– Vi vet mye mer i dag om hva som hendte under Gazakrigen i 2008-09 enn hva vi gjorde da jeg ledet FNs Menneskerettsråds granskningsoppdrag som resulterte i det som siden er blitt kjent som Goldstone-rapporten. Hvis jeg hadde visst da hva jeg vet nå, så ville Goldstone-rapporten blitt en annen, skriver rapportens forfatter Richard Goldstone i en kronikk i Washington Post.

The final report by the U.N. committee of independent experts — chaired by former New York judge Mary McGowan Davis — that followed up on the recommendations of the Goldstone Report has found that “Israel has dedicated significant resources to investigate over 400 allegations of operational misconduct in Gaza” while “the de facto authorities (i.e., Hamas) have not conducted any investigations into the launching of rocket and mortar attacks against Israel.”

– Vår rapport fant bevis for potensielle krigsforbrytelser og «muligens forbrytelser mot menneskeheten» begått av både Israel og Hamas. Det er unødvendig å si at forbrytelsene angivelig begått av Hamas var med overlegg – deres raketter ble med hensikt rettet mot sivile mål. Anklagene om overlegg fra Israels side var basert på død og skader blant sivile i situasjoner hvor våre granskere ikke hadde noen bevis for å dra noen andre, rimelige konklusjoner, fortsetter Goldstone:

While the investigations published by the Israeli military and recognized in the U.N. committee’s report have established the validity of some incidents that we investigated in cases involving individual soldiers, they also indicate that civilians were not intentionally targeted as a matter of policy.

For example, the most serious attack the Goldstone Report focused on was the killing of some 29 members of the al-Simouni family in their home. The shelling of the home was apparently the consequence of an Israeli commander’s erroneous interpretation of a drone image, and an Israeli officer is under investigation for having ordered the attack. While the length of this investigation is frustrating, it appears that an appropriate process is underway, and I am confident that if the officer is found to have been negligent, Israel will respond accordingly. The purpose of these investigations, as I have always said, is to ensure accountability for improper actions, not to second-guess, with the benefit of hindsight, commanders making difficult battlefield decisions.

While I welcome Israel’s investigations into allegations, I share the concerns reflected in the McGowan Davis report that few of Israel’s inquiries have been concluded and believe that the proceedings should have been held in a public forum. Although the Israeli evidence that has emerged since publication of our report doesn’t negate the tragic loss of civilian life, I regret that our fact-finding mission did not have such evidence explaining the circumstances in which we said civilians in Gaza were targeted, because it probably would have influenced our findings about intentionality and war crimes.

Israel’s lack of cooperation with our investigation meant that we were not able to corroborate how many Gazans killed were civilians and how many were combatants. The Israeli military’s numbers have turned out to be similar to those recently furnished by Hamas (although Hamas may have reason to inflate the number of its combatants).

Goldstone skriver at han ønsket å samarbeide med Israel, og at hans hensikt aldri var å bevise noen forutinntatt konklusjon mot landet. I stedet skal han ha endret Menneskerettsrådets opprinnelige mandat, som var vendt mot Israel. – Jeg hadde håpet at vår etterforskning av Gaza-konflikten skulle innlede en ny æra av rettferdig behandling i FNs Menneskerettsråd, hvis historie av forutinntatthet mot Israel det ikke kan være tvil om, fortsetter han:

I have always been clear that Israel, like any other sovereign nation, has the right and obligation to defend itself and its citizens against attacks from abroad and within. Something that has not been recognized often enough is the fact that our report marked the first time illegal acts of terrorism from Hamas were being investigated and condemned by the United Nations. I had hoped that our inquiry into all aspects of the Gaza conflict would begin a new era of evenhandedness at the U.N. Human Rights Council, whose history of bias against Israel cannot be doubted.

Some have charged that the process we followed did not live up to judicial standards. To be clear: Our mission was in no way a judicial or even quasi-judicial proceeding. We did not investigate criminal conduct on the part of any individual in Israel, Gaza or the West Bank. We made our recommendations based on the record before us, which unfortunately did not include any evidence provided by the Israeli government. Indeed, our main recommendation was for each party to investigate, transparently and in good faith, the incidents referred to in our report. McGowan Davis has found that Israel has done this to a significant degree; Hamas has done nothing.

Some have suggested that it was absurd to expect Hamas, an organization that has a policy to destroy the state of Israel, to investigate what we said were serious war crimes. It was my hope, even if unrealistic, that Hamas would do so, especially if Israel conducted its own investigations. At minimum I hoped that in the face of a clear finding that its members were committing serious war crimes, Hamas would curtail its attacks. Sadly, that has not been the case. Hundreds more rockets and mortar rounds have been directed at civilian targets in southern Israel. That comparatively few Israelis have been killed by the unlawful rocket and mortar attacks from Gaza in no way minimizes the criminality. The U.N. Human Rights Council should condemn these heinous acts in the strongest terms.

In the end, asking Hamas to investigate may have been a mistaken enterprise. So, too, the Human Rights Council should condemn the inexcusable and cold-blooded recent slaughter of a young Israeli couple and three of their small children in their beds.

I continue to believe in the cause of establishing and applying international law to protracted and deadly conflicts. Our report has led to numerous “lessons learned” and policy changes, including the adoption of new Israel Defense Forces procedures for protecting civilians in cases of urban warfare and limiting the use of white phosphorus in civilian areas. The Palestinian Authority established an independent inquiry into our allegations of human rights abuses — assassinations, torture and illegal detentions — perpetrated by Fatah in the West Bank, especially against members of Hamas. Most of those allegations were confirmed by this inquiry. Regrettably, there has been no effort by Hamas in Gaza to investigate the allegations of its war crimes and possible crimes against humanity.

– For å si det enkelt, lovene for væpnede konflikter gjelder ikke noe mindre for ikke-statlige aktører som Hamas som de gjør for en nasjonal hær. Å sikre at ikke-statlige aktører respekterer disse prinsippene, og at de vil bli etterforsket hvis de ikke gjør det, er en av de betydeligste utfordringene for loven om væpnede konflikter. Bare hvis alle partene i en væpnet konflikt blir holdt opp mot disse standardene vil vi være i stand til å beskytte sivile som, uten å ha valgt det selv, blir fanget i en krig, avslutter Goldstone.

Washington Post: Reconsidering the Goldstone Report on Israel and war crimes