The designated head of the U.N. Human Rights Council probe into alleged war crimes in Gaza said he will proceed despite Israel’s stated refusal to cooperate due to the panel’s bias.
Professor William Schabas, a Canadian jurist who has denied charges that he is anti-Israel, said that the investigation could be conducted even without going to Israel.
“The committee hasn’t begun its work,” Schabas told reporters. “When the U.N. gives us its final approval — and we hope this will be very soon — we will begin our work. It’s very important for us to come to Israel, but this visit won’t be important if the authorities in Israel don’t cooperate with us, despite my hope that they will cooperate.”
“It is in Israel’s interest to be there in that discussion and to give its version of events, if it does not, that leaves an unfortunate one-sided picture,” Schabas said.
Among other things, critics of his appointment cite his advocacy of bringing Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu before an international tribunal for war crimes.
When asked if he would be looking into possible human rights violations by Hamas, Schabas was evasive.
“I cannot tell you what the commission is going to do in terms of interpreting its mandate. I am only one member and I have not had a meeting with the other commissioners,” Schabas said.
When asked if he considers Hamas a terrorist organization, the legal expert declined comment.
“It would be inappropriate for me to answer a question like that,” he said, adding that it was important to “study this question in as neutral and objective a manner as possible.”
Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman told The Jerusalem Post that he was surprised the UNHRC did not appoint Hamas head Khaled Mashaal to lead the inquiry, since their ideas about Israel are “more or less the same.”
Meanwhile in Gaza, Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri welcomed the U.N. investigation.