UN panel rejects fellow member Goldstone's retraction on Gaza war report

Israeli soldiers take position with a tank along the border with the Gaza Strip in southern Israel on April 8, 2011.</p>

Israeli soldiers take position with a tank along the border with the Gaza Strip in southern Israel on April 8, 2011.

Three members of a U.N. panel that investigated human rights violations during the Gaza war two years ago rejected on Thursday a retraction written by the fourth member and chairman, Richard Goldstone.

Goldstone wrote in a commentary published in the Washington Post that he no longer stood behind some of the key findings in the report, including that Israel deliberately killed civilians during the invasion of Gaza in December 2008.

"We know a lot more today about what happened in the Gaza war of 2008-09 than we did when I chaired the fact-finding mission appointed by the U.N. Human Rights Council that produced what has come to be known as the Goldstone Report. If I had known then what I know now, the Goldstone Report would have been a different document," he wrote.

The other members of the panel, in their first public comment on Goldstone's commentary, wrote a letter to the Guardian newspaper in London in which they said they stand behind the report and that backtracking on it would do a disservice to the victims of the conflict.

The U.N. investigators are Hina Jilani, a Pakistani human rights lawyer; Christine Chinkin, a professor of international law at the London School of Economics; and Desmond Travers, a former Irish peace-keeper.

"The report of the fact-finding mission contains the conclusions made after diligent, independent and objective consideration of the information related to the events within our mandate, and careful assessment of its reliability and credibility. We firmly stand by these conclusions," their letter states.

It does refer to Goldstone by name, but the letter implies that a retraction may have been the result of "personal attacks" and "extraordinary pressures" put on members of the fact-finding mission.

The letter states that falling to such pressure would be doing a "serious injustice to the hundreds of innocent civilians killed during the Gaza conflict, the thousands injured, and the hundreds of thousands whose lives continue to be deeply affected by the conflict and the blockade."

They argue that the United Nations should go forward with the report. It is headed for the U.N. Security Council and U.N. General Assembly this year.