UN human rights investigators leaving for Gaza next week

Geneva – UN investigators will travel to the Gaza Strip and Israel next week to investigate possible human rights abuses in Israel’s recent offensive, a spokesman for the council said Friday. The former chief prosecutor of the international courts for Yugoslavia and Rwanda, Richard Goldstone, will head the mission.

Late last year, Israeli authorities refused the entry of Richard Falk, the UN`s expert on human rights in the Palestinian territories.

UN officials hope the new mission, which has a mandate to look into abuses against Israelis as well, will be better received.

The Goldstone team has received positive signals from Israeli and Palestinian authorities, UN spokesman Rolando Gomez said.

The wide-reaching mandate of the mission was determined by Martin Ihoeghian Uhomoibhi, a Nigerian diplomat and president of the Human Rights Council.

This would help the mission “gain the credibility of all sides and be truly, truly independent and produce a report that is fair, balanced and impartial,” said Uhomoibhi early last month when he announced the make-up of the team.

The mission will include Hina Jilani, a Pakistani jurist and former envoy of the UN`s secretary general for human rights defenders.

Desmond Travers, a former colonel with the Irish armed forces, has been appointed to the team as a military specialist. He commanded UN peacekeeping forces in the Middle East and the former Yugoslavia.

Christine Chinkin, a professor of international law at the University of London, will also join the mission. She was a member of a UN investigation in Beit Hanoun in Gaza, led by Archbishop Desmond Tutu. Israel rejected that mission.