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UN General Assembly must end war crimes whitewash

On the eve of a United Nations General Assembly debate, Amnesty International has called on UN ambassadors in New York to grasp a unique opportunity to address accountability for war crimes in Gaza and southern Israel earlier in the year. The General Assembly will convene on Wednesday to debate the comprehensive and authoritative report of the Fact Finding Mission led by Judge Richard Goldstone. The report found that the Israeli and Palestinian sides committed serious violations of international human rights and humanitarian law, including war crimes and possibly crimes against humanity. Amnesty International sent an open letter to all permanent representatives to the General Assembly and another to the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. In the letter to the General Assembly, the organization reiterated its call for Israel and the de facto administration in Gaza to immediately start independent investigations that meet international standards as recommended in the Goldstone report. Amnesty International also urged the General Assembly to ask Ban Ki-moon to promptly establish a committee of independent and impartial experts in international law to assess the effectiveness and genuineness of any accountability measures taken by the Israeli and Palestinian authorities. Amnesty International wrote that it deplores the failure on the part of both Israel and Hamas to conduct credible investigations and stressed: "There must be no whitewash." "Israel has sought to counter the report’s recommendations and to shield its soldiers from any independent investigation," the letter said. "Hamas, for its part, has studiously failed to repudiate the practice of launching unguided rockets into civilian areas of southern Israel, which cannot be justified under international humanitarian law, and to commit to preventing such attacks. Rather, it is considering creating a committee to present its case." Amnesty International also urged the General Assembly to ask Ban Ki-moon to transmit the Goldstone report to the Security Council, and reminded all states parties to the 1949 Geneva Conventions of their responsibility to exercise universal jurisdiction.