NGO Urges Basic Fact-Finding Standards for UN Body
The NGO Monitor watchdog group has filed a submission to the UN Human Rights Council's (UNHRC) "independent international fact-finding Mission on the Israeli Settlements," expressing concern over the Mission's working methods and calling for compliance with fact-finding standards and ethical principles. The submission demands, at a minimum, strict adherence to the principles of impartiality and objectivity, transparency in all interactions with NGOs and professional guidelines for assessing the credibility and factual and legal claims of NGOs.
"Already, contrary to principles of impartiality, the Mission's mandate presumes guilt on Israel's part, while failing to address the wider context, including the systematic terror campaign against Israeli civilians," said Anne Herzberg, NGO Monitor's Legal Advisor. "Our submission reminds the fact-finding mission of its obligation to comply with standards of transparency, impartiality, and independence in conducting its work. Otherwise, this Mission risks being discredited like the infamous fact-finding mission to Gaza, which produced the 'Goldstone Report.'"
One of the most concerning issues is the Mission’s offer to keep the all submissions of information confidential. This makes it impossible to verify the claims made in the group’s reports.
Among the Israeli groups that have declared they will approach the mission is Yesh Din, a far-left, European-funded group that has run into trouble before for failing to use comparative data and failing to mention critical facts when alleging Israeli misbehavior. In one recent example, the group claimed Israeli discrimination in military investigations involving Arab complaints – but as NGO Monitor discovered, the group failed to consider the question of “whether one military advocate or another was ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ when they decided to close a specific investigation file” – in other words, whether the cases they cited were actually discriminatory, or merely showed normal investigative work.
Another concern is prejudicial statements made by top staff on the “fact-finding mission.” Mission head Christine Chanet has argued that “it is very difficult to have a real dialogue [with Israel].” Similarly, Special Rapporteur Richard Falk has called for a boycott of companies that do business with Israelis in Judea and Samaria.
The UNHRC mission appears to have resulted from pressure from NGOs, most of them Arab and Islamic groups that are notoriously anti-Israel, such as Al-Haq and BADIL, NGO Monitor stated. “These NGOS… frequently use highly offensive and one-sided rhetoric in their politicized campaigns against Israel,” NGO Monitor noted.
NGO Monitor also took issue with the mission’s budget. “The UNHRC has yet to explain why, in a time of global economic crisis, while ignoring real human rights concerns, it would waste the UN budget on yet another politicized exercise targeting Israel," said Herzberg. "The excess includes a proposed payment of $105,300 for two months of work from an unidentified 'thematic expert.'"