(Washington, DC) - The United Nations (UN) General Assembly should endorse the report of the UN Fact-Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict when it meets to discuss Middle East peace issues on November 4, 2009, more than a dozen groups working on human rights issues in the Middle East said today.
The groups called on the General Assembly to pass a resolution establishing a mechanism to monitor steps that Israel and Hamas take to investigate serious laws-of-war violations, including war crimes, committed by their respective forces.
"We, civil society organizations and activists working in the Middle East and North Africa, believe this is an opportunity for the UN General Assembly and the Security Council to send a clear message to Israeli and Palestinian leaders that civilians, regardless of their nationality, religious or ethnic background, are not legitimate targets of attack," the groups' statement said.
The fact-finding mission, headed by Justice Richard Goldstone, found that Israel and Hamas were responsible for serious violations of the laws of war, including war crimes and possibly crimes against humanity. It also found that Israeli forces unlawfully used white phosphorous munitions and heavy artillery in densely populated areas, fired upon civilians holding white flags, and deprived the civilian population of basic needs through a protracted blockade, a form of collective punishment. The report held Hamas and other Palestinian armed groups responsible for deliberately firing rockets into Israeli towns to harm and terrorize Israeli civilians.
On October 16 the UN Human Rights Council endorsed the Goldstone report and recommended that the General Assembly discuss the report in their upcoming session. The groups said the General Assembly should adopt the recommendations of the Goldstone report. It should specifically urge Israel and Hamas to conduct credible investigations into alleged war crimes committed during the Gaza war and to bring to justice those responsible for ordering and carrying out these violations. Their statement said that the Security Council should also consider the Goldstone report and "adopt a resolution consistent with the report's findings and recommendations."
The statement was endorsed by the following groups:
- Adala Association, Morocco;
- Algerian League for Human Rights, Algeria;
- Algerian League for the Defense of Human Rights, Algeria;
- Arabic Network for Human Rights, Egypt;
- Arab Foundation for Development and Citizenship (AFDC), Jordan;
- Bahrain Center for Human Rights (Bahrain);
- Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies, Egypt;
- Damascus Center for Human Rights Studies, Syria;
- Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (Egypt);
- Hewar Foundation for Democratic Development, Yemen;
- Human Rights First Society (HRFS), Saudi Arabia;
- Human Rights Watch, United States;
- Mada Center, Morocco;
- Movement of Civil Liberties and Democracy -HAQ (Bahrain);
- Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (Gaza, Palestine);
- Observatory of Human and Environmental Development, Jordan;
- Tunisian League for Human Rights; Tunisia;