UN Gaza Probe Head: Me? Anti-Israel?

Prof. William Schabas once suggested that Netanyahu should be 'in the dock of an international court.'

Gil Ronen ,

United Nations (illustration)
United Nations (illustration)

Prof. William Schabas, a Canadian law professor chosen to helm a United Nations commission examining possible war crimes in Gaza scoffed Monday at charges he's biased against Israel, but his past utterances leave little doubt as to his lack of objectivity.

According to the Canadian Press, Schabas once suggested in a speech that he believes Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu should be "in the dock of an international court." He also wrote in a law journal article that the Israeli prime minister could be regarded as "the single individual most likely to threaten the survival of Israel."

"The suggestion that I'm anti-Israel is absurd," Schabas said Monday in a CBC interview from Toronto, pointing out that he's on the editorial board of the Israel Law Review.

Schabas, 63, currently works as an international law professor at Middlesex University in England, and is one of three lawyers who were tapped to investigate any violations of international humanitarian and human rights law in Gaza.

Hours after the appointments were announced Monday, Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird used his Twitter account to voice his disdain for them.

"UN Human Rights Council continues to be a sham for advancing human rights; today's (announcement) for members of its Gaza inquiry reveals its agenda," read one tweet.

A subsequent tweet added: "It's an utter shame, and will do nothing to promote peace and dignity in Gaza for the Palestinian people."

Hillel Neuer, head of the Geneva-based advocacy group UN Watch, also called on Schabas to recuse himself from the commission because of his past criticisms of Netanyahu.

"Under international law, William Schabas is obliged to recuse himself because his repeated calls to indict Israeli leaders obviously gives rise to actual bias or the appearance thereof," Neuer said in a statement.

"You can't spend several years calling for the prosecution of someone, and then suddenly act as his judge. It's absurd — and a violation of the minimal rules of due process applicable to UN fact-finding missions."

Schabas mocked that call.

"I have opinions like everybody else about the situation in Israel," he said. "They may not be the same as Hillel Neurer's or Benjamin Netanyahu's, that's all."

Neuer also noted that Schabas once called for “going after” Israel's then-President Shimon Peres in the ICC, saying, “Why are we going after the president of Sudan for Darfur, and not the president of Israel for Gaza?” Last year, Schabas declared, "My favorite would be Netanyahu within the dock of the International Criminal Court."

UN Watch also stressed that the very resolution creating the inquiry, sponsored by the Arab and Islamic states, was “born in bias,” in that it condemns Israel 18 times without mentioning Hamas even once. The EU refused to support the resolution, saying it was “unbalanced, inaccurate, and… fails to condemn explicitly the indiscriminate firing of rockets into Israeli civilian areas as well as to recognize Israel’s legitimate right to defend itself.” US President Barack Obama’s representative to the UNHRC described the inquiry as “yet another one-sided mechanism targeting Israel."