[JURIST] Head of the UN Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict [official website] Richard Goldstone formally presented [press release] the group's findings to the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) [official website] Tuesday. In his opening remarks [text, DOC], Goldstone defended the report [text, PDF; JURIST report] against criticism from Israel, which has called the report biased [JURIST report]. Goldstone denied this allegation and said that Israel had failed to address the substance of the report, which found that Israel and Palestinian forces had likely committed war crimes during Operation Cast Lead [Global Security Backgrounder]. Goldstone emphasized accountability, stating:
The lack of accountability for war crimes and possible crimes against humanity has reached a crisis point; the ongoing lack of justice is undermining any hope for a successful peace process and reinforcing an environment that fosters violence. Time and again, experience has taught us that overlooking justice only leads to increased conflict and violence.
Goldstone asked that the council implement the report's recommendations, including requiring Israel to report on the status of an independent investigation in six months.
The mission began its field operations in Gaza in June, entering Gaza through Egypt's Rafah crossing after Israel announced that it would not cooperate with the investigation, and concluded hearings [JURIST reports] in July. Goldstone was appointed to head the investigation [JURIST report] in April, amid strong criticism [JURIST report] from Israel. The probe followed a previous report [text, PDF; JURIST report], authored by UN Special Rapporteur Richard Falk, which criticized Israel for failing to take adequate precautions to distinguish between civilians and combatants in their offensives in the region. Both Israel and the US criticized [DOS briefing] the report, calling the rapporteur's views "anything but fair." In April, an internal Israeli military investigation found that war crimes had not been committed [JURIST report] in the offensive despite individual reports by Israeli soldiers [Haaretz report]. Israel has already disputed [JURIST report] a previous report to the UNHRC that accused it of human rights violations.