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Head of UN war crimes inquiry resigns after Israeli allegations of bias

Head of UN war crimes inquiry resigns after Israeli allegations of bias

The head of a UN inquiry into last summer’s Israeli military offensive in Gaza has said he will resign following  Israeli allegations of  pro Palestinian bias due to consultancy work he did for the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO).

William Schabas, a Canadian academic living in the UK, was appointed last August to head the UN Human Rights Council’s three-member team to probe the circumstances of the Operation Protective Edge and allegations of war crimes.

His candidacy however was met with strong resistance from Israeli officials, who accused Schabas of being anti-Israel.

“If any other evidence of this was needed, appointing the committee’s chairman, whose biased opinions and positions against Israel are well known, proves beyond all doubt that Israel cannot expect justice and that the committee’s report has already been written,” the Israeli Foreign Ministry said at the time.

RT report: In a letter to the UN commission, Schabas would step down immediately to prevent his past links with the Palestinian Liberation Organization from overshadowing the probe report, reported Reuters. Back in 2012 he wrote a legal opinion for PLO and received $1,300 for the job, he wrote. But he insists that his advice was no different from that he gave to other organizations and governments.

“My views on Israel and Palestine as well as on many other issues were well known and very public,” the letter said. “This work in defense of human rights appears to have made me a huge target for malicious attacks (…).”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called on the entire UN report to be scrapped following Schabas’ resignation, claiming the move proved his accession of the UNHRC as an “anti-Israeli body.”

Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said he didn’t expect the report to be affected, but hailed Israeli diplomacy for causing the resignation to happen.

“Even the biggest hypocrites in the international bodies cannot ignore that having Schabas investigate Israel is like having Cain investigate who murdered Abel,” the Lieberman said.

Palestinian official Hanan Ashrawi criticized Israeli officials for targeting Schabas.

“They try to intimidate, they try to slander, they try to discredit, they make it extremely difficult for anybody to take any position that would hold Israel accountable or investigating Israeli violations or Israeli war crimes,” she said.

After being appointed as commission chair and blasted in Israel, Schabas pledged an impartial investigation.

“I can promise you that I am not anti-Israel, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t have my own opinions about some of the people in Israeli governments over the years,” he told Israel’s Channel 2 in an interview.

“The statements were made in a specific context and that’s how they should be seen. I have been to Israel several times. I have lectured at universities and I’m on the editorial board of an Israeli journal. I wouldn’t have done those things if I was anti-Israel.”

The commission’s work was obstructed by Israel, which denied it entry into Gaza Strip through Israel in November. But while no official cooperation with the investigation came, Israel handed over what it called comprehensive evidence of Hamas war crimes committed during the conflict.