The United Nations General Assembly, after the recent Special Session of the Human Rights Council, should soon be discussing the Report of the Fact-Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict led by Justice Richard Goldstone with three other experienced members. In addition to its field visits to the Gaza Strip and Amman, Jordan, public hearings were held in Geneva in June and July 2009. Staff members from the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights were in Gaza from May to July 2009 to conduct field investigations.
Citizens of the World have placed great importance on fact-finding as a way to strengthen world law. Non-governmental organizations have often taken a leadership role in such fact-finding. See the history of such NGO efforts by Hans Thoolen and B. Verstappen Human Rights Missions: A Study of the Fact-Finding Practice of Non-Governmental Organizations (1986). World Citizens have also stressed the importance of fact-finding by the United Nations and intergovernmental bodies. See the analysis by the former Acting High Commissioner for Human Rights, B.G. Ramcharan (Ed.) International Law and Fact-Finding in the Field of Human Rights (1983) and the useful overview by Richard B. Lillich (Ed.) Fact-Finding Before International Tribunals (1991).
Thus, the Report of the Fact-Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict merits a discussion of high quality both for its importance to the conflicts in the Middle East and for its importance to strengthen further world law. As Justice Navanethem Pillay, the UN Commissioner for Human Rights has said “Accountability for breaches of international humanitarian law and for human rights violations, as well as respect for human rights, are not obstacles to peace, but rather the preconditions on which trust and, ultimately, a durable peace can be built.”
We are sure that you share the convictions of Citizens of the World that fair and comprehensive fact-finding is a key element in the development of the rule of law and that you will give the ‘Goldstone Report’ the full attention it merits.
Rene Wadlow, Representative to the UN, Geneva, Association of World Citizens