Council holds general debate on follow-up to Goldstone report
Tuesday, 23 March 2010 12:42



The Human Rights Council (the Council) commenced consideration of Item 7 on the situation in Palestine and other occupied Arab territories on 22 March 2010. The first part of the debate focused on the continued follow-up to the ‘Goldstone report’, including a series of reports by the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the Secretary-General. The debate was characterised by the familiar divergences of views common to all debates on the occupied Palestinian and other Arab territories, although all States welcomed at least part of the High Commissioner’s report. However, given that the general debate took place on the occasion of follow-up to the 9th and 12th special sessions on Gaza, there were relatively few comments on concrete next steps or regarding the proposed draft resolution on follow-up to the Goldstone report.


Later in the day, the Council held a general debate on Item 7, which also saw political rift among States on the issue. The US, without explicitly referring to the review of the Council’s work and functioning, argued that ‘the institutional bias’ of having a dedicated agenda item on the occupied Palestinian and other Arab territories should be removed. It argued that ‘all situations should be scrutinised under the same agenda item’, and called on the Council ‘tackle the most critical situations of our time’ which seemed to indicate it does not see the situation in Palestine among those.


The High Commissioner for Human Rights, Ms Navanethem Pillay, gave a short statement introducing her periodic report including information on the implementation of the recommendations of the ‘Goldstone report’ requested by the Council at its 12th special session. The High Commissioner’s conclusions on efforts by both Israel and Palestine to investigate allegations of serious human rights violations committed during the conflict in Gaza in late 2008 were equally sobering. In relation to Israel, she considered that ‘neither criminal nor command investigations are adequate’ and could not replace an independent inquiry. On Palestine, the High Commissioner said that while there is currently insufficient information available ‘there is no indication of credible investigations having taken place’. Her assessment was shared by several States, including Chile and Brazil. However, many States only focused on the lack of investigations by Israel, while staying silent on failure by Palestinian authorities and groups to ensure accountability. The report of the Secretary-General, also presented by the High Commissioner as follow-up to the Goldstone report, was only published on the OHCHR website shortly after the beginning of the meeting. Several States regretted the late publishing of the report, which accordingly received limited attention.


Notably, Israel gave a detailed update on its investigations following the Gaza operation, which it described as ‘not limited to those considered by the Goldstone mission’. Although Israel’s contempt for the ‘Goldstone report’ was still visible between the lines and it reiterated its disagreement with the report’s findings, the statement was relatively moderate compared to past interventions. While the High Commissioner’s report and interventions by NGOs qualified and even contradicted the information presented by Israel, it seemed to be an attempt at responding substantively to some of the concerns raised.


Several States including Egypt (on behalf of the NAM), Pakistan (on behalf of the OIC) and South Africa commented on the draft resolution tabled by Sudan (on behalf of the Arab Group), which focuses on follow-up to the ‘Goldstone report’. Palestine explained that due to the delay in the implementation of recommendations of the ‘Goldstone report’, it felt that renewed follow-up was necessary. The draft resolution seeks to establish a new ‘Committee of Independent Experts’ to ‘monitor and assess any domestic, legal or other proceedings’ undertaken by both sides.


However, Norway expressed reservations about the resolution, suggesting it would contradict efforts underway in New York. On 26 February, the General Assembly adopted a resolution in which it ‘stressed the need to ensure accountability for all violations of international human rights and humanitarian law’ and requested a further progress report by July. Notably, the resolution leaves the door open for the Security Council to consider further action and enjoyed the support of France and the United Kingdom, who had previously boycotted the vote on the Goldstone follow-up resolution at the Human Rights Council’s special session in October 2009. It is still unclear what effect the establishment of the proposed Committee of Independent Experts in Geneva could have on the ongoing process in New York.


Many States agreed with the High Commissioner’s conclusion that the occupation by Israel was the source of most human rights violations. While several States including Spain (on behalf of the EU), Senegal, Norway and South Africa ‘called on all parties to the conflict’ to abide by their human rights obligations, many others chose to ignore information on violations committed by Palestinians. Bangladesh went as far as claiming that constant Israeli repression had pushed Palestinians to only ‘occasional outbursts’.


Most States focused their comments on a general description of the human rights situation in Palestine. They reiterated many of the violations outlined in the High Commissioner’s periodic report, which contains specific sections on the rights to health, housing, water and freedom of religion or belief. The continued expansion of settlements by Israel was criticised by almost all States as being in violation of international law. Occasional comments on the political nature of the conflict in the Middle East and the necessity to search for a political solution was highlighted by several speakers.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 24 August 2010 17:11
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