U.N.’s Imminent Gaza Report Challenged by 50 U.K. & Canadian Lawyers for ‘Bias’

U.N.’s Imminent Gaza Report Challenged by 50 U.K. & Canadian Lawyers for ‘Bias’

Arab and Islamic States Plan to Use Goldstone Report for Indictment of Israel by International Criminal Court

Geneva, Sept. 13, 2009 - An unprecedented team of fifty British and Canadian lawyers are challenging the refusal of a U.N. investigator to step down from an inquiry on the recent Gaza conflict, arguing that London School of Economics professor Christine Chinkin’s participation on the panel – after she declared Israel guilty prior to seeing any evidence – “necessarily compromises the integrity of this inquiry and its report.”

Arab and Islamic countries are hoping to use the report, by a UN Human Rights Council inquiry headed by former South African judge Richard Goldstone — and due for release today — to indict Israel at the International Criminal Court, a move recently encouraged by UN rights chief Navi Pillay. However, Geneva diplomats say U.S. and Western states will block any such attempt.

In submissions filed separately from both countries, prominent attorneys from law firms and human rights organizations in Great Britain and Canada are challenging the U.N.’s rejection of a request that Chinkin be disqualified due to her January condemnation of Israel on the very disputed issues that the inquiry is meant to impartially examine.

In early May, UN  Watch, a Geneva non-governmental organization that monitors the world body’s human rights system, appeared before the U.N. panel to urge Goldstone and the other members to disqualify Chinkin, invoking “the impartiality principle that Goldstone promised to uphold,” and “the due process requirements of morality, logic and international law.”

Despite the NGO’s filing of legal briefs in July and August, as reported by Agence France Presse and Deutsche Presse Agentur, the Goldstone mission waited until recently to respond, summarily rejecting the petition. UN Watch’s appeal last week to the new president of the Human Rights Council, Belgian ambassador Alex van Meeuwen, received no response. The team of 50 lawyers has now launched a direct appeal to Chinkin that she step down.

In an August interview with South Africa’s Business Day, Goldstone admitted that “If it had been a judicial inquiry, that letter [Chinkin] signed would have been a ground for disqualification.”

According to Hillel Neuer, executive director of UN Watch, “Goldstone’s implied argument that his inquiry is somehow exempt from the impartiality rule simply defies logic, morality and established international law. At the same time, Goldstone’s effective admission that his report is the product of something other than an impartial panel seriously calls into question the legal possibility of attributing any evidentiary weight or credibility to their report.”

Apart from Chinkin, the other three members of the panel — Goldstone, Hina Jilani, and Desmond Travers — also implied Israeli guilt prior to their seeing any evidence, declaring in March that “The events in Gaza have shocked us to the core.”

According to Neuer, “the Arab-controlled Human Rights Council deliberately selected individuals who made up their mind well in advance not only that Israel was guilty, but that a democratic state with an imperfect but respected legal system should be considered the same as or worse than Hamas, a group whose very raison d’etre is the killing and terrorizing of civilians.”

The two separate appeals by 50 British and Canadian lawyers follow below. For more information, see www.unwatch.org/goldstone.

________________________

The U.K. appeal

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”.

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

__________________________

The Canadian appeal

Click here for PDF

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

September 11, 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 London’s 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 right to claim self-defence against 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”.

All these are disputed issues which must surely bear on the fact-finding mission in which you are engaged. As a professor of international law at the London School of Economics, it behooves you to recognize that your actions have given rise to a reasonable apprehension of bias. Your refusal to step down necessarily compromises the integrity of this inquiry and its report.

Yours faithfully,

Noam Goodman

Stanley W L Freedman

Eric M. Levy

David Matas Q.C.

Allan Adel

Marvin Kurtz

Anita Bromberg

Monty Warsh

Ari Itman

Jeffrey Citron

David Nadler

Jason Caron

Alan Grad

Alan Litwack

Andrea Safer

Lawrence Witt

Tibor Hollander

Norman Bacal

Saul Schipper

David Chodikoff

Andrew Cohen

Aren Prupas

Dean Chenoy

Joel Goldberg

Adam Kardash

Mark Jadd

Hayden Solomons

David M. Goodman

Danny Kaufer

Adam S. Goodman

David Steinberg

Igor Ellyn Q.C.

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