On 3 December 2009,
Justice Richard Goldstone received the first Stockholm Human Rights Award
– a joint initiative by the International Bar Association, the International
Legal Assistance Consortium and the Swedish Bar Association – for his
work relating to the UN Fact-Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict. At the
ceremony, Justice Goldstone met with Raji Sourani, the Director of PCHR. Both
jurists were profiled in the Swedish magazine ‘Advokaten’ in January 2010. PCHR
provides a translation of the original Swedish-language articles below.
Sourani: "There can be no Peace without Justice"
By ULRIKA BRANDBERG, Advokaten 1/2010
doubly affected by the war in Gaza and The West Bank declared lawyer Raji
Sourani of human rights organization PCHR, when visiting Hildary in Stockholm.
The audience listened to harrowing tales from the reality of war.
Secretary General of the Swedish Bar Association Anne
Ramberg welcomed Raji Sourani and talked about her own visit to Gaza four years
ago. "That was where I realized the lawyer’s responsibility for the rule
of law and human rights. Raji Sourani is a lawyer who never failed in this
responsibility. He has courage and integrity, but most of all he has never lost
hope," she said.
Raji Sourani is a lawyer and a founder of Palestinian
Centre for Human Rights, PCHR, a non-political organization that uses legal
means to achieve peace and justice in Gaza and on the West Bank. Raji Sourani
himself was imprisoned for three years for his work, and has been subject to
threats and harassment. He was imprisoned in both Israel and in Palestine.
PCHR has gathered witness accounts from women in Gaza
about how they were affected by Israel’s "Operation Cast Lead" at the
beginning of 2009. In total, more than 1,400 Palestinians were killed during
the offensive, 118 of those were women. 82 percent of those killed were
civilians. Several thousand more were wounded, and Gaza’s infrastructure was
destroyed. The world’s media has reported on the war, but according to Raji
Sourani, it is hard to describe the worst of the situation. As he explained to
the women lawyers in the audience:
"You can show the shelling of schools and houses
on TV, but the real suffering can’t be seen, nor can it be described in
figures. This suffering is present in everyday life, as 1,5 million people
fight for their survival – to overcome their losses and to regain some sort of
Sourani also pointed out how the continuing siege
prevents reconstruction and recovery even after the attacks. "The scars
are still there, in the shape of ruined houses, and in the wounded who can’t
get medical care or psychological support. The Gaza strip is sinking ever
deeper into its humanitarian crisis."
The participants at the Hildary lunch also heard two
disturbing stories from the report "Through Women’s Eyes." Both cases
show, as do the others in the report, according to Raji Sourani, that Israel
has violated international law by, among other things, attacking civilians.
However, very few people have yet been tried for these crimes. Those responsible
are still at large, and many of them hold high positions in society, explained
"The women of Gaza face discrimination in
peacetime and are affected particularly severely by the war and the siege of
Gaza, said Sourani. We felt that there was very little reported about the
situation for women, so we wanted to highlight this and show how women are
He also explained that PCHR has a special unit that
works with women’s situations and supports them through legal counseling. Sourani
smiles a little sadly when he is asked how women’s stories have affected him.
"To me they are not stories – these are accounts of our reality. You live
it and you carry it with you around the clock," he says.
According to Raji Sourani, descriptions in the report
clearly show how Israel has violated and continues to violate international
humanitarian law. PCHR uses judicial methods in e.g. Israeli courts, so that
justice can be administered for these crimes.
"The situation in Israel and Palestine is one of
the most complicated in the world, but the solution is one of the simplest,
which is to impose the rule of international law, as it provides clear rules
and mechanisms for dealing with crime," declared Raji Sourani, who says he
has never given up his faith in justice.
"There can be no peace without justice,"
Raji Sourani visited Stockholm to participate in the
presentation of the newly instigated Stockholm Human Rights Award, which was
awarded to the South African judge Richard Goldstone. Sourani stressed that he
and his organization stands behind Goldstone’s conclusions in the report
released in September.
"The report doesn’t shed any new light – all of
this was already known. The unique points here are the clear recommendations and
the fact that Goldstone places responsibility on the world community."
