Archive for the 'Human Rights Council (UNHRC)' Category

Legal Expert: UN’s Gaza report “not based on credible military operational expertise”

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Lt. Col. Corn, law professor & former senior law of war adviser for U.S. army, addresses UN Human Rights Council on the report of the Gaza inquiry. Geneva, June 29, 2015.

Thank you, Mr. President. I am Geoffrey Corn, a Professor of Law and the U.S. Army’s former senior expert on the Law of Armed Conflict. I advised an independent JINSA-commissioned Task Force on the 2014 Gaza conflict.

I commend the Report’s recognition that all parties to armed conflict must implement and respect the Law of Armed Conflict. While objective critiques of military operations can contribute substantially to the understanding, implementation, and evolution of theLaw of Armed Conflict, findings and recommendations must derive from credible information, legal interpretation, and operational expertise. Otherwise, any critique risks distorting the essential balance between mitigating the suffering of armed conflict and the dictates of military necessity – one that has defined the law since its inception. Continue reading ‘Legal Expert: UN’s Gaza report “not based on credible military operational expertise”’

U.S. General Blasts Gaza Report in UNHRC Testimony

Screen Shot 2015-06-30 at 12.08.37 AMMajor-General Michael D. Jones, former Chief of Staff, U.S. Central Command, addressed the UN Human Rights Council on behalf of UN Watch, in the debate on the Commission of Inquiry into the 2014 Gaza conflict. Geneva, June 29, 2015.

Mr. President,

My name is Mike Jones, a retired U.S. Army general officer who, with four other retired U.S. generals, conducted a JINSA-sponsored, but independent, study of the 2014 Gaza conflict. We conducted research, and interviewed Israeli, UN, and Palestinian Authority officials. Our focus was what the U.S. should learn from the conflict, but our report is relevant to the Council.

I am pleased your report acknowledged that all combatants are required to abide by the law, and that Hamas’ and other groups’ indiscriminate rocket fire at Israel was unlawful.

However, it is disappointing that the report fails to condemn these groups for unlawfully failing to distinguish themselves as combatants, as well as purposefully co-locating amongst civilians, knowingly placing them at risk, with absolutely no military necessity to do so.

I am also disappointed that the report, while acknowledging that lawful targeting is a balance between the military necessity and the known risk to civilians, came to conclusions without sufficient information to make a judgment. Specifically, they condemn the IDF for engagements without any information on the IDF’s objectives, military necessity, or known information on risk. Continue reading ‘U.S. General Blasts Gaza Report in UNHRC Testimony’

Col. Kemp tells UNHRC it’s become “tool of Hamas’ murderous strategy”

Address of Colonel Richard Kemp to the United Nations Human Rights Council, debate on report of the Commission of Inquiry into the 2014 Gaza conflict, Geneva, 29 June 2015.

Mr. President, I fought in combat zones around the world during 30 years’ service in the British Army. I was present as an observer throughout the conflict in Gaza.

Mr.  President, during the 2014 Gaza conflict, Hamas, to its eternal shame, did more to deliberately and systematically inflict death, suffering and destruction on its own civilian population, including its children, than any other terrorist group in history. Continue reading ‘Col. Kemp tells UNHRC it’s become “tool of Hamas’ murderous strategy”’

Leaked cables: Saudi Arabia & Russia traded votes for UNHRC seats

Saudi Putin

By Hillel Neuer

Now in its 29th session, we are asked by many to believe that the UN Human Rights Council is a serious, effective and credible body.

Leaked Saudi cables, however, document what we knew all along: that despite the UNHRC’s official membership criteria —  “the candidates’ contribution to the promotion and protection of human rights and their voluntary pledges and commitments made thereto” — dictatorships strike backroom deals to elect each other onto the 47-nation body, in Kofi Annan’s words, “not to strengthen human rights but to protect themselves against criticism or to criticize others.”

Amid the trove of Saudi diplomatic cables leaked by Wikileaks are at least a dozen that explain how the Saudis bought their seat with money, and by bartering their UN votes. Continue reading ‘Leaked cables: Saudi Arabia & Russia traded votes for UNHRC seats’

In Defense of Naming and Shaming: High Commissioner Zeid


I am often told in this chamber, in our debates, that I should not be “naming and shaming” member states. Somehow the naming is, or has become, the very shame itself. This is a disfigurement of the truth, which we must now reset.

The shame comes not from the naming: it comes from the actions themselves, the conduct or violations, alleged with supporting evidence or proven. The greatest factory of shame is the blanket denial of human rights. The denial of the right to life shames unreservedly. Killing on a massive scale, shames stunningly, and inexhaustibly. The denial of the right to development also shames. The denial of human dignity shames. Torture shames. Arbitrary arrests shame. Rape shames.

We name; the shame of States, where it exists, has already been self-inflicted. The loss of face for the affected countries has come well before OHCHR raises its independent voice. We say what we believe to be the truth, on behalf of victims. We have no monopoly over truth, but we believe our contentions can be supported by fact.

— UN High Commissioner Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, statement to UNHRC, June 15, 2015

Hillel Neuer tells UN: “Why did you reward Iran & Saudi Arabia with top posts?”

Testimony today by UN Watch Executive Director before the 29th Session of the United Nations Human Rights Council.

Thank you, Mr. President. The High Commissioner spoke of the need to end impunity. Yet what we are witnessing here at the United Nations is this: Countries that commit gross and systematic violations of human rights are not only given immunity, but they are actually rewarded with high positions.

When member states are silent, the High Commissioner must lead. We urge him to consider, and we ask:

Why is it that Saudi Arabia, which subjugates women, which just expelled a student from university because she lowered her veil on a female-only schoolbus, is rewarded by the UN with a seat on this Human Rights Council? Continue reading ‘Hillel Neuer tells UN: “Why did you reward Iran & Saudi Arabia with top posts?”’

Key Preliminary Findings of the High Level International Military Group on the Gaza Conflict

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Key preliminary findings on the 2014 Gaza Conflict by a high level international military group as submitted to the UN Human Rights Council’s Commission of Inquiry, which is expected to issue its report next week. 

PDF of Report & Cover Letter to UNHRC



From 18th – 22nd May 2015, the High Level International Military Group, made up of 11 former chiefs of staff, generals, senior officers, political leaders and officials from the United States, Germany, the United Kingdom, Holland, Spain, Italy, Australia and Colombia visited Israel for a fact-finding mission on the 2014 Gaza conflict. We were led by General Klaus Naumann, former Chief of Staff of the Bundeswehr and Chairman of the NATO Military Committee, the most senior officer in the Alliance, and Giulio Terzi, former Foreign Minister of Italy. Also in the group were Ambassador Pierre-Richard Prosper, formerly US State Department Ambassador at Large for war crimes issues; and Mr Rafael Bardaji, former National Security Adviser to the Government of Spain.

This was part of a longer term project by our group, whose principal concern is how civilian lives can be protected and military forces can fight effectively when operations must be conducted in a densely packed civilian area. We will be producing a full report this autumn.

