It may usually be appropriate for us to jump on the bandwagon when a fellow Canadian lawyer receives an international posting, but this should not be the case in the appointment of William Schabas as lead investigator by the United Nations Human Rights Council.
In the Aug. 18 edition of Law Times, columnist Richard Cleroux makes no mention of the history of the UN council where many nations with some of the worst human rights records monopolize its time by routinely and persistently condemning Israel, the only true democracy in a region where no country affords women and gays more rights and where there is no greater adherence to the rule of law or a free press.
In addition to the mention by Cleroux of the past comment by Schabas that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu should “probably be in the dock of an international court,” he could have also added, in an incredible twist on the notion of proportionality, that Schabas also drew a parallel between the genocidal murder of hundreds of thousands of people by the Sudanese government and Israel’s conduct when he asked, “Why are we going after the president of Sudan for Darfur and not the president of Israel for Gaza?”
Let us also be clear that Schabas accepted his appointment to lead a panel that is not charged with determining whether violations of international law were committed in the Gaza Strip but to document the crimes perpetrated by Israel. There is no apparent mandate for Schabas to investigate Hamas’ involvement in the kidnapping and murder of three Jewish teenagers, the initiation of hostilities, the targeting of Israeli civilians by missiles and tunnels, the use of UN sites to house arms, the breaking of numerous ceasefires, and the use of civilian shields. Even if Schabas had chosen to disown his past comments, certainly the very appearance of a predetermined verdict should have necessitated his refusal to accept this position. We should not be pleased with this appointment but disappointed that Schabas would accept such a role from a politically motivated council with an all-too-apparent agenda. As indicated in the New York Daily News on Aug. 31, “the fix is in.”