The World Council of Churches (WCC) has asked the United Nations secretary-general to make sure that recommendations of a key report about war crimes committed during the conflict between Israeli and Palestinian armed forces in Gaza at the beginning of 2009 are properly followed up.
In an 18 November letter, the WCC general secretary Rev Dr Samuel Kobia urged the UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon to take steps in order to press both Israel and Hamas to "unconditionally concede the need for complete and credible investigations into their actions during the war".
In his letter, Kobia cited "growing anxiety" amongst members of the international community that at the UN Security Council "there could be a resolution that dilutes the intent and scope of the Goldstone Report".
The Goldstone Report, produced by a UN fact-finding mission on the Gaza conflict led by Justice Richard Goldstone and released in September 2009 found evidence of both parties committing actions which amount to war crimes, and possibly crimes against humanity, during the three-week long armed conflict.
The report recommended that the UN Security Council require Israel and relevant Gaza authorities to report to it, within six months, on investigations and prosecutions both parties should carry out with regard to the violations identified in the report. If independent proceedings were not carried out in good faith, the Security Council should refer the situation in Gaza to the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court.
"If the recommendations of the Goldstone Report were pursued, it would send a strong message to combatants in all conflicts that nations or groups cannot act with impunity, and that there must be appropriate channels of accountability for the perpetrators of crimes in any form of conflict", Kobia pointed out in his letter to Dr Ban Ki-moon.
"During the Gaza War, civilians on both sides suffered and yet atrocities were significantly higher among the Palestinian population", Kobia stated. "The people of Gaza have suffered enough, and they deserve a respite in the knowledge that the perpetrators of indiscriminate violence against them will be brought to book."
As "durable peace, reconciliation and healing between Palestinians and Israelis should be based on justice", Kobia added, "the need of the hour is an unequivocal affirmation of the highest principles of justice, human rights and humanitarian practices".
To read the full text of the letter from the WCC general secretary to the UN secretary-general see: www.oikoumene.org/?id=7364
UN Fact Finding Mission on Gaza Conflict: www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/hrcouncil/specialsession/9/FactFindingMission.htm
WCC solidarity with churches in the Middle East: www.oikoumene.org/?id=3113