Sunday, September 13, 2009

U.N. Gaza Inquiry Challenged for Bias

From a UN Watch Briefing Vol. 201 September 13, 2009:

Geneva, Sept. 13, 2009 — An unprecedented team of fifty British and Canadian lawyers is challenging the refusal of a U.N. investigator to step down from an inquiry on the recent Gaza conflict, arguing that London School of Economics professor Christine Chinkin’s participation on the panel — after she declared Israel guilty prior to seeing any evidence — “necessarily compromises the integrity of this inquiry and its report.”

...In submissions filed separately from both countries, prominent attorneys from law firms and human rights organizations in Great Britain and Canada are challenging the U.N.’s rejection of a request that Chinkin be disqualified due to her January condemnation of Israel on the very disputed issues that the inquiry is meant to impartially examine.

In early May, UN Watch, a Geneva non-governmental organization that monitors the world body’s human rights system, appeared before the U.N. panel to urge Goldstone and the other members to disqualify Chinkin, invoking “the impartiality principle that Goldstone promised to uphold,” and “the due process requirements of morality, logic and international law.”

Despite the NGO’s additional filing of legal briefs in July and August, as reported by Agence France Presse and Deutsche Presse Agentur, the Goldstone mission took 3 months to respond, in the end summarily rejecting the petition without addressing its arguments. UN Watch’s appeal last week to the new president of the Human Rights Council, Belgian ambassador Alex Van Meeuwen, received no response. The team of 50 lawyers has now launched a direct appeal to Chinkin to demand that she step down.

In an August interview with South Africa’s Business Day, Goldstone admitted that “If it had been a judicial inquiry, that letter [Chinkin] signed would have been a ground for disqualification.”...

Apart from Chinkin, the other three members of the panel -- Goldstone, Hina Jilani, and Col. Desmond Travers -- also implied Israeli guilt prior to their seeing any evidence, declaring in March that "The events in Gaza have shocked us to the core."

No one has ever disputed that the Arab-controlled Human Rights Council deliberately selected individuals who had made up their mind well in advance -- not only that Israel was guilty, but that a democratic state with an imperfect but respected legal system should be considered the same as, or worse than, a terrorist group.

Such moral equivalence regrettably underlies this week's blitz campaign by Human Rights Watch to demand that Western states support the Arab campaign to turn the Goldstone report into an ICC indictment of Israel.

"Both Israel and Hamas have poor records in conducting thorough and impartial investigations into alleged serious violations of the laws of war," said the group this week with a straight face, in an open letter to the European Union. The same bizarre equivalence also pervades Friday's op-ed by Human Rights Watch's Joe Stork.

The comparison is perverse in scale and in principle: killing civilians during battle is for Israel, the U.S., and other NATO allies an unintended tragedy of war that they seek to avoid; for Hamas, Hezbollah or Al Qaeda, it is a triumph that embodies their very raison d'etre and modus operandi. Blurring that distinction is moral blindness, mischief or malice....

Click here for appeal by 50 British and Canadian lawyers
Click here for PDF of original UN Watch legal brief

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