The United Nations General Assembly thursday, by a recorded vote of 114 in favour to 18 against, with 44 abstentions, adopted a resolution giving Israel and the Palestinians three months to undertake ‘independent, credible investigations’ into serious violations of international humanitarian and human rights law committed during the conflict in Gaza that broke in late December 2008.By its decision, the 192-member Assembly endorsed the report of the world body’s Geneva-based Human Rights Council on its twelfth special session, which had considered, on 15 and 16 October 2009, the output of the United Nations Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict. That Mission was led by renowned South African Jurist Richard Goldstone, and its report, widely known as the ‘Goldstone Report’, concluded that both Israel and Hamas had committed possible war crimes during the conflict.
The Assembly requested Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to send the Goldstone Report to the Security Council. It further recommended that the Swiss Government, as depositary of the Geneva Convention relating to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War, take steps convene ‘as soon as possible’ a Conference of High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention, on measures to enforce that Convention in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem.
Finally, the text, drafted by Arab League and Non-Aligned Movement delegations, asked the Secretary-General to report back within three months on the implementation of the resolution, with a view to considering further action by relevant United Nations bodies, including the Security Council. In doing so, they decided to remain ‘seized’ of the issue.
‘Tonight is a very important night in the history of the General Assembly; in the history of fighting impunity and seeking accountability’, the Permanent Observer for Palestine said after the vote. He thanked the Assembly for its consideration of the Goldstone Report, and to those States that had submitted, co-sponsored and voted in favour of the resolution.
‘This journey of fighting impunity is a long one,’ he said, adding that, in light of the Assembly’s request that the Secretary-General send the Goldstone Report the Security Council, he would keep knocking on the Council’s door to ensure that body shouldered its responsibility. His delegation was preparing for the Conference of High Contracting Parties and would work closely with the High Commissioner on Human Rights to address the issue of compensation and establishment of a compensation fund. ‘International law is on our side,’ he said.
Those voting against the resolution were: Australia, Canada, the Czech Republic, Germany, Hungary, Israel, Italy, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru, the Netherlands, Palau, Panama, Poland, Slovakia, Macedonia, Ukraine and the USA.
Those abstaining were: Andorra, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroun, Colombia, Costa Rica, Croatia, Denmark, Estonia, Ethiopia, Fiji, France, Finland, Georgia, Greece, Iceland, Japan, Kenya, Latvia, Liberia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Monaco, Montenegro, New Zealand, Norway, Papua New Guinea, Republic of Korea, Republic of Moldova, Romania, Russian Federation, Samoa, San Marino, Spain, Swaziland, Sweden, Tonga, Uganda, United Kingdom, and Uruguay.
All other countries voted in favour of the resolution – including EU member states Cyprus, Ireland, Malta, Portugal and Slovenia – except States that were absent. Switzerland, a depositary of the Fourth Geneva Conventions mentioned in the resolution, also voted in favour.
Absent were Bhutan, Cape Verde, Cote d’Ivoire, Equatorial Guinea, Honduras, Kiribati, Madagascar, Sao Tome Principe, Seychelles, Togo, Turkmenistan, Tuvalu and Vanuatu.