UN: Judge hasn’t asked Gaza report to be nixed

The U.N.’s top human rights body says it is standing by a report about Israel’s 2009 incursion into Gaza even though the lead author has backtracked from some of the report’s most damning allegations against Israel.

Israel has called for the report to be withdrawn after Richard Goldstone, a former South African judge and U.N. war crimes prosecutor, said in an op-ed he was reconsidering the conclusion that Israel deliberately targeted civilians during the three-week offensive against Palestinian militant group Hamas.

A spokesman for the U.N. Human Rights Council, which commissioned the report, said for the report to be canceled Goldstone would have to submit a formal request to the Geneva-based body, which he has not done.

“U.N. reports are not cancelled on the basis of an op-ed in a newspaper,” spokesman Cedric Sapey told The Associated Press.

Various resolutions passed by the Geneva-based council and the U.N. General Assembly in New York would also have to be repealed by those bodies, he said.

Last month, a majority of the Human Rights Council’s 47 members voted to pass the report up to the General Assembly, recommending that it ask the powerful U.N. Security Council to submit it to prosecutors at the International Criminal Court.

Such a move is unlikely to pass the Security Council, where Israel’s strongest ally, the United States, has a veto. But the mere suggestion of bringing war crimes charges against Israel has angered the government there.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told his Cabinet that Goldstone’s article, published in the Washington Post over the weekend, was a rare instance “in which those who disseminate libels retract their libel.”

“This leads us to call for the immediate cancellation of the Goldstone report,” Netanyahu said.

Goldstone’s decision to reconsider the conclusions of the report came as a surprise to at least one other member of the four-person panel that authored the document.

“I probably didn’t expect to see the comments he made, to be honest,” Desmond Travers told the AP in a telephone interview, adding he had not been consulted beforehand.

Travers, a former officer in the Irish Armed Forces and an expert on international criminal investigations, said he hadn’t seen the Israeli investigative reports that prompted Goldstone to backtrack on parts of his conclusion, though he acknowledged it might be valid to do so.

“But the tenor of the report in its entirety, in my opinion, stands,” Travers said.

Reached by email, Goldstone declined to be interviewed.

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