Continue reading ‘Key Preliminary Findings of the High Level International Military Group on the Gaza Conflict’

UN Watch to Appeal to 54-Nation Body to Overturn NGO Status for Hamas Front

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Above: Antisemitic image posted on Facebook by Majed Al-Zeer,
Director-General of the Hamas-linked Palestinian Return Centre

GENEVA, June 2, 2015 – UN Watch announced that it will contest yesterday’s “incomprehensible” decision by a UN committee to recommend NGO status for a group intimately linked to the Hamas terrorist organization, by appealing for it to be overturned by the 54-nation ECOSOC when it meets in July to consider the application.

At UN headquarters in New York yesterday, the 19-nation Committee on NGOs yesterday voted in favor of the application by the Palestinian Return Centre, a Hamas affiliate in Europe, by a vote of 12 to 3.

Hamas is designated as a terrorist organization by the European Union, Canada, Israel, Japan, and the United States, and, its armed wing is designated a terrorist organization by Australia and the United Kingdom.

Continue reading ‘UN Watch to Appeal to 54-Nation Body to Overturn NGO Status for Hamas Front’

Bill Clinton addressing UN body on same day it’s set to accredit Hamas front group


GENEVA, May 28, 2015 – Former U.S. president Bill Clinton is today addressing ECOSOC, a top 54-nation UN body, on the same day that its Committee on NGOs is set to grant official UN status to a Hamas front group.

UN Watch executive director Hillel Neuer urged Mr. Clinton to speak out against the application by the Palestinian Return Centre (PRC), which has documented ties with a U.S.-designated terrorist entity. See full details in today’s UN Watch press release on the PRC.

Neuer also called on Mr. Clinton to condemn ECOSOC for “absurdly electing misognystic Iran last month to the Executive Board of UN Women.”

In addition, Neuer called on Clinton “to condemn ECOSOC for stacking its UN committee that oversees human rights groups with non-democracies including Iran, Sudan, China, Cuba, Mauritania, Nicaragua, Pakistan, Russia, Sudan, and Venezuela.”

“These are the regimes that will today decide whether to grant coveted ECOSOC status to a front group of the Hamas terrorist organization. Mr. Clinton cannot allow himself to be seen as legitimizing the pernicious and anti-democratic actions of ECOSOC.”


UN casts Israel as only violator of health rights in the world



By: Hillel C. Neuer
© 2015

GENEVA, May 20, 2015 - As Israeli hospitals continue their life-saving treatment for escalating numbers of wounded Syrians fleeing to the Golan from the Assad regime’s barbaric attacks, the U.N. reached new heights of absurdity today by accusing Israel of violating the health rights of Syrians in the Golan.

By a vote of 104 to 4, with 6 abstentions and 65 absent, the Jewish state was the only country in the world to be singled out as a violator of health rights when its alleged victims were spotlighted by the annual assembly of the U.N.’s World Health Organization.

The resolution on the plight of Israel’s alleged victims, which was the 2015 assembly’s only treatment of a specific country situation, sent an unmistakable message when it ordered “health-related technical assistance” for “the Syrian population in the occupied Syrian Golan,” and when it called on the director-general of the World Health Organization to report on “the health conditions in the occupied Palestinian territory, including east Jerusalem, and in the occupied Syrian Golan” at next year’s session.

By calling for next year’s report to focus on “the effect of prolonged occupation and human rights violations on mental and physical health,” and particularly “the health consequences of the Israeli military detention system on Palestinian prisoners and detainees, especially child detainees, ” the UN frames and delegitimizes Israel’s defensive measures against terrorism as a presumed cause of mental and physical illness. The mandate for the report completely ignores actions by the PA, Hamas, Islamic Jihad and others.

Continue reading ‘UN casts Israel as only violator of health rights in the world’

Philippe Val, Charlie Hebdo’s Former Editor, Wins Geneva Human Rights Prize

En francais: pour l’émouvant discours de Philippe Val, cliquez ici

GENEVA, May 17 – Geneva-based human rights group UN Watch awarded its prestigious annual human rights prize to Philippe Val, the French author, humorist, and former editor of Charlie Hebdo, “for having the courage to speak out when others were silent, defending democracy and the human right to live, think, and laugh.”

At a Geneva ceremony held on May 7, 2015, adjacent to the UN office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, before an audience of UN ambassadors, Swiss political leaders and community leaders, Mr. Val received the 2015 Morris B. Abram Human Rights Award, named after the civil rights advocate, diplomat and UN delegate who founded the watchdog NGO in 1993.

Val speaking - for blog

“Human rights defenders in dictatorships deserve awards more than I do,” said Val, however, “it’s hard to defend human rights in democracies as well.” Continue reading ‘Philippe Val, Charlie Hebdo’s Former Editor, Wins Geneva Human Rights Prize’

Netherlands justifies Iran’s “accession” to UN women’s rights committee

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In the wake of controversial tweets by a senior Dutch political officer, a spokesman of the Dutch foreign ministry doubled down and defended Iran’s election to the  board of UN Women on grounds that it would “maintain dialogue” with “the more conservative countries,” and “encourage improvement,” reports De Volkskrant, a leading daily newspaper in the Netherlands.

On Tuesday, UN Watch called on Dutch foreign minister Bert Koenders to fire Bregje Wijsenbeek, a senior political officer dealing with human rights at the Dutch embassy in Pretoria, over her embarrassing tweets defending the election of Iran’s regime to the board of UN Women because, in her words, “Iran is not misogynist,” its “main religious structure was built for a woman,” and because when she visited Iran people in the metro gave her presents. Continue reading ‘Netherlands justifies Iran’s “accession” to UN women’s rights committee’

UN elects Iran to Crime Prevention Commission — and likely to top women’s rights panel


GENEVA, April 9 - UN Watch condemned the UN for today electing the criminal regime of Iran to its commission on crime prevention, and to two other top committees. UN press release is here.

UN Watch has also learned that Iran is a candidate for the Executive Board of UN Women, the highest world body for women’s rights. The vote, originally scheduled for today, has been postponed to tomorrow. UN Watch condemns Iran’s candidacy because of the regime’s despicable record on women’s rights, as documented in detail at our recent Geneva Summit for Human Rights, and in October at our panel of Iranian dissidents. UN Watch urges the United Nations not to elect a misogynistic regime to oversee women’s rights.

Iran’s media is already gloating. Report from Iran’s Mehr News Agency:

Iran elected ECOSOC committee member

TEHRAN, Apr. 09 (MNA) – The Islamic Republic of Iran managed to win membership in the executive board of United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice, and Committee for the United Nations Population Award for next 3 years beginning in 2016.



Whistleblowers Urge Ban Ki-Moon and U.N. Executives to Strengthen Anti-Retaliation Measures

Ban Ki-moon

Press Release from  the Government Accountability Project


WASHINGTON, April 8, 2015 – Today, a group of nine whistleblowers from the U.N. system sent a letter to U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and the Directors of U.N. Specialized Agencies urging them to do more to protect whistleblowers.

The letter claims that whistleblower policies in the U.N. system “afford little to no measure of real or meaningful protection for whistleblowers” and that “fear of reporting wrongdoing is widespread.” According to the letter, the “UN system of justice fails whistleblowers.” Continue reading ‘Whistleblowers Urge Ban Ki-Moon and U.N. Executives to Strengthen Anti-Retaliation Measures’

Rights Council condemns Boko Haram terror

Today was one of the rare instances that the UN Human Rights Council spent a whole day condemning a terrorist group, namely Boko Haram. That is the second time the Council holds an urgent debate against terrorism, the first being against the Islamic State in September 2014.

