A strange story unfolded in the shadows of the legal and diplomatic furor that accompanied the release, on 15 September 2009, of Richard Goldstone’s Report on the United Nations Fact-Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict, which alleged that the Israeli army (and Hamas) committed war crimes and indeed that Israel might even be guilty of “crimes against humanity.” On the same day Human Rights Watch (HRW), itself conducting an in-depth analysis of Israel’s 2009 attack on Gaza, announced the suspension of its “expert on battle damage assessment,” Marc Garlasco.
Prior to joining the HRW’s Emergencies Division in 2003, Garlasco had been for seven years an intelligence analyst, “battle damage assessment expert,” and “targeting specialist” at the Pentagon, where he was involved in targeting operations in Kosovo, Serbia, and Iraq and later served as an in-house military forensic analyst. His investigations focused largely on the examination of material remnants found in sites of destruction and on analysis of munitions types and military technology. Providing crucial material evidence for HRW’s research on violations in Iraq, Afghanistan, Lebanon, Gaza, Burma and Georgia, Garlasco had, by the time of his suspension, authored and contributed to a series of reports alleging violation of international humanitarian law (IHL) by the Israeli military, in both its Gaza offensive and a string of earlier incidents. His research was considered crucial to the Goldstone Report, referred to there no fewer than thirty-six times.