Published on Friday, May 8, 2009 by The Guardian/UK
If the UN fails to further investigate crimes committed during the conflict it will ensure stalemate, and more suffering for civilians
The Israeli government and its supporters have lashed out at the report of the UN board of inquiry  into Israeli attacks on UN installations during
The full report has not been published, but there's little in the summary that UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon sent to the security council on Tuesday to support such claims. On the contrary, it provides careful but compelling evidence that Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) violated the laws of war during their military operations around UN installations in
According to the summary, the board of inquiry concluded that "IDF actions involved varying degrees of negligence and recklessness with regard to United Nations premises and the safety of United Nations staff and other civilians within those premises, with consequent deaths, injuries and extensive physical damage and loss of property". The board also holds "Hamas or another Palestinian actor" responsible for one attack on a UN installation - a World Food Progamme warehouse hit by a Qassam rocket.
The terms of reference of the UN inquiry were extremely narrow. Its job was to look at attacks on eight UN installations and one UN convoy during the period of
However, the conclusions of the inquiry, as represented in the summary (which, it should be noted, was not written by those who wrote the full report), raise broader questions about the use of force by the IDF during the conflict. It appears the authors of the UN report felt these questions should not be ducked. The summary notes that the board of inquiry was "deeply conscious" that the attacks on UN installations investigated in its report "are among many incidents during Operation Cast Lead involving civilian victims".
The board therefore recommended that "these incidents should be investigated as part of an impartial inquiry, mandated and adequately resourced, to investigate violations of international humanitarian law in
But in his letter to the security council presenting his summary, secretary general Ban Ki-moon says bluntly: "I do not plan any further inquiry." Whether under pressure from external sources - as reported in the Israeli media - or not, the secretary general has thus rejected his own board of inquiry's most important recommendation even before the security council has had time to discuss it.
Indeed Ban could not even bring himself to put his weight behind an inquiry that has already been mandated by the UN human rights council to investigate broader laws of war violations in the
So what happens now? The media and human rights organisations like Human Rights Watch have already documented serious violations  of the laws of war by both sides in the conflict in
Justice Goldstone's inquiry (which has been accepted by Hamas but rejected by
There is a wide perception, backed up by strong evidence, that serious laws of war violations were committed in
© 2009 Guardian News and Media Limited
Tom Porteous is the
Donations can be sent to the
"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs