In name of justice, UN's Gaza investigator must withdraw

By Hillel Neuer, August 14, 2014


Can Israel expect justice from the new UN inquiry on Gaza?

The commission was established by the UN Human Rights Council in its emergency session of July 23.

The urgent meeting on Gaza - as the 47-nation body turns a blind eye to mass slaughter in Iraq, Syria and Nigeria - was convened by the Arab and Islamic states, with the support of Russia, China, Cuba and other dictatorships who sit on the council.

In a rare occurrence at the council - where Israel is the object of more resolutions than the rest of the world combined, and the only nation singled out at every meeting under a special agenda item - the sponsors struggled to obtain the requisite signatures of 16 countries.

The vituperative session ended with a resolution that condemned Israel 18 times, but which failed to mention Hamas even once.

It created a commission of inquiry to investigate war crimes in Gaza "in the context of the military operations conducted since 13 June 2014", which the preamble defined as being those by Israel, and condemned as "grave violations". The context not chosen was the Hamas aggression against Israel. The EU refused to support the one-sided text, saying it was "unbalanced, inaccurate and prejudges the outcome of the investigation by making legal statements".

On Monday, in record time, the UN announced the commissioners: Amal Alamuddin, a 36-year-old London lawyer known worldwide as the fianceé of George Clooney, long-time UN official Doudou Diène of Senegal, and Middlesex University law professor William Schabas as chair.

UN Watch sounded the alarm: Mr Schabas has a long record of statements attacking Israel and defending the Iranian regime.

Specifically, we cited his recent participation in a mock trial of alleged Israeli war crimes, in which he said that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was "my favourite" to put "in the dock of the International Criminal Court".

Not the mass murderers of Syria, Iraq, Sudan. His one favourite: Mr Netanyahu. How could someone openly express his dream of indicting a particular individual - and the next day claim to be his impartial judge?

Hours later, the press agent of Mr Clooney announced that the Hollywood star's fiancée had pulled out. The UN's brilliant public relations strategy imploded, and the world body was left with egg on its face.

For his part, Mr Schabas says he picked Mr Netanyahu as his ideal criminal merely because he was "echoing the Goldstone Report". But Mr Netanyahu was not prime minister during the 2009 war, and is nowhere mentioned in that report.

So what to expect from the Schabas Report? Israel, including his "favourite" prime minister, will be indicted for war crimes, and Hamas effectively exonerated. Even if the report does criticise the 3,000 rocket firings, the outcome resolution by the Arab-controlled council will once again only condemn Israel.

Though it may not save a process born in prejudice, I urge British jurists with integrity and courage to do at least one thing: in the name of justice, they should call on Mr Schabas to recuse himself.

Hillel Neuer is executive director of UN Watch in Geneva

Last updated: 2:19pm, August 14 2014