France and Britain have embarked on a joint initiative to ensure that the Goldstone report which has accused Israel of war crimes in Gaza remains confined for deliberations to the Geneva based Human Rights Council, out of reach of the United Nations Security Council and the International Criminal Court.
The Israeli daily Haaretz reported on Tuesday that the Anglo-French initiative would call on Israel and the Palestinians to hold immediate, independent investigations into war crimes allegations stemming from the war in Gaza. The fact-finding report authored by South African jurist Richard Goldstone on the December-January Gaza war accuses both Israel and the Palestinian group Hamas of war crimes. However, the bulk of the report focuses on Israel as responsible for abuses in the coastal strip during the 22-day winter conflict.
Israel has so far refused to set up an independent committee of inquiry on its conduct during the Gaza war. Instead, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has approved setting up a task force of professionals to recommend ways to counter the Goldstone report and its implications.
The Goldstone report has recommended that the Security Council should forward the evidence to the International Criminal Court (ICC), the world’s first permanent war crimes tribunal, in case the two parties to the conflict fail to hold credible investigations within three months.
The joint initiative by London and Paris comes on the eve of the U.N. General Assembly meeting where a resolution on Wednesday for further action on the Goldstone report will be put to vote. On October 16, the Human Rights Council had endorsed the Goldstone report, with the recommendation that the General Assembly take it up during the current session.
The move follows deliberations within the 27-member European Union (EU), said Haaretz. The Europeans want that the assembly resolution should not refer the Goldstone report to the Security Council or the International Court of Justice. They also advocate that the Israelis and the Palestinians should start an independent investigation on the war, as well as allegations of war crimes. Besides, the Goldstone report should be returned to the Human Rights Council, with the recommendation that the parties revert to the Council after the completion of their investigations within a few months.
Notwithstanding the EU preferences, the General Assembly is expected to forward the Goldstone report to the Security Council. However, analysts say that the United States and its allies are likely to stall further action after the report, as expected, lands at the Security Council high table.