International jurist Navi Pillay has been tapped to head the United Nations Human Rights Council’s permanent three-person probe into alleged Israeli war crimes.
All three panelists have a history of activism and inflammatory rhetoric against Israel.
The UNHRC voted to mandate such a probe at a special May 27 session in Geneva held in the aftermath of the 11-day Gaza war in May and the ethnic riots between Jews and Arabs that rocked the country.
Pillay is known in Israel for her work as the former high commissioner for the Human Rights Council from 2008 to 2014. In that time, she appointed four fact-finding missions targeting Israel, more than any other country, including the Goldstone Report, which was later discredited by its lead author.
She was responsible for the appointment of the deeply anti-Israel professor of international law Richard Falk as special rapporteur for the Palestinians, and she convened the Durban II conference against racism, which gave antisemitic former Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad a platform, which he used to deny the Holocaust.
According to the UN, the South African native is currently serving as judge ad hoc of the International Court of Justice in the Application of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (The Gambia vs Myanmar).
The judicial panel also includes Miloon Kothari of India and Chris Sidoti of Australia.
Sidoti has worked closely with Palestinian NGOs for more than 15 years. The Palestinian Authority’s Independent Commission for Human Rights called him a “close friend and ally,” think tank NGO Monitor reported.
These connects make Sidoti “incapable of independently and critically evaluating factual and legal claims,” it said.
Kothari prepared a UN report in 2001 that bashed Israel during the Second Intifada. He entered Israel under false pretenses and called Palestinian terrorism “resistance,” while glossing over massive suicide bombings that wounded and killed thousands of Israelis.
Kothari accused Israel of “massacring” and “ethnically cleansing” Palestinians and falsely claimed that Israel’s legal system is theocratic and ethnically based.
The panel will examine Israeli actions on both sides of the Green Line, both within the sovereign borders of the Jewish state and in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
“The probe will explore all alleged violations of international humanitarian law and all alleged violations and abuses of international human rights law leading up to and since 13 April 2021,” the UNHRC said in a statement.
“The three-person commission” was also tasked with investigating “all underlying root causes of recurrent tensions, instability and protraction of conflict, including systematic discrimination and repression based on national, ethnic, racial or religious identity,” it said.
The panel is expected to “establish the facts and circumstances that may amount to such violations and abuses and of crimes perpetrated” and “identify, where possible, those responsible, with a view to ensuring that perpetrators of violations are held accountable,” the UNHRC said.
Its first report is due at the UNHRC’s 50th session this time next year. After that, the panel will continue to probe Israel to ensure that war crimes have not been committed.
Israel is the only country against which there is a permanent probe. Similarly, it is the only country to which a permanent human-rights investigator has been assigned to investigate its alleged violations.
Israel has opposed the creation of a permanent probe, arguing that it is an example of the UNHRC’s bias against the Jewish state. It is expected to deny the three legal experts access to Israel and the Palestinian territories, as it has done with such investigatory probes in the past.
Pillay’s appointment as head of the commission of inquiry “makes clear that [its] true aim… is not to fairly investigate the May 2021 conflict with Hamas, but rather to manufacture ‘evidence’ to accuse Israel of apartheid and denigrate Zionism and Jewish self-determination,” said Anne Herzberg, a legal adviser and UN representative for NGO Monitor.
“The continuing and escalating attacks on Israel by the Human Rights Council demonstrate that the Israeli government should refuse to cooperate with the commission,” she said in a statement. “In addition, the [US] Biden administration must exercise extreme caution in any re-engagement with the Council and withhold any funding until real reform at the Council takes place.”