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UN Endorses Israel-Palestinian War Crimes Report


UN Endorses Israel-Palestinian War Crimes Report

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After two days of debate, the U.N. General Assembly has overwhelmingly endorsed a report from the Human Rights Council calling for domestic investigations into alleged war crimes committed by both Israel's military and Palestinian militants during the Gaza conflict that began last December.

The final vote was 114 in favor, 18 against and 44 abstentions.

Strong support came from the Arab and non-aligned countries, many of whom co-sponsored the draft resolution.

Palestinian Ambassador Riyad Mansour welcomed the vote, saying the implementation of Justice Richard Goldstone's report will now begin in stages.

"In three months we will come back to General Assembly to consider the report of the Secretary-General for further action, including in all parts of the United Nations, including in the Security Council," said Riyad Mansour.

The non-binding resolution requests the secretary-general report to the General Assembly within three months on the implementation of the resolution, with a view to considering further action, if necessary.

Of the countries abstaining or voting no, several said that although they agreed with the essence of the resolution - that the parties should conduct their own independent, credible investigations into alleged violations as called for in the Goldstone report - they could not vote in favor because they had difficulty with two specific items in the resolution.

Britain's Deputy U.N. Ambassador Philip Parnham echoed that sentiment to reporters after the vote.

"We have abstained, because in particular, we can't support the endorsement of the Goldstone report," said Philip Parnham. "But we do, we do support the core practical element of the resolution - which is the call for credible and thorough investigations."

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The other point of some contention is that the resolution leaves the door open for future action in the U.N. Security Council. The Palestinians have made clear they plan to pursue that option, but most of the council's five permanent veto-wielding members oppose the idea, saying the right forum for the Goldstone report is where it started - in the Human Rights Council in Geneva.

The United States was the only permanent Security Council member to vote against the resolution.

Deputy U.N. Ambassador Alejandro Wolff said that although it opposed the resolution, the United States strongly supports accountability for human rights and humanitarian law violations relating to the Gaza conflict.

"We believe that the Goldstone report is deeply flawed-including its unbalanced focus on Israel, its sweeping conclusions of law, the excessively negative inferences it draws about Israel's intentions and actions, its failure to deal adequately with the asymmetrical nature of the Gaza conflict, its failure to assign appropriate responsibility to Hamas for its decision to base itself and its operations in heavily civilian-populated urban areas, and its many overreaching recommendations," said Alejandro Wolff.

Israel, which did not cooperate with the Goldstone commission, voted against the resolution, saying it legitimized a "deeply flawed, one-sided" report, and disregarded Israel's right to defend its citizens.

During the three-week-long Israeli military incursion into the Gaza Strip, at least 1,300 Palestinians and 13 Israelis were killed. The Goldstone Commission criticized both sides for violations of international humanitarian law.