Irene Khan urges US government to examine Goldstone report

Amnesty International Secretary General Irene Khan has urged the US government to examine the findings of Judge Richard Goldstone’s  report on violations of international law committed in Gaza and southern Israel in late December and January. The report found Israeli forces committed violations of human rights and international humanitarian law amounting to war crimes and some possibly amounting to crimes against humanity. “The White House should actually now examine that report and ask the UN Secretary General to refer it to the UN Security Council,” said Ms Khan in an interview with Al Jazeera on Thursday. “It’s the responsibility of the UN Security Council to take that report as seriously as it has taken reports for instance on the situation in Darfur. There can be no double standards for justice for war crimes or crimes against humanity.” Ms Khan also addressed suggestions that the findings of Judge Goldstone’s inquiry, published on Tuesday, were biased against Israel. She said that while most of the 575-page report was focused on the behaviour of Israeli forces, Judge Goldstone also recognised that Hamas also had a responsibility to respect international humanitarian law. “By looking at it in that way, he actually increases the credibility,” said Ms Khan. “He shows that this is not just propaganda, this is actually the way to judge the Israeli government’s performance against international human rights and humanitarian law standards.” Ms Khan described Judge Goldstone as a “very credible international prosecutor” with a “good record on international law”. Rejecting accusations that Judge Goldstone had been biased against Israel, Ms Khan said “He has done a very thorough, professional job, he and his colleagues.” Despite powerful evidence of war crimes and other serious violations of international law which emerged during and in the aftermath of the conflict, both Israel and Hamas have failed to carry out credible investigations and prosecute those responsible. Ms Khan said that she was pleased that the findings of Judge Goldstone’s report echoed those of Amnesty International’s fact-finding mission to Gaza in January. “Judge Goldstone has confirmed that there were war crimes committed by the Israeli forces and also crimes against humanity, attacks on civilians that had no military purpose, excessive destruction of buildings, blockage of food and other essentials to the civilian population. “We are also pleased that Judge Goldstone took a balanced approach and also looked at violations committed by the Hamas authorities. And we are very pleased that he has recommended accountability for what has been done,” said Ms Khan. In his report, Judge Goldstone has asked that the UN Security Council set up a mechanism to monitor whether the Israeli government and the Hamas administration investigate the crimes within a set period of six months. If they do not, Judge Goldstone has said that the Security Council should refer his findings to the International Criminal Court (ICC) Prosecutor. “We think there needs to be justice for the victims of Gaza and Judge Goldstone has provided a way for that,” said Ms Khan. On Tuesday, Amnesty International welcomed the findings of the Goldstone report as consistent with those of its own field investigation into the 22-day conflict. The organization called on all relevant UN bodies to act promptly and in coordination to implement the recommendations of the report. “The responsibility now lies with the international community, notably the UN Security Council, as the UN’s most powerful body, to take decisive action to ensure accountability for the perpetrators and justice for the victims,” said Donatella Rovera, who headed Amnesty International’s investigation into the conflict. The UN’s Human Rights Council announced Judge Goldstone as the head of its four-member Gaza fact-finding mission on 3 April.