Prof. William Schabas, who has been tabbed by the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) to investigate war crimes that may have been committed during the recent hostilities between Israel and Hamas, tried to deflect charges that he is biased against Israel in an interview yesterday with Israel’s Channel 2. (The interview is embedded below.)
The interviewer’s first question was to ask why Schabas singled out Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as his “favorite” world leader to be tried for war crimes, and not someone like Syrian President Bashar al-Assad or Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal. Schabas responded:
We were having a discussion about the International Criminal Court, and the fact that the International Criminal Court had focused all of its attention on African countries. I had referred to a statement by Archbishop Tutu, where he had said, ‘Tony Blair should be brought before the International Criminal Court to show that it can deal with Western countries as well as with countries from the south, and particularly from Africa.’
And so I said, well, uh, my favorite would be Netanyahu. I was, of course, echoing what was in the Goldstone Report, which is that the International Criminal Court should deal with the conclusions of the Goldstone Report, concluding the possibility that war crimes and crimes against humanity were committed during Operation Cast Lead.
But as you know the International Criminal Court never did address those matters. So that was the context of my comment.
At the time of Operation Cast Lead, Netanyahu was leader of the opposition, not prime minister. Nonetheless, Schabas stuck by his remarks. He also tacitly accepted Tutu’s premise that Tony Blair should also have been tried for war crimes.
At another point in the interview, Schabas was asked if Hamas was a terrorist organization.
“It would be inappropriate for me to answer a question like that,” Schabas said, adding that it was important to “study this question in as neutral and objective a manner as possible.”
UN Watch points out that “the United States, the European Union, the United Kingdom, Canada, Jordan, Egypt, Australia, Japan and Israel,” have, in fact, defined Hamas as a terrorist organization.
When asked why Israel was singled out for investigations of its wars and not the United States or Russia, Schabas acknowledged that there “are lots of double standards at the United Nations. There are lots of double standards in the international level…explained by the political balances and relative strength of the powers.”
Though Schabas ostensibly appeared on Israeli television to show that he could be fair minded in his inquiry, he erroneously passed judgment on Netanyahu and gave a free pass to Hamas, even though Hamas is a terrorist organization. He didn’t effectively dispel the fears of bias that could affect his commission.
The selection of Schabas by the anti-Israel UNHRC immediately set off red flags about the likely bias of the commission he is slated to head. Subsequent to his appointment, quotes surfaced of Schabas exonerating Assad of war crimes for his use of chemical weapons against civilians.
[Photo: UN Watch / YouTube ]