Cdn. Israel critic to head UN Gaza war crimes probe
William Schabas, a Canadian international law professor whom Israel claimed is biased against the Jewish state, will chair the UN three-person commission investigating Israel for possible war crimes in Gaza, the UN Human Rights Council announced.
Schabas, 63, will be joined by Doudo Diene, a Senegalese attorney who advised the U.N. on the human rights situation in the Ivory Coast from 2011 to this year, as well as a third lawyer.
Schabas once said in a speech that he things Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu should be “in the dock of an international court.”
Amal Alamuddin, a British attorney and the fiancee of actor George Clooney, was reported to the third member of the panel, but said Aug. 11 that she is too busy with other cases to serve. Alamuddin was the legal adviser to the prosecutor of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon and has represented WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange
The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights said the commission is charged with investigating “all violations of international humanitarian law and international human rights law” in the recent conflict in Gaza.
Israel’s Foreign Ministry slammed the selection of Schabas as chair, saying in a statement that his “opinions and positions on Israel are known to all,” according to the Times of Israel.
Choosing Schabas, the ministry said, “proves beyond any doubt that Israel cannot expect justice from this body, and that the committee’s report is already written. What has just been determined is who will sign it.”
The leader of UN Watch, a nongovernmental organization that monitors the world body, called on Schabas to recuse himself because his “repeated calls to indict Israeli leaders obviously gives rise to actual bias or the appearance thereof.”
“You can’t spend several years calling for the prosecution of someone, and then suddenly act as his judge,” Hillel Neuer, the group’s executive director, said in a news release.
In a Twitter post, Foreign Minister John Baird said “UN Human Rights Council continues to be a sham for advancing human rights,” he said. “Today’s announcement for members of its Gaza inquiry reveals its agenda. It’s an utter shame, and will do nothing to promote peace and dignity in Gaza for the Palestinian people.”
In an interview with Canadian Press from Toronto, Schabas, an officer of the Order of Canada who currently teaches international law at Middlesex University in England, said, “The suggestion that I’m anti-Israel is absurd” and noted that he’s on the editorial board of the Israel Law Review.
Netanyahu indicated he will not co-operate with the commission.
Most ministers in the government also oppose any dealings with the UN team, the Times of Israel reported .
In a video posted on his official Facebook page, Netanyahu criticized the UN Human Rights Council for failing to investigate Hamas’ attacks against Israeli civilians and its use of the people of Gaza as “human shields,” as well as the “massacre” of Syrian civilians and atrocities committed by Islamic State fighters in Iraq.
“This commission’s report has already been written, the one leading it [Canadian law professor William Schabas] has already decided that Hamas is not a terrorist organization, and that’s why there is nothing for them to do here,” he said.
“First, let them visit Damascus, Baghdad, Tripoli. Let them see the Islamic State, the Syrian army, let them see Hamas — that’s where they’ll find war crimes, not here.”
On Aug. 13, Netanyahu met with New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and thanked him for standing with Israel and rejecting the “false moral symmetry” between Israel and Hamas.
“Hamas continues to do these horrible things that ISIS does: They persecute Christians, they persecute gays, they persecute women, they basically reject modernity and there are a terrorist tyranny that is imposed on their people. And where their people reject being used as human shields, you know what they do, Governor? They execute them,” Netanyahu told Cuomo during the Jerusalem meeting.
“This is the kind of moral divide that is evident today in the world, and on one side you have Israel and the United States representing democracies committing to human rights, committing to a real future for our people; and on the other side, you have the likes of ISIS and Hamas, Islamist tyrannies that have no inhibition and pursue their grisly creeds and their grisly deeds.”