At the last moment, the United Nations Human Rights Council on Friday delayed, by at least a month, the appointment of a special rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories to replace Richard Falk.
The council had been expected at the end of its 25th session in Geneva on Friday to appoint 19 rapporteurs to sixyear terms on a wide range of human rights issues.
But Luis Enrique Chavez Basagoitia, the representative of Peru, asked for a delay. He complained that the list of investigators and experts did not fairly represent all regions of the globe, including Latin America. He also noted that the gender balance was inequitable because a majority of the candidates were male.
In response, the council agreed to wait and vote on the matter at its next set of meetings in Geneva scheduled for April 28 to May 9.
A letter by UNHRC President Baudelaire Ndong Ella listing his choices for the 19 posts had already been circulated to member states. It was also leaked to the media late Thursday night by UN Watch executive director Hillel Neuer.
In that letter Ndong Ella said he planned to replace Falk with British legal expert Christine Chinkin, who helped author the controversial 2009 Goldstone report on Israeli military activity in Gaza in December 2008 and January 2009.
In February a UN consultive group composed of representatives from five member states evaluated 10 applications before fingering American legal expert Christina Cerna of Georgetown University as its leading candidate. The group explained that her candidacy had the appearance of neutrality, because Cerna had not publicized her opinions on the Israeli Palestinian conflict.
Chinkin, who has been vocal in support of the Palestinians, was the consultive group’s second choice.
The UNHRC president, however, does not have to abide by the consultative group’s recommendations.
The Arab League has urged him in this case to oppose Cerna candidacy, claiming she lacked expertise and experience.
The league wrote a letter of complaint about Cerna to the UNHRC president and a second letter on Wednesday recommending Chinkin.
“She [Chinkin] clearly has the relevant experience and expertise: She is a leading professor of international law and a leading international lawyer who has experience working Palestine and on some of the most complex legal and political problems in the Middle East,” wrote Yemen’s Ambassador to the UN in Geneva Ali Mohammed Majwar on behalf of the Arab Group at the Human Rights Council.
“She [Chinkin] has served as a member of the high-level fact-finding missions to Beit Hanoun (2008) and a member of the United Nations Fact-Finding Mission on Gaza conflict (2009),” Majwar wrote.
“She is independent, impartial, objective and with strong personal integrity.
Professor Chinkin’s reports to the Human Rights Council have consistently shown a high level of impartiality and objectivity by addressing violations from both parties, according to the provisions of international law. It is also worth emphasizing that Professor Chinkin was the EU nominee for the special rapporteur position before Professor Richard Falk,” Majwar wrote.
Initially, on Wednesday night Neuer reported that, according to diplomatic sources, Ndong Ella planned to replace Falk with Indonesian diplomat Makarim Wibisono.
On Thursday, after seeing Ndong Ella list of candidates, Neuer said, “In the end the Arab states, following Ramallah’s lead, only wanted Chinkin.
“A proven, pro-Palestinian legal campaigner, in their view, will be far more effective to promote their global lawfare and BDS agenda than a Muslim diplomat,” Neuer said.
With regard to the 18 other special rapporteur positions listed in the document, Ndong Ella said he wants to appoint Hilal Elvar of Turkey as special rapporteur on the right to food.
Neuer noted that Elvar is Richard Falk’s wife and like her husband, “has promoted the writings of the world’s leading 9/11 conspiracy theorist, accused Israel of ‘genocide’ and ‘water Apartheid,’ and systematically blames Western society for the world’s ills, accusing America and Europe of Islamophobia and racism.”
His organization UN Watch has called on the US to oppose both appointments before they are brought to the UNHRC plenary. It has also launched an online campaign urging those who oppose these appointments to write Emails to US Secretary of State John Kerry, European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.
The UNHRC president may change his mind on both appointments if he knows the US opposes them, Neuer said.
“The US – if it is to live up to its pledge to use its UNHRC membership to fight bias, politicization, and double standards – must take the floor, call a vote, and vote no,” said Neuer.
Separately Ndong Ella plans to appoint Israel Doron of Israel to the post of independent expert on the enjoyment of all human rights by older persons.