Co-author of The Goldstone Report speaks at Leeds Beckett
Col. Travers, a U.N. Gaza Inquiry Panellist and Vice-President of the Institute for International Criminal Investigations (IICI), visited Leeds Beckett University this week, as one of seven experts from the fields of international human rights and criminal investigation invited to host a one-day Leeds Law School conference held at the Rose Bowl.
Speaking prior to the event, retired Col Travers talked of his time working on the most well-known investigation of his career, The Goldstone Report.
The United Nations Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict was a team established in April 2009 by the UN Human Rights Council, during the Gaza War, as an independent international fact-finding mission to investigate alleged violations on international human rights law and humanitarian law in Palestinian territories.
South African jurist Richard Goldstone was appointed to head the mission and Israel refused to cooperate with the report. The report accused both the Israel Defence Forces and the Palestinian militants of war crimes and possible crimes against humanity. The Israeli government rejected the report as prejudiced and full of errors, and also rejected the charge that it had a policy of deliberately targeting civilians.
On April 1, 2011, Goldstone retracted his claim that it was Israeli government policy to deliberately target citizens, and on April 14, the report’s co-authors Col. Travers, Hina Jilani and Christine Chinkin released a joint statement criticising Goldstone’s retraction.
Col Travers commented: “The Goldstone Report was an absolutely wonderful experience. It was probably the first finding of the Middle East conflict that actually nudged change in the West about the behaviour of one of the belligerents towards the other.
“The problem then was that Justice Goldstone decided to publish a revision of his thoughts on it, but I have to say that we had to defend the report and we did, which energised the report all over again. In spite of the fact that it made it controversial, it re-energised it, and it didn’t let one of the belligerents off the hook. It never would.”
Col Travers was joined at the Leeds Beckett event by IICI Executive Director, John Ralston, who during the conference spoke about the quality of international human rights investigations.
He said: “The IICI has its mission to provide practical training for individuals who get involved in investigation of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide.”
Fellow speaker, Professor Ray Murphy of the Irish Centre for Human Rights, National University of Ireland Galway, Ireland, examined the rights of prisoners of war not to be subjected to the use of force.
Speaking ahead of the conference, he said if there was one message he could give the Government in relation to his work: “It would be that international law isn’t a menu from which you select the principles which you want to apply.”
He added: “International law provides a universal framework, and in order to promote peace and coexistence, it’s very important that all states, but especially the more powerful states, set an example and abide by these principles.”
The law conference highlighted legal, moral and practical problems facing state authorities (military or police) when planning the use of force, or having used such force in conducting what could be considered an effective investigation in international conflict zones, now and in the future.
The expert speakers provided various perspectives on the quality of the international investigative process, the treatment of combatants/prisoners and what the use of air, artillery and light weapons can tell us about the conflict and those that used them.
As well as talks led by John Ralston, Col Travers and Professor Murphy, there were further sessions hosted by Anthony Forde, a Senior Lecturer at Leeds Beckett, specialising in International and Domestic Criminal Investigation and Law; Senior Curator and Analyst for Firearms and Weapons at the National Firearms Centre in the Royal Armouries, Leeds, Mark Murray-Flutter; Human Rights Advocate and former Commissioner on the joint Haitian/UN Investigation Anna Coulouris; and Dr Doug Morrison, Senior Lecturer at Leeds Beckett University who specialises in health care law, mental health law and policy, ethics, regulation, human rights and military operations.