During the question and answer session at an excellent conference underway Georgetown University Law Center, I asked Judge Richard Goldstone his reaction to the General Assembly vote on his Gaza Report that took place on Friday. The resolution — which passed 98 to 8 with 33 abstentions — gave both sides to the conflict five months to implement credible accountability mechanisms for alleged war crimes. A similar vote occurred at the General Assembly in November, which also passed, though with a greater number of “no” votes and abstentions.
Goldstone cited the difference in the vote count, noting that none of the 27 members of the European Union voted “no” this time around. The only “no” votes were from Canada, Israel, Micronesia, Nauru, Panama, The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, and the United States. This, he said, shows a much stronger push for Israel and Hamas to hold independent investigations into alleged war crimes (which the report recommends). The vote count, he said, indicated “a definite shift toward accountability.” Still, he remains pessimistic as to whether there is going to be any satisfactory justice mechanism particularly as the United States’ is protecting Israel from any referral to the International Criminal Court. He wouldn’t comment much further than that (which is understandable–there was a long line of questioners and my question was slightly off-topic.)
The event was part of the Samuel Dash Conference on Human Rights, sponsored by the Georgetown Law Human Rights Institute and Human Rights Watch. The panel on which Goldstone spoke was billed as a discussion on “reconciling peace and justice in the heat of peace talks.” Other panelists included David Krane, former prosecutor of the Special Court for Sierra Leone; former U.S. special Envoy to Sudan Richard Williamson; former Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Chester Crocker; and Sara Darehshori of Human Rights Watch. A power-packed panel to say the least. (In particular, folks interested in Darfur really ought to check out Williamson’s remarks for reasons that will be apparent when you watch*.) You can catch a webcast of the conference here.
*Sorry to leave people hanging. Basically, Williamson tells some very interesting anecdotes from his government service. I couldn’t do justice to his stories by summarizing. You got to watch it for yourself.