An official website of the United States government

EOV – Human Rights Situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory including East Jerusalem
October 16, 2009

Delivered by Charge d’Affaires, a.i., Douglas M. Griffiths

Thank You Mr. President.

We take the floor to express our disappointment at the outcome of this session. The United States joined the Human Rights Council because of our deeply held belief that this institution can be a key forum for constructive and honest discussions on important human rights issues. This belief shaped our engagement on the Goldstone Report. In support of this, the United States participated actively in debate over the Report at the 12th Session of the Human Rights Council. We regret that the Council chose precipitous action rather than judicious deliberation regarding a 575 page report that has far reaching implications.

Special Sessions of the HRC should be used primarily to deal with urgent human rights crisis situations that require immediate action. We find it unfortunate that this Council agreed to this Special Session without giving the parties to the conflict adequate time to study the report and, in accordance with the principle of complementarity, to conduct their own domestic investigations and follow-up of alleged violations of international law.

Prior to this deferral, the United States discussed elements of a balanced resolution– one that focused on accountability– that would encourage those involved to investigate and address allegations in the Report thoroughly through credible domestic processes. We had worked for a Resolution that recognized the right of a state to take legitimate action to protect its citizens in the face of threats to their security while also condemning violations of international law regardless of the actor.

Regrettably, this is not the resolution that is before us today.

This resolution goes far beyond even the initial scope of the Goldstone Report into a discussion of elements that should be resolved in the context of permanent status negotiations between the Palestinians and the Israelis.

The United States outlined its concerns about the Goldstone Report in Assistant Secretary Posner’s remarks to the Council two weeks ago: namely, its unbalanced focus on Israel, the overly broad scope of its recommendations, and its sweeping conclusions of law. We voiced our serious concerns about many of the Report’s recommendations, including that these allegations be taken up by the UN Security Council and then possibly referred to the International Criminal Court. Moreover, we reiterate that the Report and this resolution fail to deal adequately with the asymmetric nature of this conflict. While Justice Goldstone acknowledged Hamas’ crimes, in examining Israel’s response sufficient weight was not given to the difficulties faced in fighting this kind of enemy in this environment.

The United States has continued to stress the importance of holding all parties to this conflict, and indeed to all conflicts, accountable under international law. We were prepared to accept a resolution that did so in a balanced and constructive manner. Israel is a democracy with strong, independent institutions capable of addressing allegations through credible domestic processes, and we have encouraged it to use those institutions.

The Goldstone Report also called on the Palestinians to launch credible investigations to address allegations of Hamas’ abuses and to demand that Hamas stop its clear violations of law. Hamas, a terrorist group, has neither the democratic structures, nor an independent judiciary, nor any demonstrated willingness to examine its violations of international humanitarian and human rights law. Yet these failings should not divert our attention from Hamas’ own culpability.

The final, and most important point, I would like to make today is that the United States continues to focus our attention on our main goal: working with Israel and the Palestinian Authority to re-launch successful permanent status negotiations as soon as possible. Resolutions like the one before us today can only exacerbate polarization and divisiveness. The United States joined the Council with the goal of pursuing balance and true accountability.

The United States will vote no on the text of this resolution, but this in no way diminishes our deep concern about the suffering caused by the violence in Gaza and Southern Israel. We continue to call on all parties to protect innocent lives. Israeli children and Palestinian children deserve to grow up in a world free from violence and warfare, and in which a just and lasting peace in the Middle East is a reality.

What the Human Rights Council needs now is a serious and measured response, one that moves the Council’s efforts forward, one that focuses on the future, upholds the rule of law, demands accountability, and respects the rights of democratic states.

For the reasons outlined above, the United States calls a vote on this resolution and urges others delegations to join us in voting no.

Thank you, Mr. President.