by Julie Webb-Pullman
President of the Human Rights Council Joachim Ruecker on Tuesday appointed Israeli-approved former New York judge Ms Mary McGowan Davis to replace Professor William Shabas as Chair of the Independent Commission of Inquiry on the 2014 Gaza Conflict.
The UN is clearly responsible for this mess, regardless of Israel’s protracted attacks on Professor Shabas ever since the announcement of his appointment, culminating in last week’s letter to the UN.
The first step in ANY professional investigation is to obtain a signed declaration stating that the investigator/commissioner has no personal or professional connection with any of the parties that would compromise their ability to conduct an impartial investigation. Why did this not occur?
Has it occurred THIS time?
Probably not, given McGowan Davis’ track record.
McGowan Davis is well-known for her report on the 2008-9 Israeli offensive against Gaza that found “Israel devoted substantial resources to investigating more than 400 complaints of improper behavior in Gaza.”
Her report was also referred to by Goldstone in his Washington Post article, appropriately published on April Fool’s Day 2011, in which he sought to justify recanting the findings of the Goldstone Report.
That Israel has welcomed this appointment should give all who value independence and lack of bias cause for considerable concern – Haaretz trumpeted her appointment, claiming McGowan-Davis “is regarded as a lot more fair with regard to Israel.”
Undoubtedly there will be no flurry of Israeli accusations and character assassinations a la Goldstone and Shabas – their golden girl will surely come through with another whitewash – remember, the recommendations of the Goldstone Report, ie to investigate war crimes, were never implemented following that of McGowan Davis.
Curiously, in Professor Shabas letter of resignation he states that on February 2, 2015 the Bureau of the Human Rights Council decided to examine a complaint by Israel and to request a legal opinion from United Nations Headquarters in New York. What was that legal opinion?
It appears that Professor Shabas resigned under pressure, before the opinion was even given – an opinion that may well have exonnerated him from any putative taint of conflict of interest. His lack of courage is most regrettable – not because he may have found against Israel, but because yet another UN commissioner has caved in to Israeli bullying.
It seems the playground bully is now running not only the US, but also the UN.
Do the rest of the students stop using the playground because the bully will attack them? No, the school takes action against the bully.
The ‘school board’ has a very clear obligation to end Israeli impunity AND attempts to control it before the last vestige of UN credibility vanishes completely.
Professional and transparent appointment processes to UN commissions would go a long way to avoiding situations such as this arising in the first place.
To end impunity and ensure justice, genuine independence of the UN and a refusal to buckle to Israeli pressure would go even further.