Testimony by UN Watch Executive Director Hillel Neuer before the UN Human Rights Council, September 23, 2014
Mr. President, we gather at a perilous moment in world affairs. International borders are trampled and dissolved before our eyes, masses are killed and exiled, atrocities are celebrated. The need to appeal to and affirm basic principles of international law and human rights has, perhaps, never been greater.
And so today, with the UN Watch legal brief that has been circulated before you, and before all of the distinguished representatives of this chamber—in the form of UN document NGO/112, which has been placed on the agenda of today’s debate—the community of international law has an opportunity, and a choice. It can choose to speak out to defend the international rule of law, or allow it to be trampled and dissolved.
Last Wednesday, I was invited to meet the commission of inquiry on Gaza, appointed by this council. I informed the chair, Professor William Schabas, that we would be presenting today’s legal brief. It recalls that the international rule of law requires UN fact-finders to be impartial, and to be seen as impartial.
I told him that while we respected his academic accomplishments, he is legally obliged to recuse himself on account of his prior statements and actions that give rise to the appearance of bias.
I reminded Professor Schabas that on 17 July 2014, speaking on the very conflict he is meant to examine, he told the BBC that Israel is presumptively guilty of war crimes, saying: “Prima facie, there is evidence of disproportionality in the response that Israel is undertaking.” Similarly, in November 2012, speaking of favorite defendants, Professor Schabas declared: “My favorite would be Netanyahu in the dock of the International Criminal Court.”
How can someone be a plaintiff one day, and then the next, act as a judge?
Our brief, available at www.schabasreport.com, details his many other prejudicial statements which give rise to the reasonable apprehension of bias.
Legal scholars—whom Professor Schabas himself cites in his books—are speaking out. Writing in The Times of London, Lord David Pannick, QC, the former British judge and leading human rights lawyer, stated that there is the appearance of bias.
Therefore, if justice is to be done—and to be seen to be done—the only remedy is Prof. Schabas’ recusal.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken U.N. Human Rights Council 46th Session 24 February 2021 Thank you, Madam President, High Commissioner Bachelet, and distinguished