Goldstone committee members stand by report


(JTA) — Three members of the United Nations fact-finding mission on the Gaza war say they stand by the report.

Calls to retract the Goldstone report disregard the rights of the victims, the international law experts said in a statement published Thursday in the British newspaper the Guardian.

"Aspersions cast on the findings of the report cannot be left unchallenged," the statement said.

It was the first official response by the three since the head of the committee, former South African judge Richard Goldstone, in an April 2 Op-Ed in The Washington Post withdrew a critical allegation in the report — that Israel did not intentionally target civilians as a policy during the Gaza War.

Hina Jilani, a Pakistani human rights lawyer; Christine Chinkin, a professor of international law at the London School of Economics; and Desmond Travers, a former Irish peacekeeper, in their statement say they believe there is no justification to reconsider the report, "as nothing of substance has appeared that would in any way change the context, findings or conclusions of that report with respect to any of the parties to the Gaza conflict."

The statement never mentions Goldstone by name, but it does shoot down the main contentions of his Op-Ed and implies that he succumbed to pressure from critics.

"We consider that calls to reconsider or even retract the report, as well as attempts at misrepresenting its nature and purpose, disregard the right of victims, Palestinian and Israeli, to truth and justice," the committee members wrote in the Guardian.

"We regret the personal attacks and the extraordinary pressure placed on members of the fact-finding mission since we began our work in May 2009. This campaign has been clearly aimed at undermining the integrity of the report and its authors. Had we given in to pressures from any quarter to sanitize our conclusions, we would be doing a serious injustice to the hundreds of innocent civilians killed during the Gaza conflict, the thousands injured, and the hundreds of thousands whose lives continue to be deeply affected by the conflict and the blockade."

The United Nations Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict was appointed by the U.N. Human Rights Council to look into allegations of war crimes committed by Israel and Hamas during the monthlong Gaza war in winter of 2008-09. The report accuses both sides of war crimes and possible crimes against humanity. Israel did not cooperate with the commission, saying its biased mandate would not give Israel a fair hearing.

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