It is interesting that many themes discussed today rarely come up in the HRC, such as:

  • Several delegations spoke of “asymmetric warfare”
  • The Coordination Committee of Special Procedures raised the issue of children being used as human shields by Boko Haram
  • Many states spoke against passing on arms to terrorist groups

The Minister for Foreign Affairs of Cameroon, Pierre Moukoko Mbonjo, made the following frank remark:
“We call for understanding from our friends in the Human Rights Council. A proportionate response to the attacks can only be made to the degree that the army has the capacity to assess the scope of the attack. That is not our case. We don’t have the technological and satellite instruments to see how Boko Haram will attack us. They always take us by surprise and we have to react.”

All these points are interesting especially when one compares them to the prevailing discourse during the discussion of the Council’s pet issue, that is the Israel-Arab conflict, and the tactics of terrorist groups such as Hamas and Hezbollah.

UN Watch statement on today’s urgent session on Boko Haram

GENEVA, Apr. 1, 2015 – UN Watch is participating today at the UN Human Rights Council’s Special Session on Boko Haram. Please find below the full UN Watch statement.

Last month, at the Geneva Summit for Human Rights and Democracy, UN Watch together with 20 other NGOs hosted Saa, a Nigerian girl who escaped Boko Haram, when they kidnapped her and her fellow classmates. Her story was covered by major international media, including Le Monde, France 24, France 4, ARD, Swiss TV (in French, German and Italian) and Estado de S. Paulo. To watch the full video, click here.


UN Watch Statement

23rd Special Session, UN Human Rights Council


Thank you, Mr. President.

UN Watch welcomes today’s meeting. Yet given that it has been more than five years now since Boko Haram has been on the rampage, killing thousands of innocent men, women, and children, we must ask: Why has the UN waited so long?

Continue reading ‘UN Watch statement on today’s urgent session on Boko Haram’

Resolutions and Voting Results of 28th HRC Session

Condemnatory Country-Specific Resolutions:

Human rights in the occupied Syrian Golan (A/HRC/28/L.3)
Sponsor: Pakistan on behalf of the OIC
Vote result: 29 in favor, 1 against (United States), 17 abstentions (EU, Botswana, Japan, South Korea)

The continuing grave deterioration in the human rights and humanitarian situation in the Syrian Arab Republic (A/HRC/28/L.6)
Sponsors: France, Germany, Italy, Jordan, Kuwait, Morocco, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, United States, United Kingdom
Lebanon tabled an amendment to remove the reference to a selectively listed organization (Hezbollah) from OP13, which they believed to be politically motivated and unbalanced. As a result, a vote was held on this amendment the result of which was: 10 in favor (Cuba, China, Brazil, Russia), 23 against (United States, EU, South Korea, Saudi Arabia, UAE), 14 abstentions (India, South Africa)
Vote result (on the entire resolution): 29 in favour (United States, EU, Saudi Arabia), 6 against (Venezuela, Russia, Cuba, Algeria, Bolivia, China), 12 abstentions (India, Pakistan, South Africa, Brazil)

Situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran (A/HRC/28/L.17)
Sponsors: Moldova, Sweden, FYROM, United States
Vote result: 20 in favour (United States, EU), 11 against (China, Cuba, Pakistan, Russia, Venezuela), 16 abstentions (Algeria, Brazil, South Africa, UAE)
Continue reading ‘Resolutions and Voting Results of 28th HRC Session’

World body urged to investigate anti-Jewish books in U.N. Bookshop

images from UN bookstore

Letter by UN Watch director Hillel Neuer to the United Nations

Michael Moller
Acting Director-General
United Nations Office at Geneva
Palais des Nations
1211 Geneva 10

26 March 2015

Dear Mr. Moller,

UN Watch is deeply concerned by the highly suspect selection of books featured in the United Nations Bookshop, and we urge you to investigate. (Photos are enclosed.)

Perusing the shelf displays, one cannot miss the carefully orchestrated line-up of anti- American and anti-Israeli book titles, from “Reflections on Israel’s War Against Palestinians” to “The Punishment of Gaza.” Worse, the UN bookshop—situated just below the Human Rights Council prominently displays a book entitled “How I Stopped Being a Jew.” The author accuses the Jewish religion of a “genocidal Yahwestic tradition.”

Let us be clear: under no circumstances whatsoever would we presume to dictate to the UN bookshop which books to sell. We unflinchingly support the freedom of expression and full exchange of ideas, good and bad. Yet the unmistakable pattern of anti-American, anti-Israel and anti-Jewish books is a matter that requires your attention. We recall the promise of UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan at the historic 2004 United Nations gathering against anti- Semitism: “The fight against anti-Semitism must be our fight,” said Mr. Annan, “and Jews everywhere must feel that the United Nations is their home, too.” As I am sure you will agree, the selective offering of one-sided and inflammatory books that demean Israelis and Jews does not contribute to the culture of acceptance promised by Mr. Annan.

At a time when Jews across Europe are being targeted by violent attacks and incitement, it is deeply distressing that the United Nations Headquarters in Europe would promote books on “how to stop being a Jew.” Significantly, we note there are no other books in the shop targeting or criticizing any other religious or ethnic group.

Numerous visitors pass through the UN bookshop every day, including young students who take the UN tour in order to learn about the UN Charter values of equality, tolerance and peace. We urge the United Nations to live up to its founding values, and to prevent yet another UN institution from falling victim to selectivity and politicization. We sincerely hope that you will investigate this serious matter, and take remedial action as necessary.

Yours truly,

Hillel Neuer
Executive Director

Continue reading ‘World body urged to investigate anti-Jewish books in U.N. Bookshop’

Today is Hate Israel Day at the UN – March 23, 2015

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GENEVA, March 23, 2015  – Today is Hate Israel Day at the U.N., a feature of every regular session, held in September, March and June, of the 47-nation Human Rights Council.

While all 193 countries of the world are addressed under Agenda Item 4, “Human rights situations requiring the world’s attention,” only Israel gets its own special treatment, under Agenda Item 7, “Human rights situation in Palestine and other occupied Arab territories .” Continue reading ‘Today is Hate Israel Day at the UN – March 23, 2015′

VIDEO: Cuba calls to “eliminate” UN Watch speech on Israeli elections as lesson for dictatorships

Statement by UN Watch Executive Director Hillel Neuer to the UN Human Rights Council, 17 March 2015, Agenda Item 4, “Human rights situations that require the Council’s attention”

Mr. President,

Today the whole world is watching as millions of Israelis, Jews and Arabs, go to the polls to elect 120 members of parliament and a prime minister. Twenty-four parties are running, including left and right, secular and religious, and a joint Arab list that is predicted this time to win more than ten percent of the seats.

The whole world is watching, to see the results.

But my question today, Mr. President, is whether members of this United Nations Human Rights Council is watching — not the results, but the process.

Now, in this session the Council is planning to condemn Israel for violating human rights in at least four resolutions, which is four times more condemnation than is being directed against Syria, Iran, and North Korea.

