Thursday, November 5, 2009

UN Focuses on Israel While Rome Burns

Again this week, the UN is spending its time discussing Israel and the Goldstone report. It is ironic and sad that the UN is mandated with the moral authority to adjudicate on matters of international concern, yet an alarming number of its agencies are headed by countries whose human rights records range from questionable to appalling, including Libya, Zimbabwe, Algeria, Sudan, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Burma. The Human Rights Council has studiously avoided condemning the brutalities in Darfur, war in Congo , Chechnya and Sri Lanka, but has directed 26 out of 32 resolutions condemning human rights violations against Israel.

Israel, with a population of 7.4 million, is home to at least 80 human rights organizations, a vibrant free press, a democratically elected government, a judiciary that frequently rules against the government, a politically active academia, multiple political parties and, judging by the amount of news coverage, probably more journalists per capita than any other country in the world — many of whom are there expressly to cover the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Meanwhile, the Arab and Iranian regimes rule over some 350 million people, and most remain brutal, closed and autocratic, permitting little or no internal dissent. The plight of their citizens who would most benefit from the kind of attention a large and well-financed international human rights organization can provide is being ignored as Human Rights Watch’s Middle East division prepares report after report on Israel.

The Palestinians objective of pressuring the UN to bring the matter before the International Criminal Court totally ignores the fact that judicial investigations are being carried out as a matter of normal procedure.

As of 5 November 2009, the status of investigations into allegations arising from the Gaza Operation is as follows:

1. A total of 128 incidents have been/are being examined. These include incidents identified as being of concern by the IDF itself, or brought to its attention by individuals or by human rights reports.

2. Of this total number, 25 incidents were examined in the course of five General Staff command investigations, which were opened following the operation. The results of the examination of these incidents are currently being examined by the Military Advocate General to decide whether additional examination or further proceedings, including military police investigations, are warranted. The decision of the Military Advocate General on these issues will also be presented to Israel's civilian Attorney General for his review and examination. Both the decision of the Military Advocate General and the Attorney General are subject to review by Israel's Supreme Court which can be petitioned by Israeli and Palestinians alike.

3. Of the remaining 103 incidents, in relation to 48, after examination it was found that there was no basis for suspecting any violation of the law and accordingly these cases were closed.

4. Of the remaining 55 incidents, 28 are currently under process of examination.

5. In relation to the remaining 27 incidents, criminal investigations have been opened (14 almost immediately upon the close of the operation - one of which has already led to prosecution and conviction - and 13 opened at a later stage.) In addition to investigating the soldiers and officers involved, these criminal investigations include the taking of evidence from Palestinian complainants and witnesses. To date seventy Palestinian witnesses and complainants have given evidence to the investigating authorities.
Status of specific incidents referred to in the Goldstone Report:

The Goldstone Report states that it examined 36 incidents, however it is hard to determine precisely how this number is arrived at in relation to the events described. Nonetheless, all the incidents cited in the Report have been or are being examined (12 incidents had not been reported to Israel prior to publication of the Report, and upon hearing of them, investigations were initiated by the IDF). According to Israel's best understanding of the breakdown of incidents in the Report, the current status of these incidents is as follows:
5 incidents were addressed in the framework of the General Staff Command investigations and are currently being examined by the Military Attorney General (ref. 2 above).

5 incidents were examined and found not to present any basis for suspecting that laws had been violated (ref. 3 above).

16 incidents are currently under process of examination (ref. 4 above).

10 are the subject of criminal investigations (ref.5 above).

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