- Title: MIDEAST/FILE: Reactions to U.N decision to defer vote on Gaza war crimes report
- Date: 4th October 2009
- Summary: BLACK AND WHITE PHOTO HANGING ON OFFICE WALL
- Embargoed: 19th October 2009 13:00
- Topics: War / Fighting,International Relations
- Reuters ID: LVA8ASFPNMBNYJ43BORG74CCAJUM
- Story Text: The families of Palestinian war victims, along with local and international human rights organisations, on Saturday (October 3) denounced the United Nation's decision to defer voting on the Goldstone report, which accuses both Israel and Hamas of war crimes, until March 2010.
The decision came after the Palestinian Authority withdrew its draft resolution condemning Israel's conduct during its 22-day offensive in the Gaza Strip in January.
In Gaza, residents and victims of the war voiced their protest against the Palestinian Authority's decision.
Najma Abbas said the actions of the Palestinian Authority were hard to understand.
"We have rights, and we demand to have them, despite those who disagree. If the European countries agreed and were willing to sign (on the report) how is it possible that our own flesh and blood refused?" she said.
The U.N move is an early concrete result of the Obama administration's engagement in the Human Rights Council, which Washington joined in June. The Council had been due to vote on Friday on a resolution that would have condemned Israel's failure to cooperate with a U.N. war crimes investigation led by Richard Goldstone, and forwarded his report to the Security Council.
Human Rights Watch researcher Bill Ven Esveld said the Palestinians side had made their decision at the behest of the U.S.
"Due to American pressure, strong pressure from Washington, the Palestinian have withdrawn their request that the UN act on the Goldstone report," he said.
The investigation found that both the Israeli armed forces and Hamas had committed war crimes in the December-January war in Gaza, but it was more critical of Israel.
Van Esveld said the decision to defer the vote sent a clear message to Israel.
What the US has effectively done, is send a strong signal that Israel doesn't need to investigate itself because that was the recommendation of the Goldstone report," he told Reuters Television.
In his report, Goldstone recommended that the Security Council refer the matter to the International Criminal Court if the two sides failed to conduct credible domestic investigations within six months.
In the West Bank town of Ramallah, resident Hashem Abu Hassam said America imposed political pressure in an uneven way.
"Every time there is pressure being imposed, but in return we get no benefits at all. There is pressure imposed on the Palestinian Authority, but never on Israel," he said.
Meanwhile, Palestinian Legislative Council member Mustafa Barghouthi called the deferment "totally unjustified", "frustrating" and "disappointing".
"There was a majority in the Council of Human Rights that would have approved this report. This report would have finally took away the feeling of impunity of Israel in front of international law and would have held the Israeli establishment accountable for the war crimes that took place in Gaza," he said at his Ramallah office.
A Palestinian human rights group says 1,417 Palestinians, including 926 civilians, were killed in the war. Israel has said 709 Palestinian combatants were killed along with 295 civilians and 162 people whose status it was unable to clarify. Israel lost 10 soldiers and three civilians in the offensive.
Speaking in Gaza City on Saturday (October 3), Palestinian human rights group spokesperson Hamdi Shakoura expressed his dismay over the decision.
"A delay of justice is a denial of justice, and this actually what happened to the draft resolution. And now almost the file. But our work will continue," he said.
A Palestinian official said the United States, European Union and Russia had requested backing for a postponement from the Palestinian Authority of President Mahmoud Abbas, rivals to the Islamic militant group Hamas that controls the Gaza Strip.
But sitting in his Gaza Strip office, Hamas official Ayman Taha told Reuters that the Palestinian Authority's decision was a "crime".
"The withdrawal of this report is a crime of no less intensity than the war itself that the Zionist enemy committed, because the Zionist enemy armed itself with an army of lawyers to defend themselves. But unfortunately, the Palestinian Authority turned out to be the best defence attorney to defend the Zionist enemy, and this has been recorded as a victory for them," Taha said.
Similar sentiments were expressed on the streets of Gaza City where hundreds of residents marched in protest. Residents held signs and banners denouncing the Palestinian Authority and its actions.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Thursday that the United Nations would deal a "fatal blow" to prospects for Israeli-Palestinian peace if it endorsed the report.
- Copyright Holder: REUTERS
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