Ethics Center board leader to head UN Gaza probe

Richard J. Goldstone was prosecutor in Yugoslavia, Rwanda investigations

Richard J. Goldstone, incoming chairman of the advisory board of Brandeis University’s International Center for Ethics, Justice, and Public Life, has been named to lead an investigation into alleged war crimes committed during the recent Israeli-Palestinian conflict in Gaza.

The former UN chief prosecutor for war crimes in Yugoslavia and Rwanda, Goldstone will head a four-person team that will examine the actions of both sides,
according to the UN Human Rights Council, which announced the appointment Friday, April 3. Members of the team will work together in Geneva for the next few weeks before commencing their investigation in the region, according to United Nations officials.

“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,” Goldstone said in a statement issued by the UN. “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.”

The fact-finding mission stems from a resolution adopted by the Human Rights Council in January, at the time of the conflict, which denounced “the grave violations of human rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, particularly due to the recent Israeli military attacks against the occupied Gaza Strip.” According to news reports, more than 1,400 Palestinians and 13 Israelis were killed in the conflict, which took place between
December 27, 2008, and January 18, 2009.

Israel disputes Palestinian claims that most of those killed were civilians, and says the vast majority of the dead were Hamas militants.

A member of the Ethics Center advisory board since its inception in 2000, Goldstone served as a judge of the Constitutional Court of South Africa from July 1994 to October 2003. From 1991 to 1994, he chaired what became known as the Goldstone Commission, an independent judicial commission that investigated activities and people who posed a threat to the restoration of civil rights during the transition to post-apartheid South Africa.

After his retirement from the bench, he served as a visiting professor at NYU Law School, Fordham Law School, Georgetown Law School, and Harvard Law School, and currently is the Spinoza Fellow at the Netherlands Institute for Advanced Study, in The Hague.

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