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Head of UN inquiry on Gaza says mission will continue despite Israel’s refusal to cooperate

The Canadian judge William Schabas, who was appointed by the UN Human Rights Council to chair a committee to investigate Israel’s violations of human rights in the occupied Palestinian territories, said the suggestion that he is anti-Israel “is absurd”.

Schabas’s remarks came in response to Israel’s accusations against him of being biased to the Palestinian side and having a prior opinion about Israel.

Quds news agency quoted Schabas as saying: “It is true that I spoke about this subject in the past, but now I’m going out there and I will be transparent and fair.” He responded to the charges of anti-Semitism made against him, pointing out that, “this is a bitter mistake, I express my opinion, and not everyone who criticises Israel is anti-Semitic, this is not a sound way to look into things,” adding: “If Israel does not cooperate with the commission, that would be unfortunate, Israel has an interest in cooperating with the commission. During the operation, Israel did not stop saying that it defends itself and that Hamas targeted civilians. Israel’s cooperation with the commission will give it the opportunity to justify its actions.”

“But in the case that Israel refuses to cooperate with the commission, we will collect our data in every way available and that will not stop our mission,” he said.

Israel denounced on Tuesday the Human Rights Council’s decision to form a committee to investigate possible war crimes by Israel during the military operation it has been waging for more than a month on the Gaza Strip and the occupied territories.

A spokesperson for the Israeli foreign ministry, Yigal Palmor, said “the anti-Israel conclusions in the commission’s report are pre-written and only lack the signatures,” in reference to the Canadian judge. He added, “This committee is not interested in human rights, but the rights of terrorist groups such as Hamas.”

The UN Security Council decided on 23 July to form the commission to investigate possible violations of international humanitarian law during the Israeli military operations that began on 7 July and to identify those responsible for any crimes in order to pursue them.

The committee is chaired by Schabas, a professor of international law in London, who has expressed the wish in the past to see Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu prosecuted at the International Criminal Court.

Palmor said Israel has not yet decided whether it will cooperate with or boycott the commission.

Israel refused to cooperate with a previous UN inquiry commission, headed by South African judge Richard Goldstone after Operation Cast Lead against the Gaza Strip in 2008-2009.

 

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