A pro-Israel rights group filed a complaint Monday against the head of a UN investigation into systematic abuses in Israel and the Palestinian territories for “prejudice,” demanding she resign.
Navi Pillay, a former United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, was appointed last July to head a high-level probe into “all underlying root causes” in the drawn-out conflict.
The move comes shortly after Amnesty International’s designation of Israel an “apartheid” state, following Human Rights Watch (HRW).
UN Watch, a Geneva-based rights group that monitors UN activities, claimed that the South African jurist had displayed “demonstrable bias against Israel, including on issues specifically related to the case and controversy that is the object of this inquiry.”
“Many of the utterances in question occurred mere weeks before she was appointed by the UN (last) summer, leaving little room to imagine how Pillay could envisage the issues any differently so soon afterwards,” UN Watch chief Hillel Neuer said in a statement.
The group, which routinely attacks UN mandate-holders for anti-Israel bias, called for Pillay to recuse herself from the so-called Commission of Inquiry (COI) — the highest level of UN rights investigations.
If she refused, it called for her to be removed.
Asked about the complaint, a UN rights office spokeswoman told AFP: “We have seen and are following up.”
Pillay served as UN rights chief from 2008 to 2014 and also served as a judge with the International Criminal Court and as Judge President of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda.
Prior to that, Pillay, who is of Indian Tamil origin, became in 1967 the first non-white woman to open her own law practices in South Africa’s KwaZulu-Natal province, where she represented people protesting apartheid.
The COI she is leading was created during a special session of the UN Human Rights Council held last May to discuss the 11-day Hamas-Israel war that month, which killed 260 Palestinians and 13 people on the Israeli side.
It was tasked with looking beyond that surge in violence and to investigate “all alleged violations of international humanitarian law and all alleged violations and abuses of international human rights law” in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories, including East Jerusalem.
While the council had previously ordered eight investigations into rights violations committed in the Palestinian territories, this was the first open-ended probe, and the first to examine “root causes” in the drawn-out conflict.
It was also the first tasked with looking at systematic abuses committed within Israel.