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Saturday, April 4, 2009

Jewish judge to lead UN Gaza war probe

Fri, 03 Apr 2009 18:16:04 GMT | PressTV

Former international prosecutor Richard Goldstone

Ex-prosecutor Richard Goldstone has been appointed to lead investigations into Israel's "grave war crimes" during its 23-day war against Gaza.

President of the UN Human Rights Council Martin Uhomoibhi on Friday announced the choice and explained that the mission would look into all violations, not only those committed during the military incursion in the Palestinian coastal enclave in December and January.

"The ultimate purpose of the council will not be served if that mandate does not allow for the establishment of an independent and impartial fact-finding mission... that would gain the credibility of all sides," AFP quoted Uhomoibhi as saying.

Jewish Goldstone also indicated on Friday that the four-member mission was handed a broader mandate than the one requested by many Muslim member states.

Besides Goldstone, a former chief prosecutor on the International Criminal Tribunals for ex-Yugoslavia and Rwanda, the mission will also include British law professor Christine Chinkin, retired Irish army colonel Desmond Travers and former UN human rights expert Hina Jilani.

The probe would apparently investigate homemade projectiles fired at the Israeli settlements and towns in the occupied West Bank.

The homemade rockets hardly leave casualties.

Goldstone, a former South African judge, said the mission would examine possible war crimes and serious human rights violations "before, during and after the conflict".

He urged the relevant authorities to allow for his team to contact the victims both in Gaza and in the occupied territories "to examine the context and consequences of military action in Gaza".

In January, the 47-member UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) overwhelmingly voted for a probe into what UN human rights envoy Richard Falk said would constitute "grave war crimes".

In his early March report, Falk accused Israel of a "massive assault on a densely populated urbanized setting" and subjecting the entire civilian population to "an inhumane form of warfare that kills, maims and inflicts mental harm".

Falk also revealed the same death toll from Israel's offensive -- 1,434 Palestinians, including 960 civilians -- as the Palestinian human rights center.

Falk further noted the blockade of the coastal sliver added to the severity of the onslaught as the sealed borders did not allow for the civilians to "escape from the orbit of harm." This denial of people's right to flee the war zone as refugees may also constitute a crime against humanity, he said.

Israel has so far declined cooperation with such investigative missions set up by the UNHRC.

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