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UN Names Panel to Investigate Israeli 'War Crimes'

Canada's William Schabas to head UNHRC panel that will investigate allegations that Israel violated humanitarian law.
By Elad Benari
First Publish: 8/12/2014, 12:13 AM

UN Human Rights Council
UN Human Rights Council
Reuters

A three-member panel appointed by the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) will investigate allegations that Israel violated humanitarian law in Gaza during Operation Protective Edge, Bloomberg reported on Monday.

The commission of inquiry will be headed by Canada’s William Schabas, an international law professor at Middlesex University in London who served on the Sierra Leone Truth and Reconciliation Commission from 2002 to 2004, the UN council said in an e-mailed statement to the news website.

The other members are Amal Alamuddin, a British-Lebanese lawyer who previously worked at the International Court of Justice, and Doudou Diene of Senegal, the UN’s Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance from 2002 to 2008.

Several weeks ago, the UNHRC decided to launch an investigation into the IDF's operations in Gaza. The decision to launch an inquiry was made shortly after UNHRC chief Navi Pillay said that there is a "strong possibility" that Israel was violating international law through Operation Protective Edge.

The Prime Minister’s Office slammed the UNHRC’s decision, saying it is “a travesty and should be rejected by decent people everywhere".

"Rather than investigate Hamas, which is committing a double war crime by firing rockets at Israeli civilians while hiding behind Palestinian civilians, the UNHRC calls for an investigation of Israel, which has gone to unprecedented lengths to keep Palestinian civilians out of harm's way, including by dropping leaflets, making phone calls and sending text messages," the statement continued.

"The UNHRC should be launching an investigation into Hamas's decision to turn hospitals into military command centers, use schools as weapons depots and place missile batteries next to playgrounds, private homes and mosques," it added, referring to numerous documented incidents in the past few days since the IDF launched the ground phase of Operation Protective Edge.

The statement went further, saying that by effectively granting terrorist groups impunity, the UNHRC was indirectly encouraging the continued use of human shields, in a perverse betrayal of its stated mission.

"By failing to condemn Hamas's systematic use of human shields and by blaming Israel for the deaths that are caused by this grotesque human shields policy, the UNHRC is sending a message to Hamas and terror organizations everywhere that using civilians as human shields is an effective strategy."

In 2009, after Operation Cast Lead, the UN appointed Judge Richard Goldstone to head a similar investigation. Goldstone, who accused Israel at the time of committing war crimes in Gaza, later retracted the core accusation of his report.

Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman has said that the UNHRC has long ago turned into the rights council for terrorists.

"We will continue to fight terror and continue to fight the hypocrisy and anti-Semitism of bodies such as the UNHRC,” said Liberman.

“When countries such as Cuba, Venezuela and the like, who do not know the concept of human rights, point an accusing finger towards us, it is a sign that we are doing the right things," he added.