Schabas’ resignation cannot whitewash the fundamental and inherent bias of the commission itself, including in its mandate. The international community should investigate the crimes of terrorists and not the actions of those defending themselves from terrorists. On February 2, 2015 William Schabas stepped down from the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) Commission of Inquiry he headed. Prof. Schabas resigned following the decisions by the Bureau of the Human Rights Council to examine findings that Schabas had received money from the Palestinian Liberation Organization for legal work and to request a legal opinion on the matter from UN Headquarters.
William Schabas accepted the post despite having a conflict of interest due to his contractual relationship with the PLO on a matter relevant to the mandate of the Commission of Inquiry. This fact was concealed both by Schabas himself and by the PLO. Schabas lied about this issue, declaring on a UN application form for a previous position that he has "no official, professional, personal or financial relationships that might cause him/her to limit the extent of their inquiries, to limit disclosure, or to weaken or slant findings in any way." Schabas continued to deny his conflict of interest after being appointed as Chairman of the commission.
Schabas has a long history of outspoken hostility towards Israel, both in statements and actions, which should have precluded his participation in the commission from the start. Yet he was chosen to lead the commission not in spite of his demonstrated prejudice, but rather because of it. The Schabas Commission of Inquiry – beginning with the resolution to establish it – manifested from its inception a clear anti-Israel bias.
Schabas’ resignation cannot whitewash the fundamental and inherent bias of the commission itself, including in its mandate. The removal of one symptom does not cure the disease. Furthermore, Schabas’ imprint on the final report – to be delivered next month – cannot be purged after he directed and conducted the five-months-long research and evidence-gathering phases, with the drafting work already begun.
Israel wholly rejects the notion of being investigated by a biased Commission of Inquiry, established by a Human Rights Council which has discredited itself with its disregard for human rights – for example, in 2014, the Council adopted more resolutions against Israel than against Iran, Syria and North Korea combined.
Israel is a law-abiding democracy that adheres to the highest standards of international law, including during armed conflict. Israel’s robust legal system continuously supervises its adherence to international and Israeli law and conducts thorough investigations when deemed necessary. Currently, the Israeli legal system is conducting an investigation of alleged violations of the Law of Armed Conflict during the summer 2014 conflict.
Hamas adheres to a jihadist ideology and is recognized as a terrorist organization by the US, the EU, Canada, Australia, Egypt and others. Hamas war criminals use the residents of Gaza as human shields while deliberately targeting Israeli civilians. It is these crimes which should be examined. The international community should investigate the crimes of terrorists and not the actions of those defending themselves from terrorists.