GENEVA -- The Fact-Finding Mission established on 3 April 2009 by the UN Human Rights Council to investigate violations of international human rights and humanitarian law in the context of the recent conflict in the Gaza Strip began its work in Geneva this week.
The Mission, which is supported by staff of the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, has a broad mandate “to investigate all violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law that might have been committed at any time in the context of the military operations that were conducted in Gaza during the period from 27 December 2008 and 18 January 2009, whether before, during or after.”
During the course of their week-long session in Geneva, the four members of the Mission, headed by Justice Richard Goldstone, held initial meetings with a broad cross-section of stakeholders, including UN Member States and representatives of the United Nations and non-governmental organizations. The Mission also established terms of reference and a three-month programme of work.
In the course of its work, the Mission intends to conduct visits to affected areas of Southern Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories, including Gaza, and has requested the cooperation of the Government of Israel in this regard.
In all the meetings held this week, Justice Goldstone stressed the law-based approach the Mission will take in preparing its report to the Human Rights Council.
“I would like to emphasise that we will focus our investigation not on political considerations, but on an objective and impartial analysis of compliance of the parties to the conflict with their obligations under international human rights and humanitarian law, especially their responsibility to ensure the protection of civilians and non-combatants,” Justice Goldstone said. “I believe that an objective assessment of the issues is in the interests of all parties, will promote a culture of accountability and could serve to promote greater peace and security in the region.”
Justice Richard Goldstone, a former member of the South African Constitutional Court, was Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda. The three other mission members are Professor Christine Chinkin, Professor of International Law at the London School of Economics and Political Science, who was a member of the High Level Fact Finding Mission to Beit Hanoun (2008); Ms. Hina Jilani, Advocate of the Supreme Court of Pakistan and former Special Representative of the Secretary General on Human Rights Defenders, who was a member of the International Commission of Inquiry on Darfur (2004); and Colonel Desmond Travers, a former officer in the Irish Armed Forces and member of the Board of Directors of the Institute for International Criminal Investigations (IICI).
The Mission will communicate with the media by way of press briefings at appropriate moments of the investigation.