Perhaps the Council members who will condemn Israel as the world worst violator, will watch Israeli democracy in action and learn something. Continue reading ‘VIDEO: Cuba calls to “eliminate” UN Watch speech on Israeli elections as lesson for dictatorships’

UN reviews Iran’s record

The UN Human Rights Council adopted today the report on Iran’s human rights record. Iran tried to portray a rosy and unreal picture of the situation in the country, supported by several friendly governments. Western democracies and civil society groups made very strong statements to set the record straight.

Human rights violations remain widespread in the Islamic Republic of Iran. Abuses of freedom of expression, women’s rights, the incarceration of human rights defenders and political prisoners, misuse of the death penalty, as well as the poor treatment of religious and national minorities remain flagrant.

Addressing the Council on behalf of Iran, Mr. Kazem Gharib Abadi proclaimed, as inspired by the religious democracy that is founded in Islamic principles rooted in Iran’s religious and cultural heritage, that Iran is “firmly committed to the promotion of human rights,” that “Iran’s approach to human rights is comprehensive,” and “that all citizens, men and women, equally enjoy the protection of the law.”

Multiple countries took the floor to praise Iran offering congratulations on their progress on human rights. Examples include:

  • Nicaragua: “We wish to congratulate Iran for their commitment at the international level for the protection and promotion of human rights.”
  • Pakistan: “We commend the government’s acceptance to many of the recommendations.”
  • Russia: “We commend their interaction with treaty bodies and openness to dialogue, and recommend adopting the report.”
  • Sudan: “We commend that they have accepted the majority of the recommendations.”
  • Sri Lanka: “The progress made is commendable.”
  • Venezuela: “We wish to express satisfaction of the government’s implementation of the MDG’s, evidence of their commitment to fundamental rights.” They also highlighted that, “The implementation of sanctions is a violation of the basic rights of the people of Iran.”

However, The United Kingdom expressed concern with “the sharp increase in the use of the death penalty,” and other ongoing violations.  Similarly, The United States renewed their “call on Iran to end the harassment and persecution of journalists and demonstrate its commitment to freedom of expression,” and to “uphold its religious freedom commitments and obligations and to release those imprisoned for religious beliefs.”

Finally, civil society organizations painted a grave picture; highlighting that same sex relations are still punishable by death, that Baha’i’s remain without basic citizenship rights let alone religious freedom, that legislative change has not been upheld in practice, that there is continued denial of due process, and that the death penalty remains a common prescription for political dissidents and religious minorities.



UN Watch empowers North Korean defectors

This week, UN Watch hosted a delegation of NK Watch, a South Korean NGO which was created by survivors of North Korean prison camps and their families.

The delegation comprised of Ahn Myeong Cheol, NK’s Watch Executive Director and a former prison guard in the North Korean regime’s brutal gulag; Gim Gyumin, a North Korean defector and film director who has integrated the abuses he witnessed into his movies; Mr. Kim, a former North Korean overseas worker in Russia who escaped and defected to South Korea; and Dasun Kim, manager of International Affairs at NK Watch.

During their stay in Geneva, NK Watch members addressed the UN High Commissioner on Human Rights on the issue of the North Korean overseas workers, as well as the Special Rapporteur on Slavery and the Working Groups on Arbitrary Detention and Enforced Disappearances. They also addressed the Human Rights Council plenary during the report of the Special Rapporteur on North Korea. The Rapporteur pledged to look into the issue of the workers and coordinate with other UN mechanisms.

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UN Watch and NK Watch held a film screening at the Palais des Nations, attended by more than 80 people, showing the movie “Winter Butterfly,” which describes the famine and the abuse of ordinary citizens of North Korea. Following the screening, a Q&A session with film director Gim Gyumin followed, as well as a testimony of Mr. Kim on his experiences as a North Korean Overseas worker.

Lastly, UN Watch facilitated a press conference for the NK Watch delegation, as well as individual interviews, getting worldwide coverage, including Reuters, Agence France Presse, Press Trust India, Deutsche Welle and Vice.


Minutes of UNHRC Bureau: Gaza probe deferral to be decided on Monday

Below is an excerpt from the minutes of the Bureau of the UN Human Rights Council, which met today, Friday, March 13, and refers to the request to postpone the report of the Gaza COI. For the full document in pdf, click here.

The request by the Commission of Inquiry on the 2014 Gaza conflict to postpone the presentation of its report to the Council at a later session

With regard to the request by the COI on the 2014 Gaza conflict, the President informed the Bureau that, after consultations with concerned parties, he intends to propose on Monday 16 March, that the Council request the Commissioners to present a short oral update on the status of the report to the Council on 23 March 2015 without any interactive dialogue as no report will be presented at this session. The consideration of the report of the COI, as mandated in Council resolution A/HRC/RES/S-21/1, will be postponed to the 29th session, in June 2015. The President also informed the Bureau that the secretariat will be requested to make a statement to the Council on the programme budgetary implications, if any, of the postponement of the consideration of the report of the COI to the next session with the aim of ensuring that the necessary funds are indeed available to the COI.

BREAKING: UN Gaza Commissioners seek deferral of report to June

GENEVA, March 9 - UN Watch welcomes the news that the United Nations commission of inquiry on Gaza is seeking to defer its report to June.

“This is what I proposed to the commissioners when I met them in September,” said UN Watch executive director Hillel Neuer. “A serious report needs more time and must reflect material that has come to light from all parties.”

“Moreover,” said Neuer, “the resignation of William Schabas under a cloud of bias accusations requires a complete rewriting of the report.”
grietje baars

“Finally, UN Watch’s recent revelation that the Goldstone Report was drafted with the help of an anarchist law professor who devoted her life to prosecuting Israelis for war crimes (photo of Grietje Baars) requires a careful review of the staffers now drafting this report, who were hired by the same UN agency.”

Continue reading ‘BREAKING: UN Gaza Commissioners seek deferral of report to June’

UNHRC chief schools “Qatada QC” Ben Emmerson for late report


UK lawyer Ben Emmerson, known as “Qatada QC” for his defense of hate preacher Abu Qatada, just got schooled by the president of the U.N. Human Rights Council for failing to submit his report as the expert on counterterrorism and human rights, and for failing to inform the Council in time. Continue reading ‘UNHRC chief schools “Qatada QC” Ben Emmerson for late report’

UNHRC member Saudi Arabia: lashing of blogger is justified under Sharia and human rights law


badawi award thumbnailFollowing is today’s despicable statement by Saudi Arabia, an elected member of the U.N. Human Rights Council, concerning jailed blogger Raif Badawi, who recently won our 2015 Geneva Summit Courage Award.

Source: Saudi Press Agency

Official Source at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs: The Kingdom cannot believe the interest some media have taken in the case of Citizen Rai’ef Badowi and the judicial sentence he has received

Riyadh, Mar 7, 2015, SPA — An official source at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said: “The Kingdom cannot believe and strongly disapproves what has been addressed in some media outlets about the case of Citizen Rai’ef Mohammed Badowi and the judicial sentence he has received. Continue reading ‘UNHRC member Saudi Arabia: lashing of blogger is justified under Sharia and human rights law’

UNHRC taps Algerian for new post to oppose U.S. sanctions, a Cuban-backed mandate

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The UN Human Rights Council has shortlisted the 79-year-old Idriss Jazairy, Algeria’s  former representative to the 47-nation body, to head a new post backed by Cuba and designed to classify U.S. sanctions against rogue regimes as violations of human rights.

