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Middle East - UN investigation

UN report criticises both sides of Gaza conflict

by Daniel Finnan

Article published on the 2009-09-16 Latest update 2009-09-16 14:59 TU

A weapons system fired by Israeli forces explodes over the Gaza Strip during the conflict(Credit: Reuters )

A weapons system fired by Israeli forces explodes over the Gaza Strip during the conflict
(Credit: Reuters )

A report released by the UN on Tuesday investigating the conflict in Gaza, criticises both the Israelis and Palestinians. Both groups have condemned the report, which describes serious war crimes and breaches of humanitarian law.

 The report, which was the result of a fact-finding mission led by Justice Richard Goldstone, concluded that there is evidence of Israel committing “serious violations of international human rights and humanitarian law” and that Palestinian armed groups “committed war crimes, as well as possibly crimes against humanity, in their repeated launching of rockets and mortars.”

Within its 574 pages, the report describes deliberate attempts to cause loss of life and injury to civilians and damage to civilian structures, calling Israeli action, “disproportionate” and condemning rockets fired from Gaza which “have caused terror in the affected communities”.

Although the fact-finding mission was restricted by Israeli officials, analysts have praised its comprehensive approach, despite the lack of any clear path to justice.

“Despite being denied any cooperation by the Israeli authorities, they nevertheless managed to produce a very, very thorough report that looks also quite beyond the war itself, and the underlying causes of the war,” analyst Mouin Rabbani told RFI.

“I’m not optimistic that there is going to be genuine accountability for this war,” he added.

The reports recommended that Israeli and Palestinian authorities launch independent investigations into the alleged war crimes to be assessed by the Security Council. It then suggests that if the Security Council is not satisfied, the matter should be referred to the International Criminal Court.

“I think given their options, the report’s authors chose the best one available. The problem of course, is that the Security Council is hardly a disinterested arbitrator or observer,” said Rabbani.

Both sides have criticised the conclusions of the report, with Israel claiming that it would challenge the report diplomatically, and Hamas saying it was defending Gaza against an occupying force. They also called for Israeli leaders to be put on trial.

As talks between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and US Middle East peace envoy George Mitchell remain deadlocked on the issue on settlement construction, it is not clear whether the report will have any significant implications.

“One would hope that these kinds of reports will help underline the reality, that if there is going to be a durable peace in the Middle East, the implementation of international legal principles, and respect for the fundamental principles of international law, have to be at the core of any such peace,” Rabbani told RFI.

Details of the report:

Four contributors

  • Richard Goldstone - former South African judge
  • Christine Chinkin - professor of international law
  • Hina Jilani - advocate of the Supreme Court of Pakistan
  • Desmond Travers - former Officer in Ireland's Defence Forces


  • 574 pages
  • 188 interviews
  • 10,000 pages of documentation reviewed
  • 1,200 photographs seen
  • 30 videos viewed
  • 38 testimonies held in two public hearings in Gaza and Geneva

Interview: Mouin Rabbani, independent analyst in Amman, Jordan

16/09/2009 by Daniel Finnan