Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) called on the United Nations Human Rights Council to rescind its recent appointment of William Schabas as head of the UNHRC’s Gaza Commission Friday, or he will push for the United States to cut its financial support and participation in the council.
According to Schumer’s release, Schabas has a history of anti-Israel bias including previous statements condemning the state of Israel and Israeli politicians.
“[A]llowing Mr. Schabas to head the U.N. Gaza Commission is like allowing a biased prosecutor to be the judge,” Schumer said in his statement. “[T]hat’s why I’m urging the United States to both stop all funding and pull out of the U.N.’s Human Rights Council if Mr. Schabas is not removed. Any investigative findings from Schabas on Israel will be completely subjective and a sham.”
Schumer expressed his opinion in a letter to U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Powers.
The United States provides the UNHRC $1.5 million annually, which makes up 22 percent of the agency’s annual budget, according to Schumer’s release.
Schabas who was appointed the head of the three member investigative commission Monday, Aug. 11, is a Canadian-born professor of international law at Middlesex University in London, and holds numerous visiting and honorary posts at numerous other universities in international law and human rights. His commission, which was established by a mid-July resolution by the UNHRC is charged with investigating Israeli human rights violations in the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas.
The Geneva-based non-governmental oversight organization, UN Watch, has also called for Schabas to recuse himself from the commission.
“Under international law, William Schabas is obliged to recuse himself because his repeated calls to indict Israeli leaders obviously gives rise to actual bias or the appearance thereof,” said Hillel Neuer, an international lawyer and executive director of UN Watch. “You can’t spend several years calling for the prosecution of someone, and then suddenly act as his judge. It’s absurd — and a violation of the minimal rules of due process applicable to UN fact-finding missions.”
Both the senator and UN Watch cite numerous examples of Schabas bias from his work, interviews and public statements.
In a 2009 interview for the Intellectum Interdisciplinary Journal on issues related to the International Criminal Court (ICC) and Sudan, Schabas said, “Why are we going after the president of Sudan for Darfur and not the president of Israel for Gaza? Because of politics.”
More recently, Schabas has said that he would like to see Prime Minister Netanyahu “within the dock of the” ICC, and wrote in a law journal that Netanyahu is “the single individual most likely to threaten the survival of Israel.”
Schumer’s office said that if Schabas is not removed the senator may consider introducing legislation to withhold regular budget and voluntary contributions to UNHRC. So far, there are no other bills to completely withhold funding from UNHRC but others, such as Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) have also blasted U.N. agencies for anti-Israel bias.
Last year, Rubio introduced the United Nations Transparency, Accountability, and Reform Act of 2013 (S. 1313) that attempted to put specific conditions the president would be required to justify for U.N. funding to be included in the federal budget.
[email protected] @dmitriyshapiro
JNS.org contributed to this story.