WASHINGTON (JTA) — A Jewish South African with close ties to Israel will head a U.N. inquiry into war crimes during Israel’s recent war with Hamas in the Gaza Strip.
Richard Goldstone, a trustee of Hebrew University, will head the commission appointed Friday by the U.N.’s Human Rights Council.
Israel did not say whether it will cooperate; it has in the past ignored other UNHRC probes, noting the body’s tendency to single out Israel for criticism while ignoring other major violators.
Goldstone, who headed war crimes prosecutions in Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia, said he would investigate alleged war crimes by both sides.
"It’s in the interest of the victims," Goldstone said in Geneva, where the UNHRC is headquartered. "It brings acknowledgment of what happened to them. It can assist the healing process."
He said his Jewishness and ties to Israel were added values.
"I’ve taken a deep interest in what happens in Israel," he said. "I’m associated with organizations that have worked in Israel. And I believe I can approach the daunting task that I have accepted in an evenhanded and impartial manner."
Joining him on the commission are Christine Chinkin, a British professor of international law; Pakistani lawyer Hina Jilani; and retired Irish Army Col. Desmond Travers.