Goldstone Report on the UN’s Fact-Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict, A/HRC/12/48September 2009

The Goldstone report is the report of the UN fact-finding mission established in 2009 to investigate violations of international humanitarian law and human rights law committed in the Palestinian territories during the Gaza war (2008-2009). The mission found that the Israeli army committed serious violations of the 4th Geneva Convention including ‘willful killing, torture and inhuman treatment, willful causing great suffering or serious injuries to body and health, and extensive destruction of property not justified by military necessity and carried out unlawfully and wantonly’.

Part 4 of the Report addresses the issues of Accountability and Judicial Remedies. It finds ‘major structural flaws’ in Israel’s system of investigation and prosecution of war crimes committed by its soldiers, in particular denouncing the absence of effective and impartial investigations as required by international law.

The Mission’s conclusion is that the current constitutional and legal framework in Israel provides very few possibilities, if any, for Palestinians to seek compensation and reparations. A 2001 amendment to the Civil Wrongs Act extended the definition of ‘acts of war’ and set procedural limitations on Palestinians’ ability to bring claims against Israel. Additional amendments passed in 2002 and 2005 prevent the courts from hearing claims relating to actions by security forces in ‘conflict zones’ proclaimed as such by the Minister of Defense, and provide for the immunity of the State against claims by subjects of enemy States or members of ‘terrorist organizations’. According to the Mission, ‘the possibilities for civil compensation for damage and loss of property suffered by Palestinians during military operations are extremely limited in Israeli domestic law since that damage is generally seen as the result of ‘acts of war’ regardless of the nature of the action’. See the Civil Wrongs Act with subsequent amendments under Legal Instruments in this section.

In 2011, in a Washington Post article, Richard Goldstone reconsidered his interpretation of certain facts covered in the report. Pointing out that Israel had refused to cooperate with his team in preparing the report, he expressed ‘regret that our fact-finding mission did not have such evidence [as it subsequently received] explaining the circumstances in which we said civilians in Gaza were targeted, because it probably would have influenced our findings about intentionality and war crimes.’ Goldstone refers to one particular incident, the killing of 29 members of one family in their home, about which subsequent evidence indicated error and not intention on the part of the commander in question.