U.K. lawyers and academics protest Goldstone Mission’s failure to disqualify biased LSE professor

The following open letter by British lawyers and academics was sent today to LSE professor Christine Chinkin in reaction to the Goldstone inquiry’s recent rejection of UN Watch’s request that she step down due to her prior statements. UN rights chief Navi Pillay expressed the hope that the report, due out on Saturday, be used by the Security Council to refer Israel to the International Criminal Court on charges of war crimes. For more info, click here.

Professor Christine Chinkin
Law Department
London School of Economics
Houghton Street
London WC2A 2AE

10 September 2009

Dear Professor Chinkin,

We wish to express our support for the UN Watch request that you be disqualified from the United Nations Human Rights Council’s fact-finding mission on the Gaza conflict and our disappointment that this well-founded request was recently rejected by the mission, as reported by the Jewish Chronicle (“Dispute over ‘biased’ Gaza inquiry professor,” 28 August 2009).

Judge Richard Goldstone, as head of the mission, promised at the outset that it would be impartial. Impartiality requires that fact-finders be free of any commitment to a preconceived outcome. Because you expressed yourself on the merits of the issues prior to seeing any of the evidence, you cannot be considered impartial.

On 11 January 2009, The Sunday Times published a letter signed by you and others, which stated that you “categorically reject” Israel’s claim that its military operation in Gaza constituted self-defence against the Hamas rocket attacks “deplorable as they are” and that “Israel’s actions amount to aggression, not self-defence”. You concluded that Israel was acting contrary to international law.

When you were asked about this during a May 2009 meeting with Geneva NGOs, you denied that your impartiality was compromised, saying that your Sunday Times letter only addressed jus ad bellum, and not jus in bello. (Audio recording at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BfiHbvTpmKQ.)

However, your letter to The Sunday Times was not limited to Israel’s decision to conduct a military operation in Gaza. It also expressed the categorical view that the Palestinians killed in the operation were “mostly civilians”, that humanitarian relief was blockaded by Israel, and that the operation was contrary to international humanitarian and human rights law. It concluded that “the manner and scale of [Israel's] operations in Gaza amount to an act of aggression and is contrary to international law”.

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All these issues clearly bear on the fact-finding mission in which you are engaged. As you know, all are disputed. As a professor of international law at the London School of Economics, you must recognize that your actions have given rise to a reasonable apprehension of bias. As colleagues in the law and academia, each of us committed to fairness and the principle that justice must be seen to be done, we are disappointed that you have refused to step down. Your continued participation necessarily compromises the integrity of this inquiry and its report.

Yours faithfully

Nigel Peters QC

Avril Mailer

Caroline Turner

Alan Steinfeld QC

Professor Ashley Grossman

Daniel Janner QC

Daniel Weiner

David Halpern QC

David Ziskind

Dr Howard Kahn

Jonathan Arkush

Jonathan Fisher QC

Jonathan D. C. Turner

Laura Dahan

Philip Gershuny

Rebekah Gershuny

Simon Monty QC

Simon Myerson QC

Jonathan Lux

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