GENEVA, September 29, 2009 (Agencies) –The judge who led a UN inquiry into Israel’s assault on Gaza urged the United Nations Tuesday to refer the Jewish state and the Palestinians to the International Criminal Court if they failed to investigate alleged war crimes.
The probe led by Richard Goldstone, published earlier this month, accused both Israel and the Palestinians of committing "war crimes" during the 22-day war in December and January.
He urged the UN Human Rights Council Tuesday to hand both sides an ultimatum to launch investigations into the alleged crimes within six months or be referred to the international court in The Hague.
"In both cases, if within the six-month period there are no good faith investigations conforming to international standards, the Security Council should refer the situation or situations to the ICC prosecutor," he said.
Presenting his report to the council, he urged the international body to "end the culture of impunity in the region that has existed for too long."
The judge added the probe was "highly critical" of the "efforts by Israel to investigate alleged violations of international law and the complete failure by the Gaza authorities to do so."
"The lack of accountability for war crimes and possible crimes against humanity has reached a crisis point," he told the council.
"The ongoing lack of justice is undermining any hope for a successful peace process and reinforcing an environment that fosters violence."
The UN report published on September 15 accused both Israel and the Palestinians of committing "war crimes" in the Gaza Strip, but reserved its harshest criticism for Israel’s use of disproportionate force.
About 1,400 Palestinians and 13 Israelis died in fighting between December 28, 2008 and January 18.
In a statement delivered by Mansour Abdullah Al-Sulaitin, the second secretary of Qatar’s delegation to the United Nations and the other international organizations in Geneva, Qatar welcomed the report.
China, Russia, Brazil, the African Group, the Arab states and a coalition of Muslim nations backed the report in separate statements, while expressing concern for the humanitarian situation in the Palestinian areas.