The new “Special Rapporteur on the negative impact of unilateral coercive measures on the enjoyment of human rights” will be appointed at the end of March during the current month-long session of the UNHRC. Continue reading ‘UNHRC taps Algerian for new post to oppose U.S. sanctions, a Cuban-backed mandate’

Kerry Makes the Case for the U.N. Human Rights Council

kerry at UNHRCSecretary Kerry’s Intervention, Human Rights Council – Geneva, Switzerland, Monday, March 2, 2015

(Source: UN Human Rights Council Extranet)

 Let me start by thanking the Council’s president, Joachim Rücker , for convening this session. I appreciate the opportunity to be here at such an important time – not only for the future of this body, but for human rights around the globe.

President Obama believes deeply in the mission of the Human Rights Council and recognizes the importance of US engagement and leadership within the organization. He made the decision to re-engage shortly after he became President because he knew it is vital for the United States – and for our allies –to have a seat at the table as the HRC sets its priorities and implements its agenda.

Continue reading ‘Kerry Makes the Case for the U.N. Human Rights Council’

Who Really Wrote the Goldstone Report— And Who’s Writing Goldstone II

Published in The Tower, March 1, 2014.
grietje baars

Above: Grietje Baars, the Dutch-born Marxist law professor and
anti-Israel law professor and activist, was key author of the Goldstone Report

By Hillel Neuer

For more than five years, the question of who exactly authored the UN’s 2009 Goldstone Report has been an enduring mystery. The report, written under the auspices of South African Judge Richard Goldstone, was a shocking 500-page indictment of Israel that accused its political and military leadership of deliberately targeting Palestinian civilians during the 2008-2009 Operation Cast Lead in Gaza, and condemned the Jewish state as a whole for systematic and institutionalized racism, among other atrocities and abominations.

The answer to that riddle—which involves a radical Marxist law professor who held the equivalent of a general’s rank in the global lawfare movement against Israel, and more broadly, the UN department that selected her—has additional importance today because of the controversy swirling over the upcoming sequel to the Goldstone Report dealing with 2014’s Operation Protective Edge, which will be presented to the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) in Geneva on March 23.

Understanding who wrote the 2009 report—and how the establishment behind it remains in place—constitutes a direct rebuttal to the latest campaign by HRC backers and activist groups to salvage the reputation and legitimacy of the Goldstone II commission of inquiry into alleged Israeli war crimes.

Following the February 2 resignation of commission chair William Schabas under a cloud of bias accusations, including the revelation that he had done paid legal work for the PLO, defenders have insisted that Schabas’ stewardship of the probe for six out of its seven months is a non-issue. His resignation has cured all defects, if they ever existed in the first place. “In this way,” says HRC president Joachim Ruecker, the German ambassador in Geneva, “even the appearance of a conflict of interest is avoided, thus preserving the integrity of the process.”

Yet the discovery of who really wrote Goldstone I challenges everything about the integrity of the “process” that is now producing Goldstone II, with or without the discredited Schabas.




In 2009, the fact that the UN commission was headed by Judge Richard Goldstone—who is Jewish and, apart from his involvement in UN circles and occasional criticism of Israeli actions, had been considered a supporter of Israel and of Jewish causes—was what gave the report its explosive impact, and deepened the mystery of how he could possibly have authored a report so dripping with malice. Indeed, it is worth stating again that the 2009 report cast Israel as a wicked and racist predatory state whose leaders gathered around a cabinet table to orchestrate crimes against humanity.

In weighing the evidence and various accusations, the report repeatedly gave the benefit of the doubt to the terrorist group Hamas. By contrast, Israeli defensive actions were consistently interpreted as part of an over-arching plan to oppress, discriminate against, and murder Palestinian civilians. For example, evidence of perfidy by Hamas gunmen, i.e., their well-known policy and practice of pretending to be civilians, was summarily dismissed with logic and language that strained credulity and coherence:


While reports reviewed by the Mission credibly indicate that members of the Palestinian armed groups were not always dressed in a way that distinguished them from the civilians, the Mission found no evidence that Palestinian combatants mingled with the civilian population with the intention of shielding themselves from the attack.


Likewise, despite common knowledge and the existence of considerable evidence, the commissioners also “found no indication” that Hamas used human shields, that its chiefs employed the al-Shifa hospital as their headquarters, or that Hamas stored rockets in mosques.

The report did not restrict itself to examining Operation Cast Lead, but offered lengthy narrative sections on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in which Israel was portrayed in Manichean terms as an oppressive state.

And while Israel’s Sunni Arab neighbors had noticeably opposed Hamas’ actions during the 2009 war, fearful of the role played by Iran in financing, training, and arming Hamas and Hezbollah, the Shi’a theocracy was mentioned nowhere in the report.

In summary, the report excoriated and demonized Israel, while exonerating Hamas.

The question of how Goldstone could have authored a report dismissed by international legal experts as enormously weak, and considered by Israel and the Jewish world as a modern-day blood libel, was only compounded by his subsequent op-eds in two major publications.

In April 2010, writing in the Washington Post, Goldstone retracted the most significant and inflammatory charge of the report: That Israel’s leaders deliberately targeted civilians. A year later, Goldstone published a New York Times op-ed, “Israel and the Apartheid Slander,” retracting another key accusation, which appears in the report no less than 40 times: That Israel’s security measures were motivated by racism rather than, as the South African jurist now made clear, the need “to stop unrelenting terrorist attacks.”

How could the pre-2009 and post-2009 Richard Goldstone be the same person who wrote the Goldstone Report? The question was never, as admirers of the report like Roger Cohen imagined, how and why Goldstone retracted. This made perfect sense given his eventual acknowledgment of the travesty of the report, as well as the political and legal positions he took before and after it. The mystery, rather, was how Goldstone could ever have authored the anti-Israel manifesto in the first place. This did not make any sense at all.




Part of the answer to the mystery of the Goldstone Report is well known: He was not the only commissioner. Goldstone was joined on the panel by three others, each of whom was known to have one-sided views of Israel: Hina Jilani of Pakistan; Christine Chinkin, who declared Israel guilty before she began work on the commission; and Col. Desmond Travers, who has stated that “Jewish lobbyists” control UK foreign policy. Clearly, since the report dealt extensively with supposed violations of international law, Chinkin the law professor played an important role.

Yet what no one has understood or appreciated until now is the decisive role in the “process”—to use the words of the current HRC president—played by the UN’s Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).

To understand the OHCHR, one must understand the close relationship between two distinct but closely related UN entities. One is the 47-nation Human Rights Council, a political body heavily influenced by the vote-trading power and petrodollars of the Arab and Islamic states. It meets regularly three times a year for month-long sessions.

At the Arab states’ initiative, and with varying degrees of complicity by the EU and others, half of the resolutions passed by the HRC condemn Israel; there is a special agenda item against Israel at every HRC meeting; and the HRC has produced more emergency sessions and inquiries against Israel than any other country in the world.