Raji Sourani thanked all of the lawyers and legal
professionals around the world for their contributions in the struggle for the
rule of law and human rights.
"The struggle for justice and human rights may
seem hopeless, but your support provides the motivation and courage to
continue," said Sourani.
Richard Goldstone Receives the first Stockholm Human
By Tom Knutson,
The Stockholm Human Rights Award has been awarded for
the first time. Recipient was the South African judge Richard Goldstone. The
prize is a joint initiative by the Swedish Bar, the International Legal
Assistance Consortium (ILAC) and the International Bar Association (IBA).
The UN has Blamed Both Sides
military operation Cast Lead was a collective punishment of the people in Gaza
for lending its support to Hamas. Such is Richard Goldstone’s view, although he
underlines Israel’s right to defend itself. The real question is what
constitutes a disproportional reaction.
with the award ceremony on December 3, Richard Goldstone gave a speech entitled
‘Accountability for war crimes’ to some 90 especially invited guests, including
prominent Swedish and international lawyers, as well as journalists.
focused considerably on the development of universal jurisdiction and its links
to war crimes. Universal jurisdiction means that a national court can investigate and proceed against certain serious international crimes, even if there is no actual link to that
particular country or its citizens.
highlighted the fact that before the Nuremberg trials, war criminals were
practically exempt from punishment. “In most cases, war criminals were seen as
heroes in their home countries. They could travel the world safely since there
were no courts with the jurisdiction to try them”, Goldstone stated, pointing
to the fact that universal jurisdiction did exist, but that it was only
applicable to pirates, and this was the case for hundreds of years.
described how universal jurisdiction was reawakened and applied to numerous new
areas in the aftermath of WW II. He described how the evolution and
establishment of a series of conventions, including the Geneva Convention,
developed the concept of universal jurisdiction. And furthermore how several international courts, such as the ICC, were established to proceed against individuals responsible for
genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes. The universal jurisdiction
became an important tool in dealing with war crimes, Goldstone concluded,
adding that the institutions have become a force in their own right.
“I don’t believe
that the politicians who made it possible for these courts to function realized
how universal jurisdiction would become such a success”, Goldstone stated, adding that
the ICC has become an institution feared in many capitals. The court’s
jurisdiction forces even the most powerful states to take it into
pleased, he drew attention to the fact that justice has caught up with several
previous dictators and oppressors, among them Chile’s Augusto Pinochet, due to
the development of the area.
oppressors and dictators are always anxious to get access to medical treatment
and therefore travel to places where they can get it. But now they have to
think twice before travelling somewhere. That especially goes for Western
European countries’, Goldstone asserted with apparent satisfaction.
several large countries are still not thrilled by the thought of being
supervised by international courts and organisations.
Goldstone would accept the responsibility to head the UN Fact Finding Mission in the Gaza Conflict,
which presented the so-called ‘Goldstone Report’, was far from obvious.
Initially he was sceptical and didn’t want to become involved since he regarded
the UN resolution mandating the mission as being partial. At the outset, the
objective was a fact-finding mission on war crimes committed by the Israeli
occupation power. It did not include war crimes committed against Israel by
Palestinian forces operating out of Gaza.
involvement in the commission, Goldstone was consulted on how an impartial
mandate could be drafted. He described how it should include all the relevant
facts and events pertaining to the military operation Cast Lead. And when the
actual mandate was formulated accordingly, he considered himself unable to back
assumed, probably naïvely and overly optimistically, that with an impartial
mandate we would be able to cooperate with all parties and especially with the
Israeli government. It would be the first time it would have the possibility to
become involved and cooperate with an impartial mandate from the UN Human
Rights Council. "
It was with
great sadness and frustration that Richard Goldstone soon was forced to realize
that Israel was not interested in cooperating.
also not allowed to travel to South Israel and meet with the victims of the
rocket attacks," he added.
Palestinians the proceedings proved a lot less difficult and the commission met
with leaders of the Palestinian Authority and with Hamas, which controls the
report, which pointed to disproportional violence against civilians by both
sides, was issued, it was adopted by a majority in both the UN Human Rights
Council and the General Assembly.
criticism we brought forward against both sides was approved by both bodies.
