Monday, March 1, 2010

UN-Assemblee grants Israel, Palestine five more months for credible investigations of war crimes

UNITED NATIONS (AP) -- The U.N. General Assembly voted Friday to give Israel and the Palestinians an additional five months to conduct independent investigations of alleged war crimes during last year's conflict in Gaza and warned of possible ''further action'' by U.N. bodies, including the Security Council, if they don't.
The Palestinian-drafted resolution was adopted by a vote of 98-7 with 31 abstentions. Fifty-six countries did not vote, probably because of difficulties getting to U.N. headquarters as heavy snow fell in New York City.
In November, the 192-member world body gave Israel and the Palestinians three months to undertake ''independent, credible investigations'' into the findings of a U.N.-appointed expert panel chaired by South African Judge Richard Goldstone.The assembly asked Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to report back on implementation of the resolution in three months. But in his highly anticipated report in early February, Ban said he could not determine whether the Israelis or Palestinians had conducted credible investigations.That set the stage for Friday's follow-up resolution, which was cosponsored by more than 20 mainly Islamic countries.
Israel's U.N. Ambassador Gabriela Shalev reiterated the government's opposition to the Goldstone report and said ''Israel is conducting and will continue to conduct, investigations that are independent, credible in in conformity with international standards'' into its actions in Gaza. But the Palestinians and many Arab and non-Arab speakers who took the floor after the vote insisted that the Israeli investigations are not independent. The Palestinians acknowledged that they only created a commission to carry out an investigation in late January.
PLO-representative Riyadh Mansour pledged that in the next five months the Palestinians will conduct in ''the most efficient manner an independent and credible investigation into the allegations ... (and) submit to the secretary-general a substantial response.''
Mansour welcomed the decline in the number of countries opposing the resolution from 18 in November to just seven. He noted that the European Union, which was deeply divided in November with some countries voting for the resolution, some against and some abstaining, was more supportive in Friday's vote. No EU country voted ''no'' and more EU members supported the resolution including Britain, France and Spain, he said. (Eighteen EU-countries voted in favour, among the nine that abstained were Germany, Italy and The Netherlands
Some EU members had objected to the draft text calling on Switzerland to reconvene a meeting of the parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention ''within five months'' to enforce the convention, which spells out the obligations of an occupying power. The reference to five months was replaced in the final version with the words ''as soon as possible,'' the same language as the November resolution.
U.S. deputy ambassador Alejandro Wolff, who voted against the resolution, reiterated that the U.S. considers the Goldstone report ''deeply flawed'' and ''unbalanced.'' He said the U.S. ''strongly supports'' accountability for any human rights violations in Gaza but wants any allegations resolved ''by credible domestic investigations and their follow-up.''
Unlike Security Council resolutions, General Assembly resolutions are not legally binding but they do reflect the views of the broader U.N. membership.

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