The OHCHR is based nearby in Geneva. It is a thousand-strong bureaucracy that serves the council by carrying out its investigations, writing requested reports, staffing the council sessions, and acting year-round as its secretariat. From 2008 until this summer, the office was headed by High Commissioner Navi Pillay, who famously said that “the Israeli Government treats international law with perpetual disdain.”

Those who work in the OHCHR see themselves as an independent and neutral agency of the UN dedicated to promoting and protecting human rights. Indeed, in many instances, well-intentioned OHCHR officials draft valuable reports for council-appointed experts that call out various countries’ violations of freedom of speech and use of torture and arbitrary arrest. In addition, they support the High Commissioner’s role as an independent voice that can criticize countries for human rights abuses.

At the same time, it is also OHCHR officials who supply the material demanded by politically-motivated if not Orwellian resolutions initiated by non-democracies like Cuba, China, and Syria.

It is OHCHR that conducted a workshop on “the impact of unilateral coercive measures on the enjoyment of human rights,” an anti-American initiative backed by regimes subject to sanctions; and which circulated questionnaires on Cuban resolutions like “the promotion of a democratic and equitable international order” and the Syria-backed resolution on “the right to peace.”

From time to time, some OHCHR bureaucrats act on the margins, and only in small ways, to try to resist the more absurd and harmful dictates they receive from the political body. Yet when it comes to Israel, the position of the OHCHR under Navi Pillay has been more in line with the HRC than ever before. The most inflammatory and vitriolic notes from Arab speeches delivered to the council find their echo in the reports drafted by European nationals working for the OHCHR, many of whom are graduates of British universities and come from organizations like Amnesty International. If that weren’t enough, their work is subject to the scrutiny and constant pressure exerted by the 56-nation Islamic bloc.




Israel launched what it called Operation Cast Lead on December 27, 2008, declaring that it intended to stop rocket attacks from Gaza. Indeed, since 2001, Palestinian terrorists fired some 8,600 rockets at civilian areas in southern Israel. The fighting had not yet ended when the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council passed a resolution condemning the Jewish state for “grave violations” of human rights and called for an “independent” international investigation. An initial Council mandate authorized an inquiry to document only those violations committed by Israel. Yet when Council President Martin Uhomoibhi, the Nigerian ambassador in Geneva, announced the formation of the UN Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict on April 3, 2009, naming a four-person team headed by Goldstone to serve as the inquiry’s public face, he stated that Council would now examine “all violations.”

It is important to note that when the council calls an emergency session and votes to create a commission of inquiry, it is actually the OHCHR that does most of the work. First, top officials of the OHCHR draw up a shortlist and propose names of commissioners to the council president. The presidency is a position that rotates every year among the ambassadors from five regional groups. While it is the president who nominally has the power to make appointments, in practice the OHCHR plays an outsized role. In other words, like Sir Humphrey in the iconic British comedy “Yes Minister,” it is the top bureaucrats of the OHCHR who, in many ways, really run the show.

Thus, while Goldstone was appointed by the ambassador of Nigeria, who was council president in 2009, he himself acknowledged that he was first approached by High Commissioner Pillay, a fellow South African. Likewise, while Schabas was appointed in August by the ambassador from Gabon—the president during 2014—he too stated that he was first approached by Pillay. It is clear that the OHCHR plays a decisive role in picking the judges.

Second, and far more importantly, after the commissioners are appointed, the OHCHR’s role only increases. The commissioners only make a few short trips to Geneva in order to hear testimony, discuss the evidence, and give guidance. The drafting is done by a staff comprised of full-time OHCHR officials and outside staff recruited for the project by OHCHR itself.

At the time of the Goldstone Report, UN Watch highlighted the role of OHCHR’s Francesca Marotta as head of the secretariat. Questions were raised about her neutrality, not only because of the work she had done for the UN in Gaza, but also because of her scheduled participation in an anti-Israel lobbying event in Switzerland that was supporting the “Russell Tribunal on Palestine.” After a protest from UN Watch, which reminded Ban Ki-moon that Article 100 of the UN Charter requires that members of the UN Secretariat avoid partisan and political entanglements that compromise the principles of neutrality, objectivity, and professionalism, Marotta pulled out of the event.

Something that is vital to understand about UN commissions of inquiry is that, in practice, their commissioners don’t write the resulting report. The secretariat does. To be sure, some commissioners may provide directions and revisions—and it is clear that Schabas would have been more hands-on than others—but the bulk of the work is performed by a professional staff that can be comprised of human rights officers, forensics experts, and lawyers. As a result of this, chief-of-staff Marotta had the power to oversee the entire project.

Thus, through Marotta, senior officials within the OHCHR would have had the ability to exercise influence over the report—officials like Mona Rishmawi, a Palestinian lawyer who, prior to joining the OHCHR, had written articles comparing Israelis to Nazis.

The role of Marotta and the OHCHR was known at the time, if not fully appreciated. What a probe by UN Watch has now revealed, however, is that outside staff recruited by OHCHR included some of the most radical anti-Israel activists in the world.

One of the known staff members was Sareta Ashraph, whose job, as she described it, was to assist in the investigations, conduct interviews with victims and witnesses, and gather exhibits. Ashraph has also revealed that she was “responsible for drafting several chapters of the final report.”

When it comes to Israel, Ashraph is, to put it mildly, less than impartial. She was and remains a member of Amnesty International, one of the leading groups accusing Israel of war crimes in 2009, and which pushed for and defended the UN inquiry. She was the main organizer of a London lecture on behalf of Lawyers for Palestinian Human Rights, featuring anti-Israel lawfare activists Raji Sourani (head of Palestinian Center for Human Rights) and Daniel Machover. She also worked in the West Bank on “investigations of allegations of violations of international humanitarian law following ‘Operation Defensive Shield’ in 2002.”




What has not been known until now is that the other key figure on the staff was, through her substantial anti-Israel publications, activism, and leadership role in waging lawfare, exponentially more problematic—someone whose life’s dream was to prosecute Israelis for war crimes and who devoted several years of her life to making this dream come true.

In the summer of 2009, Israeli and Palestinian witnesses were invited to Geneva to give testimony before Goldstone and the other three commissioners. An administrative information note issued to the witnesses and obtained by UN Watch reveals that there were just two secretariat staffers designated as lead contact persons on “substantive questions.” One was Ashraph. She was responsible for gathering the testimony of Israeli witnesses, and apparently wrote the report’s relatively minor chapter on Hamas rocket attacks. In a follow-up email, Ashraph told an Israeli witness that she hoped he would read the report and be “proud” of his contribution.

The only other name listed alongside Ashraph was Grietje Baars, a Dutch-born law professor who teaches in London. In contrast to Ashraph, who in the immediate aftermath of the report wrote in detail about her role in the Goldstone Report, Baars took pains to obscure her participation.

For some time afterwards, her Linkedin profile page only admitted to her having served as a generic “United Nations Human Rights Officer” for the several months during which she worked on the Goldstone Report. (She now states that she was “a member of the secretariat” of the Goldstone Commission and did “legal and factual research & analysis.”) Other profiles at the time, even though they mentioned her lecture on the Goldstone Report—for example, at the German National College for Security Studies—declined to list her role in writing it. Indeed, the degree to which Baars herself believed her activities were a threat to the report’s legitimacy was illustrated by her extraordinary efforts, in the initial period after the report came out, to keep her participation under wraps.