That is unprecedented. It is regrettable that this has not been given
sufficient attention, considering the publicity and criticism the report has
generated. But nobody has paid sufficient attention to the fact that for the
first time, certainly in the UN Human Rights Council, violations committed by
militant Palestinian forces have been condemned by a report, which has been
approved by the UN Human Rights Council and the General Assembly,” Goldstone
stated with a certain force. He added: "I can understand that Israel does
not want to make a lot of noise about it, since they dislike the report. But it
disappoints me that neither the US nor any EU country has said anything. But it
is not too late yet.”
in a moving way his impressions from Gaza. How public buildings had been blown
to pieces. How 25,000 private homes had been demolished and even more had been
partly destroyed. How factories had been bombed and agricultural fields had
been laid to waste.
“When you hear
the casualty figures, these are only numbers and do not express the personal
stories. 1,400 persons died in Gaza during the military operation. There are
1,400 personal accounts. 1,400 families have lost their loved ones.”
He met with the
victims. They were personal meetings with parents who had lost their children.
Little girls, only two, three, four years old, who had been killed during the
military operation in December and January of 2008-09.
In the report
it is described how both sides committed serious war crimes. Richard Goldstone
emphasized that the purpose of the mission was to collect facts.
was not to prove anything beyond a reasonable doubt. The report is a road map,
which indicates what needs to be investigated and how to bring in testimony.
That is why our main recommendation was that the authorities of Israel and Gaza
must conduct their own investigations, based on our findings. What could be
more reasonable than having Israel and the Palestine authorities running their
own investigations? If they need international assistance, they can have it,
from IBA, or from other regional organisations. There is no lack of qualified
lawyers in the region.”
sceptical of the prospects of the report being handed over to the International
Criminal Court by the UN Security Council. He is hopeful, however, that the
responsible authorities in Israel and the Palestinian territories will
investigate and prosecute the crimes.
In a Q&A
session with the audience, Goldstone described the Israeli operation as a
collective punishment of the people in Gaza for allegedly supporting Hamas. At
the same time he underscored that having states dealing with non-state actors
and terror organisations is a matter of great difficulty.
emphasized that Israel has a right to defend itself. The main question is what
constitutes a disproportionate reaction and if civilians or civilian targets
were attacked without military necessity. According to the report from the UN
fact-finding mission, both parties committed war crimes and used
disproportionate violence against civilians.
Award Ceremony at the Swedish Bar
The award ceremony for the newly created “Stockholm
Human Rights Award” took place at the Swedish Bar on 3 December
Christian Åhlund, Executive Director of ILAC, said
that the decision to give the award to Richard Goldstone was taken before the
Goldstone Report was published.
Goldstone is awarded the prize for his unusual combination of the highest
international legal expertise and a deep concern for the individual,” Åhlund
expressed the view that given the strong reactions against the report,
Goldstone’s great personal integrity and courage in the defence of fundamental
legal principles can now be added to the reasons for giving him the award.
Anne Ramberg, the Secretary General of the Swedish
Bar, described Richard Goldstone as a dedicated, hard-working and brave man,
who has fought for the support and defence of human rights in various places in
the world. Ramberg added that in her view Goldstone had been exposed to unfair
criticism as a consequence of his unwavering support for human rights.
“Lawyers have a
particular responsibility in the defence of the rule of law and human rights.
Richard Goldstone is an excellent representative of those who assume this
responsibility,” Anne Ramberg stated.
“It is a great
honour to be the first recipient of the Stockholm Human Rights Award. And
particularly to receive the award in the presence of such a qualified and
competent audience. I see many familiar and friendly faces here today,” said
Richard Goldstone, and added that he has had strong links to Sweden for many
years, both on a personal and a professional level.
Mark Ellis, Executive Director of the
International Bar Association, IBA, expressed the view that there has been a
shift of paradigms in the development of the international humanitarian law
during the last decades. One of the persons who has had a decisive influence on
this development is Richard Goldstone.