UN Palestine Investigator Must Return ‘Unethical’ PLO Medal, Says Watchdog

GENEVA, May 9, 2022 — The independent non-governmental human rights group UN Watch is accusing outgoing UN investigator on Palestine Michael Lynk of violating UN neutrality rules by accepting an award yesterday from Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, and called on U.S. Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield and UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet to demand that Lynk return it.

“President Mahmoud Abbas has awarded the Order of the Star of Jerusalem to Professor Michael Lynk, presented by Foreign Minister Dr Riad Al Malki in Dublin,” tweeted the Palestinian embassy in Ireland, along with a photo.

Lynk only ended his term as Special Rapporteur on Palestine last week, after a 6-year term. He was appointed by the UN Human Rights Council in 2016, despite rare objections about his lack of impartiality by the Canadian government of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

“For the past six years, we documented how Lynk was acting not like an impartial UN investigator, but rather like an agent for the PLO,” said Hillel Neuer, executive director of UN Watch. “He turned a blind eye to Hamas and Fatah terrorism, and demonized Israel. Lynk insisted he was impartial, but now he isn’t even pretending any more.”

“It is repulsive that Lynk accepted this award from Mahmoud Abbas at a time when his Fatah group participated in and praised the latest spate of Palestinian terrorist attacks that have killed 19 people in Israel.”

Abba’s Fatah-linked Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades distributed sweets in Gaza the evening after Thursday’s terrorist attack in Elad that killed three Israeli fathers, orphaning 16 children.

UN Watch says that Lynk’s acceptance of an award from one of the parties in a dispute that he was judging for the UN until last week sets a dangerous precedent.

“The entire credibility of the UN’s system for country investigations is at stake. If the UN investigator of Palestine can get an award from Palestinian President Abbas, what is to stop the UN investigators on Iran, Belarus and North Korea from accepting awards from Ayatollah Khamenei, Lukashenko and Kim Jong-un?”

“The UN human rights system is turning into a laughingstock, and dictators like Abbas, now in the 18th year of his 4-year term, get to corrupt the system.”

“We are calling on U.S. Ambassador Thomas-Greeenfield and High Commissioner Bachelet to speak out immediately, to condemn Lynk’s ethical breach, and to demand that he return the prize.”

Lynk’s Controversial UN Term, 2016-2022

As Special Rapporteur, Michael Lynk gave a free pass to systematic violations by the PA and Hamas.

Though it is rare for Canada to criticize UN appointments, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government had slammed Lynk’s appointment in 2016, saying that UN Special Rapporteurs needed to have a “track record that can advance peace in the region” and to be “credible, impartial and objective.”

Canada’s rebuke came after UN Watch exposed Lynk’s lengthy record of signing anti-Israel petitions, campaigning for Israel to be prosecuted for war crimes, accusing Israel of ethnic cleansing, and addressing conferences promoting a “one-state” solution, which means the end of Israel.

In his application, Lynk deliberately failed to disclose his leadership role in three pro-Palestinian lobby groups, including the National Council on Canada-Arab Relations, where he lobbied against Canada’s free trade agreement with Israel; the Canadian-Palestinian Education Exchange, which organizes “Israeli Apartheid Week” events; and Friends of Sabeel. During his UN tenure from 2016 to 2022, Lynk promoted the same agenda.

Key findings in UN Watch’s report:

• As Special Rapporteur on Palestine, Lynk published 12 reports and 84 official UN press releases about the Palestinian territories. These texts systematically ignored egregious human rights violations by the PA and Hamas against both Israelis and Palestinians.

• Lynk justified his omissions by citing the discriminatory 1993 mandate which instructs him to investigate only Israel’s violations. Eventually, in wake of criticism from UN Watch, Lynk’s last three reports to the General Assembly included a handful of sentences on violations by the PA and Hamas, disproving his prior arguments. Still, 97% of the content of these reports related to criticism of Israel, while Lynk continued to ignore Hamas terrorism.

• Out of 84 official UN press releases issued by Lynk between 2016 and 2022, only 12—one seventh—included any criticism at all of the PA and Hamas. These few references typically amounted to no more than one or two lines mentioning Palestinian violations within a larger context of condemning Israel.

• During his entire six years as Special Rapporteur, Lynk published only one UN statement devoted to human rights abuses by the PA. He failed to issue a single statement about the Hamas regime’s human rights violations against Palestinians.

• Lynk failed to issue a single statement dedicated to criticizing either the PA or Hamas for their gross and systematic violations of freedom of religion, the rights of children, the rights of women, and LGBTQ rights.

• Lynk failed to issue a single statement dedicated to criticizing the PA or Hamas for firing thousands of rockets at Israeli civilians, terrorism targeting Jews, or antisemitic incitement.

• The mandate of Special Rapporteur on Palestine dates back to the pre-Oslo era—meaning, before the PA and Hamas ruled millions of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza—and is inherently discriminatory, creating a protection gap for Palestinian and Israeli victims of violations by Palestinian actors.

• Several of Lynk’s predecessors publicly criticized this discrimination, and called for the mandate to be reformed. By contrast, Lynk pointedly refused do so. To the Canadian media in 2016, Lynk promised that he was “open to looking at expanding the job,” but in the end he did the opposite, embracing the biased mandate.

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