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Navi Pillay’s Cronyism

The U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights’ play to implement the Goldstone report.

2:05 PM, Jan 25, 2011 • By ANNE BAYEFSKY
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Goldstone also went out of his way to hand Pillay a means to keep the anti-Israel drumbeat going. He asked the high commissioner’s office to “give attention to the Mission's recommendations in its periodic reporting.” Pillay in turn became Goldstone’s lead champion, endlessly repeating the words she wrote in the Huffington Post shortly after the report’s release: “I lend my full support to Justice Goldstone's report and its recommendations.”

Pillay was just warming up. She began to press the Human Rights Council and others to move to the next stage, and take “urgent action to counter impunity” and “ensure accountability” for the crimes Goldstone alleged.  Council members like Saudi Arabia, Kyrgyzstan and company couldn’t have agreed more. On March 25, 2010 the Human Rights Council decided to create another committee as a follow-up mechanism to the Goldstone report.  

Among other things, the new Goldstone follow-on committee was charged with determining “the independence, effectiveness, [and] genuineness” of Israel’s response to the report and its “conformity with international standards.” The word “Hamas” was missing from the Council resolution, which referred only to an enigmatic “Palestinian side.” By this point, the Council felt it could count on Pillay and left it to her “to appoint the members of the committee of independent experts.”

In June 2010 Pillay chose three lawyers for the follow-on committee: German Christian Tomuschat as chair, Malaysian Param Cumaraswamy, and Mary McGowan Davis. She chose them with all the elements of independence and accountability that were becoming her signature – that is, accountability to her or to her personal predilections. Tomuschat had once provided legal advice to Yasser Arafat’s PLO. And all three members had close affiliations with an NGO that compromised their impartiality and was linked directly to Pillay’s own staff. 

The interrelationships here are not just indicative of the usual collegiality among professionals. The body had been handed the power to assess the adequacy of the implementation of the Goldstone report. It could decide either to breathe new life into the Goldstone recommendations or to retire them. So relationships between Pillay, Goldstone and the new recruits matter to the integrity of the exercise. The members of a committee key to the future of the Goldstone report had been handpicked for their ideological biases and personal connections in order to perpetuate that very report.

Pillay’s moves undermined any pretense of integrity, impartiality or independence.

Committee members Christian Tomuschat and Param Cumaraswamy are both currently honorary members of the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ).  Both had been members of the ICJ’s executive committee, and Cumaraswamy was the ICJ’s vice president until 2006. For her part, McGowan Davis is currently on the board of directors of the American Association for the ICJ. 

The ICJ, however, is an NGO that had lobbied for the creation of the positions that the three Pillay appointees had assumed. ICJ representatives had also declared their views on the answers that were supposed to result from the new investigation. In October 2009 and March 2010 at the Human Rights Council, the ICJ declared that the Israeli investigations into the Gaza conflict “failed to meet international standards of effectiveness and independence.” The ICJ also claimed that the prosecution and punishment of Israeli “civilian leaders and military commanders” for Goldstone’s list of crimes is “essential” in order for Israel to conform to those standards.

Now meet Mona Rishmawi, a legal advisor to Pillay and chief of her “rule of law” branch. Both Tomuschat and Cumaraswamy, appointed to the Goldstone follow-on committee, were members of the ICJ’s executive committee during Rishmawi’s stint as an ICJ director. Rishmawi had also been executive director of Al-Haq, the Palestinian affiliate of the ICJ. Her published articles include such gems as “Land Use Planning as a Strategy for Judaization” – “Judaization” being the horrible conception of a Jew living on Arab land – and an article where she denounces the “unfortunate parity between the claims of Nazi defendants in the post World War II trials and those put forward by the government of Israel.”

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