than 1,400 individuals were killed, amongst whom were more than 900 Palestinian civilians as opposed to 3 Israeli civilians. 

On April 1, 2011, Justice Richard Goldstone stated in his article in the Washington Post, "If I had known then what I know now, the Goldstone Report would have been a different document." Perhaps the most significant statement that Goldstone made in the article described his newly developed belief that Israel did not target civilians during the war on Gaza deliberately and as a matter of policy. Consequently, the Israeli government's calls to disregard the entire Goldstone Report, which holds both Israeli and Palestinian parties responsible for committing crimes that amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity, have increased. Additionally, Israel has asked to drop the subsequent Committee of Expert's reports on national investigations into war crimes, which further outlined the ineffectiveness of the national investigations conducted by the Israeli and Palestinian sides.

This latest push for impunity comes while the Israeli government continues to perpetrate grave violations of international humanitarian law and human rights by constructing more settlements in the West Bank, suppressing peaceful protests and continuing the blockade on Gaza—a policy of collective punishment against the entire civilian population of the Gaza Strip. It also comes at a time when the current Israeli government has proven unwilling to take any meaningful steps toward peace by increasing its attacks on Gaza and killing more civilians during the past few weeks.

It is within this context that we urge the international community to seriously confront the systematic impunity that has characterized the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and to begin to hold accountable those responsible for war crimes. International justice and granting retributions to victims are crucial, especially following the failure to provide for true accountability for the crimes that have been committed on a national level.

We further stress that Justice Goldstone's opinions, which he expressed several months following the conclusion of his report and subsequent reports, do not possess any legal authority to annul the findings of the reports, nor should these opinions be used as a tool to impede further investigations. The war on Gaza was not only documented by the Goldstone report but also by the reports of dozens of international human rights organizations.

Thus, it is the responsibility of the international community to ensure that such crimes are referred to the International Criminal Court for investigation, in light of claims that domestic investigations have lacked independence, impartiality, effectiveness and promptness over the last two years, as noted in the report of the Committee of Experts that was presented before of the 16th session of the Human Rights Council. It is clear that investigations by Israel and Hamas into war crimes have not conformed to international standards. Therefore, recourse to international mechanisms of justice, including the ICC, is not only appropriate, but essential in order to begin to address impunity.

The undersigned organizations urge the international community and all actors involved to not impede referral of war crimes and possible crimes against humanity, carried out by any actor during Operation Cast Lead, to the International Criminal Court for investigation.

A historic opportunity exists to convey a clear message throughout the MENA (Middle East and North Africa) region that perpetrators of war crimes are not immune to accountability. This is an opportunity to demonstrate to citizens struggling for democracy across the region that international justice is not a mere tool in the hands of power but rather an impartial force of protection for all victims of war crimes and human rights violations without distinction.

This release was originally distributed by the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies: www.cihrs.org/english/default.aspx. The undersigned organizations are as follows:

Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies; Al Mezan Center for Human Rights; Algerian League for the Defense of Human Rights (LADDH); Amman Center for Human Rights Studies; Arab Foundation for Civil Society and Human Rights Support, Egypt; Arab Organization for Human Rights, Syria; Arabic Network for Human Rights Information, Egypt; Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression, Egypt; Association for Human Rights Legal Aid, Egypt; Bahrain Center for Human Rights; Bahrain Youth Society foe Human Rights; Committees for the Defense of Democracy Freedom and Human Rights, Syria; Egyptian Child Rights Center; Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights; Egyptian Foundation for Advancement of the Childhood Condition; Human Rights First Society, Saudi Arabia; Human Rights Organization in Syria (MAF); Iraqi Human Right Association in Denmark; Kurdish Committee for Human Rights in Syria al-Rased; Kurdish organization for the defense of human rights and public freedoms in Syria (DAD); Law Society, UAE; Moroccan Organization for Human Rights; National Organization for Human Right in Syria; Palestinian Center for Human Rights; Palestinian Human Rights Organization, Lebanon; Yemeni Organization for Defending Rights and Democratic Freedoms.