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Jewish South African to head UN's Gaza probe

April 3, 2009 3:03 P.M. (Updated: April 3, 2009 3:03 P.M.)
Bethlehem - Ma'an - The UN appointed Richard Goldstone to the four-member committee charged with following through on the Human Rights Council resolution to probe accusations of Israeli war crimes during the three-week offensive that destroyed much of the Gaza Strip.

The South African judge was a chief prosecutor for war crimes trials in both Yugoslavia and Rwanda; he also served as chairperson of the International Independent Inquiry on Kosovo, and of the Standing Commission of Inquiry Regarding Public Violence and Intimidation that addressed public violence in post-apartheid South Africa.

Goldstone will work with British international law professor Christine Chinkin, Pakistani lawyer Hina Jilani and retired Irish Army Colonel Desmond Travers on a fact-finding mission charged with investigating allegations of human rights violations and war crimes committed by Israeli soldiers, government and military personnel during the three-week Israeli war on the coastal area.

The Israeli war on Gaza left 1,455 dead and more than 5,000 injured. Recent reports from the Israeli press reveal soldiers' testimony over the shooting of unarmed civilians, although military officials have insisted that the army is the world's "most moral."

The Human Rights Council resolution was adopted at 9th special session on 12 January 2009 by an overwhelming vote of 33 in favor, 13 abstentions and only Canada voting against the motion.

It is unclear what will happen if the mission does find evidence of war crimes, however, as Israel is not a member of the International Criminal Court.

AFP quoted Spokesman for the Israeli Foreign Ministry Yigal Palmor as saying, "This committee is instructed not to seek out the truth but to single out Israel for alleged crimes." He reportedly called the 47-nation body "discredited" and said it has "practically [no] credibility at all."

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