International Canadian law expert William Schabas – known for his criticism of Israel – will head the United Nations Human Rights Council’s probe into Israel’s actions in the West Bank, east Jerusalem and Gaza in the last two months.
The Foreign Ministry said that Schabas’s appointment to head the panel proved that Israel cannot expect justice from this body.
“The report has already been written and the only question is who signs it,” the Foreign Ministry said.
The commission has been tasked with identifying those responsible for “violations of international humanitarian law,” and with holding the violators accountable and ending their impunity. It’s expected to deliver its report to the UNHRC in March, 2015.
UNHRC President, Ambassador Baudelaire Ndong Ella, announced the appointees to the three-member panel on Monday in Geneva.
The British-Lebanese lawyer Amal Alamuddin, who is engaged to American Hollywood star George Clooney, has also been selected for the panel.
The third panelist is Senegalese legal expert Doudou Diene, who was UN Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance.
When the probe was announced in July, the Prime Minister’s Office said it was akin to a “kangaroo court.” The Foreign Ministry has said that Israel does not plan to cooperate with the investigation.
This latest UNHRC investigation has been equated with the infamous Goldstone Report that accused Israel of war crimes during the IDF’s military incursion into Gaza in December 2008 and January 2009, known as Operation Cast Lead.
According to the Geneva based NGO, UN Watch, Schabas lauded the Goldstone report and said that its primary author, South African jurist Richard Goldstone, who later distanced himself from its findings, should be “on next year’s Nobel short list.”
The NGO called on Schabas to stand down, as in the past he said that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and former president Shimon Peres should be indicted before the International Criminal Court.
“Under international law, William Schabas is obliged to recuse himself because his repeated calls to indict Israeli leaders obviously gives rise to actual bias or the appearance thereof,” said UN Watch’s executive-director Hillel Neuer.
“You can’t spend several years calling for the prosecution of someone, and then suddenly act as his judge,” said Neuer. “It’s absurd – and a violation of the minimal rules of due process applicable to UN fact-finding missions.”
From 2002 to 2004 Schabas served on the Sierra Leone Truth and Reconciliation Commission and in 2010 drafted a report to the UN secretary- general on the death penalty.