U.S. Rejects U.N. Proposal to Compel War Crimes Probes of Gaza Conflict

By Colum Lynch
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, September 17, 2009; 8:01 PM

UNITED NATIONS, Sept. 17 -- Susan E. Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, rejected a U.N. proposal to compel Israel and Hamas, the Islamist movement that controls the Gaza Strip, to conduct credible investigations into war crimes during last winter's war in Gaza or face possible prosecution by an international prosecutor.

Richard Goldstone, a South African judge who headed a U.N. fact-finding mission probing abuses in Gaza, accused the two sides Tuesday of unlawfully targeting civilians during the conflict. Goldstone's four-member team recommended that the U.N. Security Council instruct the combatants to investigate excesses within their own ranks and if they fail to comply, authorize the Hague-based International Criminal Court to do it.

Rice said that violations of human rights in Gaza should be addressed by the U.N. Human Rights Council, which created Goldstone's panel in April, and not by the Security Council, which has the authority to authorize an international probe.

Rice said the United States is still reviewing Goldstone's 574-page report and has not made a judgment on the merits of his findings. But she said it has long had "very serious concerns" about the mandate the Human Rights Council gave to Goldstone, calling it "unbalanced, one-sided and basically unacceptable." Israeli officials have said the mandate was biased against Israel.

"Our view is that we need to be focused on the future," Rice told reporters outside the Security Council. "This is a time to work to cement progress towards the resumption of negotiations and their early and successful conclusion and our efforts, and we hope the efforts of others will be directed to that end."

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