Friday, August 13, 2010
From Goldstone to Uribe
Despite a credible start, the fix is in. Expect justice again to be denied. After the Gaza War (Operation Cast Lead), the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) appointed Justice Richard Goldstone to lead an independent four-person fact-finding Commission to investigate human rights and humanitarian law violations committed on both sides, Israel doing everything possible to obstruct him in vain.
The Commission conducted 188 interviews, got over 300 reports, submissions and other documents, comprising more than 10,000 pages, 30 videos, and 1,200 photographs, much of it gathered first-hand. Secondary sources added corroboration, in total providing clear evidence of Israel crimes.
On September 15, 2009, the Commission concluded that:
"there is evidence indicating serious violations of international human rights and humanitarian law were committed by Israel during the Gaza conflict, and that Israel committed actions amounting to war crimes, and possibly crimes against humanity."
"While the Israeli Government has sought to portray its operations as essentially a response to rocket attacks in the exercise of its right of self-defense, the Mission considers the plan to have been directed, at least in part, at a different target: the people of Gaza as a whole."
Rocket attacks were a pretext for well-planned naked aggression. The Commission's findings were conclusively damning despite Israeli war criminals not punished, justice still denied but not forever.
Daily, Israel commits crimes against humanity through targeted assassinations, street violence, mass arrests, torture, regular incursions, land theft, dispossessions, and other law violations, including suffocating Gazans under siege, then attacking humanitarian missions breaking it, most recently on May 31 against Freedom Flotilla participants, murdering targeted activists in cold-blood in international waters, claiming self-defense, a clear bald-faced lie, the evidence overwhelming, conclusive, and damning.
Two UN Commissions Investigating the Flotilla Massacre
On June 2, the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) approved formation of an international commission comprised of lawyers and international law and human rights experts, its findings to be presented in September during the Council's three week Geneva session.
Its members include:
-- Desmond de Silva, a UK lawyer and former chief prosecutor for the Sierra Leone Special Court investigation into widespread killings there;
-- Karl Hudson-Phillips, a former International Criminal Court (ICC) judge and former Trinidad and Tobago attorney general and parliament member; and
-- Malaysia's Mary Shanthi Dairiam, active in gender equality issues, including on the UN Development Program's gender equity task force.
In emergency session, the HRC criticized Israel's "outrageous attack on aid ships attempting to breach a blockade on the Gaza Strip," calling it "piracy, (an) act of aggression, (a) brutal massacre, (an) act of terrorism, (a) war crime, (a) crime against humanity - unprovoked, unwarranted, atrocious, (and) brutal," calling activists onboard "peaceful, innocent, noble, unarmed, (and) defenseless, setting a hopeful tone for a Goldstone Commission-like investigation and conclusions.
However, on August 2, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon named his own commission, unsurprisingly showing obvious bias toward Israel after earlier criticizing the HRC for "picking on Israel," a Reuters June 7 report quoting him saying:
"The Secretary-General is disappointed at the council's decision to single out only one specific regional item given the range and scope of allegations of human rights violations throughout the world," the statement omitting Israel or Palestinian Authority (PA) by name.
At the same time, Alejandro Wolff, deputy US permanent UN representative accused the council of "a pathological obsession with Israel," saying "I think the record is starting to speak for itself," a clear reference to the Goldstone Commission.
On July 11, on Press TV, former Iraq UN Humanitarian Coordinator Denis Halliday and former UN chief weapons inspector Scott Ritter accused Ban Ki-moon of being a Security Council (SC) instrument, meaning, of course, a US imperial tool. Halliday said the SC corrupted him, undermining his credibility, shown numerous times, his latest announcement clear evidence.
According to AFP, Ban's commission includes:
-- Geoffrey Palmer, former New Zealand Prime Minister, the commission's chairman;
-- Joseph Siechanover, former head of Israel's Defense Mission to the US and Canada, and Israel's Defense and Agriculture ministries' general counsel;
-- Ozdem Sanberk, former Turkish ambassador and Foreign Ministry Undersecretary; and
-- Alvaro Uribe, former Colombian president, the commission's vice-chairman, a man tainted by corruption and scandal, with close links to his country's drug cartels and paramilitary death squads, responsible for murdering thousands of trade unionists, campesinos, human rights workers, journalists, and others opposing Colombia's narco-state terrorism and ties to US imperialism.
James Petras accused him of conducting "a scorched earth policy (against) Colombia's countryside," murdering thousands criticizing his regime. "Entire regions of the countryside were emptied - like the US Operation Phoenix in Vietnam, farmland was poisoned by toxic herbicides. Over 250,000 armed forces (allied with death squads) decimated vast (areas) where (FARC-EP resistance fighters) exercised hegemony."
Human Rights First accused him and his administration of calling human rights activists "terrorist sympathizers and have insinuated that illicit connections exist between human rights NGOs and illegal armed groups."
Former UN Human Rights Rapporteur, Margaret Sekaggya, visited Colombia in September 2009, then reported in March 2010 on the "Stigmatization (of human rights activists) by public officials and non-State actors; their illegal surveillance by State intelligence services; their arbitrary arrest and detention; their judicial harassment; raids (against their) premises and theft of information," ordered by Uribe, calling them:
-- "rent-a-mobs at terrorism's service who cowardly wave the human rights flag;
-- human rights traffickers;
-- charlatans of human rights;
-- bandits' colleagues; and
-- (the) intellectual front (for) FARC" resistance fighters.
Contemptuous of human rights, international law and justice, his appointment destroys the commission's credibility, guaranteeing bias and whitewash. It's results will be announced in mid-September. HRC's conclusions will be marginalized, Ban's assured top-featured prominence, sanctifying cold-blooded murder.
A Hopeful Sign
On August 10, Haaretz Service reported that Turkey has set up its own Flotilla inquiry to "investigate the attack and the treatment the activists faced." The commission will include "officials from the foreign, justice, interior and transport ministries as well as from the country's maritime agency."
Turkey holds Israel responsible for the massacre, Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu saying "No one else can take the blame for killing civilians in international waters." President Recep Erdogan agrees, harshly condemning Israel for the crime.
A Final Note
In late May, Israel's Chief of General Staff Lt. Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi vowed to block the Gaza aid Flotilla, stopping short of explaining how. On August 11, before Israel's Turkel commission, he defended the massacre as "proportional and correct," praising his commandos' calm and morality.
On August 12, he repeated the warning, telling a naval graduation class he'll block future flotillas, saying "There is no doubt that you will manage to stop the nearing threats." Now we know what he has in mind.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.