[Published 5 April 2011]
Richard Goldstone now faces bitter condemnation from Israel following his belated admission that his infamous Report was wrong in finding that Israel had intentionally targeted civilians during its invasion of Gaza in December 2008.
Goldstone has now attempted to lay the blame for this gross and defamatory libel at Israel’s feet for refusing to give evidence before his Inquiry - a kangaroo court and a UN sanctioned set-up in every sense. This claim is as outrageous as his earlier flawed findings.
Goldstone has belatedly confessed that the initial mandate given to him by the UN Human Rights Commission was “skewed” and was changed at his insistence. He goes even further in now stating:
“ 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.”
But Goldstone still remains silent on his own bias and that of the other three members of his Tribunal - Hila Jalani, Desmond Travers and Christine Chinkin
The Hon. Sir Gerard Brennan AC KBE in evidence given to the Australian Senate on 10 August 2007 best sums up the role judges must assume and be seen to assume:
“There are qualities of character and disposition to be desired in all judges. The supreme judicial virtue is impartiality. Both partiality and the appearance of partiality are incompatible with the proper exercise of judicial authority. The one poisons the stream of justice at its source; the other dries it up”
Before their appointment as Commissioners by the President of the UN Human Rights Council on 3 April 2009 - Richard Goldstone, Hila Jalani and Desmond Travers were among 16 signatories who had signed an open letter to the United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki Moon and the Security Council Ambassadors on 16 March 2009 in which they stated:
“As individuals with direct experience of international justice and reconciliation of conflict, we believe there is an important case to be made for an international investigation of gross violations of the laws of war, committed by all parties to the Gaza conflict.
Without setting the record straight in a credible and impartial manner, it will be difficult for those communities that have borne the heavy cost of violence to move beyond the terrible aftermath of conflict and help build a better peace.
A prompt, independent and impartial investigation would provide a public record of gross violations of international humanitarian law committed and provide recommendations on how those responsible for crimes should be held to account.”
The words “credible”, “impartial“, and “independent” feature prominently in this part of the statement.
Not content however with stressing the nature of the investigation they desired - the signatories went on to declare:
“We urge world leaders to send an unfaltering signal that the targeting of civilians during conflict is unacceptable by any party on any count. We call on them to support the establishment of a United Nations commission of inquiry into the Gaza conflict. The commission should have the greatest possible expertise and authority and: a mandate to carry out a prompt, thorough, independent and impartial investigation of all allegations of serious violations of international humanitarian law committed by all parties to the conflict”
Again the signatories stressed the commission of inquiry was to be “impartial” - yet they had already concluded there had been targeting of civilians.
The letter continued :
“The events in Gaza have shocked us to the core.”
Surely given the public display of their feelings - and the conclusions they had already publicly drawn - the appointment of these three signatories to the Commission should never have been made.
But there is more that can be gleaned when one looks at their qualifications as set out in that letter.
Desmond Travers disclosed he was currently a Director at the Institute for International Criminal Investigations (IICI). Hila Jalani failed to mention she was also a director at the same Institute. Richard Goldstone did not mention that he was on the Council of Advisors of the same Institute.
Perhaps this failure of disclosure of association could be explained as an oversight by one or other of them in failing to reveal their close professional and working relationship, their ability to influence each other or even have a common mindset devoid of any of them exercising their own independent judgement.
However when one looks at the United Nations Press Release dated 3 April 2009, more detailed curricula vitae of these three Commissioners are given - but again their common identification with the IICI is not disclosed.
Additionally Richard Goldstone is disclosed as having been a Governor of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Surely he should have disqualified himself on that fact alone. But he didn’t. He said he was ‘‘shocked, as a Jew,’’ to be invited to head the mission.
‘‘It adds an additional dimension .I’ve taken a deep interest in what happens in Israel. I’m associated with organizations that have worked in Israel. And I believe I can approach the daunting task that I have accepted in an even handed and impartial manner.’‘
Goldstone apparently believed he could be even handed and impartial, But that is not the test. Any semblance of partiality should have resulted in his disqualification.
Chinkin had similarly placed herself in a position of conflict by signing a letter which appeared in The Times on 11 January 2009 stating:
“Israel’s bombardment of Gaza is not self-defence - it’s a war crime.”
In addition, the letter continued:
“The rocket attacks on Israel by Hamas deplorable as they are, do not, in terms of scale and effect amount to an armed attack entitling Israel to rely on self-defence…Israel’s actions amount to aggression, not self-defence”.
All four Commissioners should have recused themselves from sitting. They all share responsibility for the enormous harm suffered by Israel as a result of their refusal to do so.
The decent and fair thing for them all to do now would be to formally advise the Human Rights Council to tear up their Report and for all UN proceedings discussing the Report to be expunged from the UN records.