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UN rights investigators conclude Gaza hearings

[JURIST] Investigators from the UN Human Rights Council [official website] on Tuesday concluded public hearings [press release] into alleged violations of international human rights law during December and January's fighting between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza strip. The head of the four person UN Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict [official website], former South African Constitutional Court [official profile] judge Richard Goldstone, said that the goal of the hearings "was to show the human side of the suffering; to give a voice to the victims so that they are not lost among statistics." The mission heard from Israeli and Palestinian victims, military experts, and lawyers over four days of hearings in Gaza and Geneva. The mission plans to seek further information from the Israeli government, the Palestinian Authority, and Hamas prior to reporting their findings to the Human Rights Council in September.

The mission began [JURIST report] its field operations in Gaza in June, entering Gaza through Egypt's Rafah crossing after Israel announced that it would not cooperate [JURIST report] with the investigation because it doubted the mission's objectivity. Goldstone was appointed to head the investigation [JURIST report] in April, amongst strong criticism [JURIST report] from Israel. The probe follows a previous report [text, PDF; JURIST report], authored by UN Special Rapporteur Richard Falk [appointment release], which criticized Israel for failing to take adequate precautions to distinguish between civilians and combatants in their offensives in the region. Both Israel and the US criticized [DOS briefing] the report, calling the rapporteur's views "anything but fair." In April, an internal Israeli military investigation found that war crimes had not been committed [JURIST report] in the offensive despite individual reports by Israeli soldiers [Haaretz report]. Israel has already disputed [JURIST report] a previous report to the UNHRC that accused it of human rights violations.

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