The United Nations team which is investigating potential war crimes committed by Israel during its war on the Gaza Strip last summer will release its report on time next month despite the chairman’s resignation, official sources said.
Canadian Professor William Schabas said on Monday that he would resign after Israel accused him of bias after revealing that he provided legal opinion to the Palestine Liberation Organisation.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu demanded the report be shelved in the wake of Schabas’s resignation, stressing that Hamas should be investigated and not Israel.
More than 2,200 Palestinians, mostly civilians, died in the Israeli aggression on the Gaza Strip while 67 soldiers and six settlers were killed in Israel.
Schabas’s resignation comes in the wake of a letter sent from the Israeli Ambassador to the United Nations Eviatar Manor to Human Rights Council President Joachim Ruecker of Germany condemning what he described as a “blatant conflict of interest” and Schabas’s prior relationship with the Palestinians. He demanded his immediate dismissal.
The letter, dated January 30, was made public yesterday.
Israel has long accused the council of bias against it and announced months ago that it would not cooperate with the inquiry, calling it a “kangaroo court”.
Schabas said in a letter to Ruecker he had been paid $1,300 for a legal opinion to the PLO in October 2012, but that he had acted with full “independence and impartiality” as chairman.
Ruecker said in a statement: “The president respects the decision of Professor Schabas and appreciates that in this way even the appearance of a conflict of interest is avoided, thus preserving the integrity of the process.”
The investigators are “now in the final phase of collecting evidence from as many victims and witnesses as possible from both sides,” he said.
The Human Rights Council formed the inquiry commission last July at the Palestinians’ request.