Yesterday, 2 October 2009, the Palestinian leadership – under heavy international pressure lead by the United States – deferred the draft proposal at the Human Rights Council endorsing all the recommendations of the UN Fact Finding Mission (the Goldstone Report). This deferral denies the Palestinian peoples’ right to an effective judicial remedy and the equal protection of the law. It represents the triumph of politics over human rights. It is an insult to all victims and a rejection of their rights.
The crimes documented in the report of the UN Fact Finding Mission represent the most serious violations of international law; Justice Goldstone concluded that there was evidence to indicate that crimes against humanity may have been committed in the Gaza Strip. Violations of international law continue to this day, inter alia, through the continuing Israeli-imposed illegal blockade of the Gaza Strip. The findings of the Mission confirmed earlier investigations conducted by independent Palestinian, Israeli and international organizations.
The injustice that has now been brought upon Palestinians has been brought upon everyone on this globe. International human rights and humanitarian law are not subject to discrimination, they are not dependent on nationality, religion, or political affiliation. International human rights and humanitarian law apply universally to all human beings.
The rule of law is intended to protect individuals, to guarantee their fundamental rights. Yet, if the rule of law is to be respected it must be enforced. World history, and the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land has shown us that as long as impunity persists, the law will continue to be violated; innocent civilians will continue to suffer the horrific consequences.
Justice delayed is justice denied. All victims have a legitimate right to an effective judicial remedy, and the equal protection of the law. These rights are universal: they are not subject to political considerations. In the nine months since Operation Cast Lead, no effective judicial investigations have been conducted into the conflict. Impunity prevails. In such situations, international law demands recourse to international judicial mechanisms. Victims’ rights must be upheld. Those responsible must be held to account.
The belief that accountability and the rule of law can be brushed aside in the pursuit of peace is misguided. History has taught us time and time again, that sustainable peace can only be built on human rights, on justice, and the rule of law. For many years in Palestine international law, and the rule of law, has been sacrificed in the name of politics, and cast aside in favor of the peace process. This approach has been tried, and it has failed: the occupation has been solidified, illegal settlements have continued to expand, the right to self determination has been denied; innocent civilians suffer the horrific consequences. It is now time to pursue justice, and a peace built on a foundation of human rights, dignity, and the rule of law. In Justice Goldstone’s words, there is no peace without justice.
The justifications given by the Palestinian leadership regarding the decision to defer are inappropriate. Consensus is not required, the United Nations system works on a majority basis. Since the beginning of the UN, and over the course of the Israeli occupation begun in 1967, consensus has rarely been acquired. The UN was established to represent the will of the nations of the world; it is inevitable that there will be dissent and disagreement. Decisions must rest on the will of the majority.
As human rights organizations we strongly condemn the Palestinian leaderships’ decision to defer the proposal endorsing all the recommendations of the Fact Finding Mission, and the pressure exerted by certain members of the international community. Such pressure is in conflict with States international obligations, and is an insult to the Palestinian people.
As human rights and civil society organizations concerned with rights and justice, we declare that we will double our efforts to seek justice for the victims of the violations of human rights and international law in OPT without delay.