[Ed. – Emphasis in original.]
Why did William Schabas finally step down as chair of the UN inquiry on Gaza?
The latest revelation that he was paid by the PLO for legal advice in 2012 was the last straw, but the decision came in wake of a sustained campaign by UN Watch starting from the day of his appointment, which included videos of Schabas calling for the indictment of Israeli leaders, a formal UN Watch legal brief demanding his recusal that was submitted to the UN in an official filing, and UN Watch op-eds urging legal scholars to speak out against the absurd appointment of Schabas. Many did so.
Over the past several months of the campaign, some of the world’s most prominent international lawyers and human rights activists around the world—jurists well known to Schabas because he cites them as authorities in his works, or they are professional, faculty or law review colleagues—called for him to step down. …
- Lord David Pannick, QC, a leading UK human rights lawyer and former High Court judge—whom Schabas has often cited as a legal authority —published an article in The Times that sharply criticized Schabas’ appointment given his prior record of prejudicial statements. Lord Pannick stated the legal principle that a person should not sit in a judicial or quasi-judicial role “if the fair-minded and informed observer, having considered the facts, would conclude that there was a real possibility that the tribunal was biased.” The very “appearance of bias,” noted Pannick, is sufficient to disqualify a person. Schabas’ protestations that he would leave his opinions “at the door” were, under the legal principles of impartiality, “unlikely to be helpful.” …
- Aryeh Neier, Schabas’ colleague at Sciences Po in Paris, the founding director of Human Rights Watch, former director of the ACLU, President Emeritus of the Open Society Foundation—someone whom Schabas has previously recognized as an authority—declared in a Paris lecture that “Schabas should recuse himself.” Neier said that “any judge who had previously called for the indictment of the defendant would recuse himself.”
Moreover, many other lawyers and legal scholars questioned the appropriateness of his appointment, including:
- Georgetown Law School professor Christine Cerna, the former Principal Human Rights Specialist at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, who wrote that Schabas was deliberately chosen because of his prior prejudicial statements;