Why single out Israel?
A nice opinion piece in today's Globe & Mail by Irwin Cotler...
The United Nations Human Rights Council concluded its year-long session last week by singling out one member state — Israel — for permanent indictment on the council agenda.
This discriminatory treatment is not only prejudicial to Israel; it is a breach of the UN charter's foundational principle of the equality "of nations, large and small." It concluded a week — and year — of unprecedented discriminatory conduct.
The week began with Archbishop Desmond Tutu reporting to the council on the high-level fact-finding mission to investigate "the Israeli willful killing of Palestinian civilians" in Beit Hanoun, Gaza, last November. He received a standing ovation, an extraordinary reaction by a body that frowns on applause.
I suspect the appreciation was for the man as much as anything else, because the mandate that authorized the mission was a sham. It made a mockery of the council's own founding principles and procedures. It was a mission that should never have been.
Accordingly, when I addressed the council that same morning, I made public for the first time that I had been invited by the council president to join the mission last November, but declined to do so.
I explained to the council that one might have thought I would welcome the opportunity to serve under a UN human-rights mandate. Canada is a country that has regarded the UN as an organizing idiom of its foreign policy, a country that has made a substantial contribution to the development of UN law and the cause of human rights. My colleague and mentor at McGill Law School, John Humphrey, was founding director of the UN division on human rights and the principal draftsman of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Regrettably, though, I could not accept the mandate because its terms of reference made a mockery of Kofi Annan's vision for the new council and its founding principles of universality, equality and fairness.
First, as a law professor and international lawyer, I could not accept a mandate to hear only one side of a dispute. The terms of reference deliberately ignored the Palestinian rocket attacks on the Israeli city of Sderot that preceded Israel's actions, and which continued even as we met.
The entrance to the McGill University Faculty of Law, where I am a professor, is engraved with the words audi artarem (hear both sides). How could one participate in a mandate that violated this bedrock principle of the rule of law — that denied a member state the right to a fair hearing and fundamental due process?Second, the mandate violated the presumption of innocence. The resolution establishing this fact-finding mission began by condemning "the Israeli willful killing of Palestinian civilians." The 19 Palestinian dead were a tragedy. But how could one participate in a fact-finding mission where the facts and the verdict were determined in advance — a kind of Alice in Wonderland inquiry where the conviction was secured and the sentence passed even before the proceeding began.