It is easy to see why. If people knew who Baars was and her role in the report, there would have been justified outrage at OHCHR for selecting her.

This would not have been for lack of legal credentials. Known today as Dr. Baars, she teaches international human rights law at the City Law School in London and previously taught at the University of East London and University College London (UCL).  She holds a degree in English Literature from Utrecht, a Master’s of Law from UCL, and is a qualified solicitor. She completed her PhD at UCL in 2012, and has held visiting scholarships at numerous universities.

This means that, when OHCHR hired her to work on the Goldstone Report, they must have known about Baars’ scholarship. They must have known that she was a self-described Marxist whose doctoral thesis was “a radical Marxist critique of law and capitalism,” and that her academic focus included “anti-occupation struggles and their intersection with other solidarity/liberation struggles” such as “anti-capitalism, anarchism, animal, and queer liberation.”

OHCHR would certainly have known of Baars’ prominent advocacy scholarship against Israel, such as her 2007 law journal article in the Yearbook of Islamic and Middle Eastern Law, entitled “Corrie et al. v Caterpillar: Litigating Corporate Complicity in Israeli Violations of International Law in the US Courts.” The article analyzes case law and suggests best practices regarding Palestinian lawfare efforts against Israel and the movement to boycott companies doing business with Israel, with numerous comparisons to the Nuremberg trials against the Nazis. Publications by Baars subsequent to her time on the Goldstone Report have also accused Israel of “war crimes, crimes against humanity, and grave breaches.”

But OHCHR must also have known that Baars was much more than a scholar: She was a hardcore anti-Israel activist who has risen to become a leading figure in the global lawfare movement—a worldwide campaign to erode Israel’s international standing through the misuse of the language and mechanisms of international law, with the goal of blunting Israel’s ability to defend itself by putting the country on notice that any measures taken against terrorists based among civilians will be put under an international microscope.

By 2009, Baars already had a disturbing track record of extreme hostility against Israel. Because of the sensitive nature of her position, OHCHR must have examined her resume and conducted a basic Google search, all of which would have revealed her prejudice and made it clear that prosecuting Israelis in international courts was essentially her life’s dream. In other words, that she was the very opposite of the impartial, neutral, and objective member of the secretariat envisioned under the UN Charter.

Baars’ prejudice was not only legal or academic in nature. She clearly saw herself as akin to the young radicals of the “International Solidarity Movement,” ready to undertake militant or stealthy action to confront or evade the Israeli occupiers. In a 2007 public forum message which also shows her personal contempt for Israel, Baars offers tips on how travelers with something to hide might pass through Israeli security. After having her laptop confiscated at Israel’s Ben Gurion Airport, she advised, “Don’t take your laptop. If you do, make sure it’s clear of anything you don’t want (fill in the blank) to see.” The words “fill in the blank” are her own.

In a 2008 message, Baars advised a freelance photojournalist on how to enter blockaded Gaza, suggesting he “get a ride” with one of the Free Gaza boats, which were successfully running the Israeli blockade at the time, or “try the tunnels” that run beneath the Gaza border with Egypt, through which terror networks smuggle weapons.

But Baars is at her most sardonic and anti-colonial in another 2008 response to a forum user seeking a “proper Western-style gym” in the Palestinian city of Ramallah. “What’s a ‘proper, Western-style gym’?” she asks. “Something like ‘proper, Western-style democracy’?? Anyway, I’m sure/hope you didn’t mean to offend—there are lots of nice gyms in Ramallah, like Downtown, Oxygen, and Tri Fitness, and if you adjust your words/attitude you might even make some A-rab friends there.”

An email Baars sent to her activist colleagues as the Gaza conflict unfolded in December 2008—the war she would later investigate for the Goldstone Commission—preemptively declared that Israel was conducting a “massacre” in the territory and ranted about Israeli “lies we have to fight.”

Baars sent the email after receiving a purportedly leaked copy of guidelines for pro-Israeli spokespeople responding to questions about the incursion. “These are the lies we have to fight to end the massacre in Gaza,” her email says. “This has been leaked from sources in Washington DC. Please study this and prepare a response as defiantly yet respectfully as you can do. This is easy to trash, but do so in a civil manner please. Outrage is our weapon, but respect is our salvation.”

Similar partisanship was evident in the many anti-Israel workshops she helped organize as a legal advisor in Jerusalem to the radical and pro-Palestinian Swedish development group Diakonia. In one lawfare briefing for activist attorneys, her powerpoint presentation celebrated the numerous “opportunities” to prosecute Israeli soldiers or officials, because, after all, Israelis were responsible for a “war crime a minute.” With undisguised glee, Baars concluded, “See you in Court!”

In another powerpoint for European diplomats, Baars emphasized that the Palestinian Authority has no legal power to make concessions that, in her view, would “sign away” obligations or rights.

It was also as Diakonia’s representative that she traveled to Gaza to meet with key Palestinian contacts. Among them was reported Hamas official Dr. Maher Al-Huli, the “Faculty of Sharia & Law Dean” at the Gaza-based Islamic University. The New York Times called this institution “one of the prime means for Hamas to convert Palestinians to its Islamist cause” and the reported site of a Hamas arms cache during Hamas’ 2007 fight with its Palestinian rival, Fatah. Indeed, because Diakonia made submissions to the probe, Baars’ pre-2009 employment with the group may even have constituted a legal conflict of interest for her as an inquiry official.

It seems clear that throughout this time, Baars was playing a leadership role in the global lawfare movement. In July 2008, for example, she met with the head the Gaza-based Palestinian Center for Human Rights, Raji Sourani—perhaps the leading proponent of lawfare. (This the same Sourani who had been brought to London by Baars’ colleague on the Goldstone staff, Sareta Ashraph.) Their meeting focused on an ambitious upcoming conference in Brussels aimed at organizing and training Palestinian and European activist lawyers in how to conduct the “pursuit of Israeli war criminals” through “joint action in international courts.”

Organized by Diakonia’s Jerusalem office—meaning Baars—the conference took place in September 2008 under the name “Palestine/Israel: Making Monitoring Work: (Re-) Enforcing International Law in Europe.” The event was a major gathering of some of the world’s top activists and lawyers in the anti-Israel lawfare movement, and was designed to mobilize, network, and share best practices. It was Baars’ signal accomplishment.

Indeed, many of Baars’ Diakonia workshops were pure lawfare endeavors, training activists in how to isolate Israel or Israeli interests internationally, building human rights cases against Israeli soldiers and officials, as well as companies doing business in the settlements. She also lobbied European governments to endorse her boycott and lawfare campaigns.

In her “war-crime-a-minute” presentation, Baars ironically suggested that the dearth of prosecutions to date resulted from international bias in favor of Israel. “Courts don’t necessarily dispense justice,” she said. And at least one forum included a discussion of the “rights” of “armed resistance” groups in relation to the “siege.”

And even while a member of the UN inquiry staff, Baars showed overt disregard for objectivity by signing a petition backing an anti-Israel campaign called the “Toronto Declaration.” Bearing names that included familiar activist celebrities Jane Fonda and Danny Glover, as well as anarchist academic Noam Chomsky, the September 2, 2009 declaration protested the Toronto International Film Festival’s “celebratory spotlight” on Tel Aviv, Israel’s largest city. It also referred to the Israeli government as an “apartheid regime” that operates a “propaganda machine.” OHCHR appeared to be unconcerned about Baars’ endorsement of such claims.

