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UN chief: Israel demanded Schabas be removed over conflict of interest allegations

February 4, 2015 at 2:00 pm

A spokesman for the United Nations Secretary General, Estefan Dogrk, said Israel had demanded the removal of William Schabas, the chairman of the UN Human Rights Council commission investigating Israel’s war on Gaza last summer, over allegations of conflict of interest.

Dogrk said during a press conference that, “Schabas submitted his letter of resignation to the acting president of the UN Human Rights Council, German Ambassador Joachim Ruecker on Monday.”

“The Human Rights Council is currently looking for an alternative to replace Schabas,” he added.

Dogrk pointed out that, “Ruecker received a letter from the Permanent Mission of Israel in Geneva demanding him to dismiss Schabas as head of the inquiry mission because Schabas received funds from the PLO for legal advice in the past.”

In response to a question over the potential of conflict of interest, Dogrk did not explain the UN chief’s position, but said that Schabas gave legal advice, but that “legal advice varies from one case to another.”

Earlier in the day, the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC)  announced that it has accepted Schabas’s resignation letter.

In a statement, ambassador Joachim Ruecker thanked Schabas for his “work over the past six months as head of the committee.”

Media reports earlier reported that Schabas had resigned from his post in the wake of Israeli accusations against him.

Tel Aviv welcomed Schabas’s resignation, while Hamas described it “the inevitable result of Israeli… pressure on the commission.”

The Geneva based UN Council decided in July last year to “send an International Independent Investigation Commission to investigate violations of international humanitarian law and international human rights law in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, especially in the Gaza Strip, before, during or after Israeli military operations there starting June 13, 2014.” The mission’s task also included identifying those responsible for committing crimes against humanity and recommendations on “means to protect civilians from any further attacks.”