[JURIST] The UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) [official website] on Friday announced the appointment [press release] of South African judge Richard Goldstone to head a UN fact-finding mission to investigate alleged Israeli war crimes [JURIST news archive] in the Gaza Strip. Goldstone previously served as the chief UN prosecutor for the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia and the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda [official websites]. British law professor Christine Chinkin [official profile], Pakistani lawyer Hina Jilani, and retired Irish army colonel Desmond Travers have been appointed to travel with Goldstone to Gaza. In comments after being appointed, Goldstone said he hoped to be able to accurately answer whether Israel committed war crimes in Gaza:
It is in the interest of all Palestinians and Israelis that the allegations of war crimes and serious human rights violations related to the recent conflict on all sides be investigated. It is my hope that the findings of this mission will make a meaningful contribution to the peace process in the Middle East and to providing justice for the victims.
In the next few weeks, Goldstone is expected to hold discussions on the matter in Geneva before departing for the region.
Both Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch [JURIST reports] have accused Israel of using the incendiary white phosphorous [GlobalSecurity backgrounder] over civilian areas of the Palestinian Territory, in possible violation of international treaties. Israel has maintained that all weapons used were lawful. A internal Israeli military investigation found earlier this week that war crimes had not been committed [JURIST report] in the offensive despite individual reports by Israeli soldiers. Israel has already disputed [JURIST report] a previous report to the UNHRC that accused it of human rights violations. In January, the International Criminal Court (ICC) [official website] said that it lacked standing [JURIST report] to investigate possible war crimes in Gaza.