Baars’ ongoing activism—after the inquiry, for example, she openly served as a key contact person for the May 2010 flotilla that tried to break Israel’s blockade of Gaza—suggests that, rather than a fair assessment of the Gaza conflict, weakening Israel was one of her preferred outcomes of the report.




There seems to be little doubt that, for Baars, working on the Goldsone Report was a dream come true. All of her hard work at Diakonia, her visits to Hamas-linked activists in Gaza, her lobbying of European diplomats to sanction Israel, her global conference to orchestrate universal jurisdiction cases against Israelis, all of this was going to pay off in a colossal UN report. Her dream was suddenly within reach, and it would be published under the name of an ostensibly pro-Israel Jew. She could not have asked for anything more. Her experience writing chapters of the Goldstone Report was so impactful that she dedicated her PhD thesis to, among others, Richard Goldstone and chief-of-staff Marotta, “those fighting for a better world each in their own particularly heroic and inspiring way.”

She certainly did everything she could to ensure success. Given Baars’ immense on-the-ground experience and credentials with Palestinian and international lawfare activists, along with her substantial legal writing experience, she was arguably the most influential behind-the-scenes member of the Goldstone probe. As a front-line researcher with the inquiry, she was responsible for being a first point-of-contact for many of the witnesses giving testimony. As such, she was in a position to prioritize incoming evidence, a critical responsibility that a truly objective inquiry would assign only to a truly impartial expert. Clearly, Baars was anything but. Not surprisingly, many of the NGO lawfare groups from her 2008 conference were featured prominently as evidentiary sources in the Goldstone Report.

Beyond what it says about the credibility of the Goldstone Report, Baars’ involvement raises serious questions about the impartiality of OHCHR, which filled the inquiry’s secretariat with a mixture of its own staffers and outside hires. Why has it refused to reveal the make-up of the secretariat, leaving the public in the dark except for a few names that have inadvertently leaked out?

There seems no question that Goldstone was duped. He never suspected that OHCHR, the UN agency in charge of providing him with professional staff support, had quietly embedded one of the world’s top anti-Israel lawfare strategists into the team. After all, only four years before, Goldstone had worked on another UN inquiry on oil-for-food. In that case, he was supported by a highly professional staff based in New York, with most if not all of them lawyers and experts hired from the outside. Goldstone assumed the Gaza inquiry would be the same.

But it was not the same. The culture of the Geneva-based OHCHR secretariat is known to be far more anti-American, anti-colonial, and anti-Israel than the one in New York. In his naiveté, Goldstone was blind to the prejudice and political agenda of his own bureaucracy. Indeed, there is not the slightest indication that Goldstone had any knowledge of Baars’ extremist activism. But OHCHR knew—and that is why they hired her.




On March 23, what for six months was the Schabas Commission, and now in its final and seventh month has become the McGowan Davis Commission, will present its report to the Human Rights Council. Do we have any reason to expect a fair, objective, and credible report?

Not if we consider the built-in prejudice of the commission’s founding mandate, spelled out in resolution S-21/1 of July 23, 2014, which preemptively declares Israel guilty. It condemns the Jewish state “in the strongest terms,” citing “widespread, systematic, and gross violations of international human rights,” “the targeting of civilians and civilian properties” as a form of “collective punishment contrary to international law,” “disproportionate and indiscriminate attacks,” “grave violations of the human rights of the Palestinian civilian population,” and “military aggressions.” The resolution mentions Israel 18 times. Hamas is not mentioned once.

Not if we consider that Schabas, the activist chairman who says that he “devoted several months of work” to the project, is someone who performed undisclosed paid legal work for the PLO—on the subject of how to prosecute Israelis in international courts—and who famously declared barely three years ago that the leader he most wants to see in the dock at the International Criminal Court is Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

And—as the cautionary tale of lawfare general Grietje Baars as the key author of the original Goldstone Report makes clear—not if we consider the outsized role played by OHCHR in compiling the evidence, processing submissions, and picking the people to draft the report’s chapters and conclusions. Everything we now know about how OHCHR engineered the travesty of the original Goldstone Report indicates that Goldstone II will suffer the same politically-motivated fate.

In fact, the OHCHR’s bias was manifest from day one in their agency chief’s farcical selection of Schabas—of all the law professors in the world—to lead the inquiry. OHCHR knew that, a few months earlier, he had been rejected by a committee of five ambassadors for a similar UN mandate to investigate Israel—on the grounds that he lacked impartiality. Georgetown Law School professor Christine Cerna, herself a one-time UN candidate, has stated that Schabas was chosen specifically because of his well-known positions against Israel. Even Aryeh Neier, a colleague of Schabas at Sciences Po in Paris, founder of Human Rights Watch, and an NGO icon known as a defender of the UN, said of Schabas, “any judge who had previously called for the indictment of the defendant would recuse himself.” The same OHCHR that recruited Grietje Baars to staff Goldstone I chose Schabas to head Goldstone II.

What do we know so far about the actual staff members of Goldstone II? As in 2009, OHCHR refuses to respect the principle of transparency by revealing who is on the staff, even though this is common practice elsewhere; for example, the UN’s 2005 oil-for-food report.

I have seen this bias with my own eyes. When I met with the Schabas Commission on September 17, 2014 to personally hand them a written demand for Schabas’ recusal, there were only two staff members in the room, both of them from OHCHR’s Arab section, known as Middle East and North Africa: One was Frej Fenniche, a Tunisian who was a spokesman for the UN’s notoriously anti-Semitic Durban conference on racism in 2001. The other was Sara Hammood, a former spokesperson for the UN’s most anti-Israel committee. Hamood also worked as a “policy advisor on Israel and the occupied Palestinian territory” for Oxfam Novib, where she wrote one-sided reports and joined others in critical statements against Israel. This was the initial staff of OHCHR, who were presumably involved in hiring the others.

The current staff—Schabas has mentioned that it is composed of “a dozen specialists”—includes Karin Lucke, OHCHR’s former coordinator of the Arab region team, and now listed as working for the UN in New York. Amnesty notes that the current team includes OHCHR staff from “Geneva, Ramallah, and the Gaza Strip.” According to Geneva sources familiar with the probe, a number of the staff members are from the Arab world.

In summary, there is every reason to suspect that OHCHR has manipulated the staffing for Goldstone II just as it did in 2009.

Will Judge Mary McGowan Davis, the new chair of the inquiry, fulfill her responsibility and exercise maximum due diligence to ensure the impartiality of her staff, double check and verify everything handed to her by OHCHR and its hires, all of the evidence, analysis, and findings of fact and law?

As the daughter of the late Judge Carl McGowan, the renowned former head of the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit—who in 1973 ordered President Nixon to turn over disputed White House tape recordings made after the Watergate break-in—McGowan Davis must have acquired a strong sense of justice and courage.

The report that she will produce in three weeks’ time, and that now bears her name, will be the most famous and lasting moment of her professional life. This is her chance to live up to her father’s legacy.

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