Amal Alamuddin, actor George Clooney’s fiancée, has turned down a United Nations appointment to a commission investigating possible war crimes in the occupied Gaza Strip during Israel’s military offensive.
The Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council announced Monday that Alamuddin, a Lebanese-born British human rights attorney, would join two other experts on a special commission to investigate looking into possible violations of the rules of war during the Israeli offensive against Hamas. The council is a 47 member-state body elected by the member states of the U.N. Its mission is to promote human rights.
But just hours after the HRC announcement, Clooney’s Hollywood agent, Stan Rosenfield, issued a statement on Alamuddin’s behalf saying she had pulled out of participating in the probe, The Guardianreported.
“I am horrified by the situation in the occupied Gaza Strip, particularly the civilian casualties that have been caused, and strongly believe that there should be an independent investigation and accountability for crimes that have been committed,” Alamuddin said in the statement. “I was contacted by the UN about this for the first time this morning. I am honored to have received the offer, but given existing commitments – including eight ongoing cases – unfortunately could not accept this role. I wish my colleagues who will serve on the commission courage and strength in their endeavors.”
The Human Rights Council established the investigative commission as part of a resolution adopted July 23 called “Ensuring respect for international law in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem.” Among other things, the resolution included a provision to create “an independent, international commission of inquiry to investigate all violations of international humanitarian law and international human rights law in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and particularly in the occupied Gaza Strip during the military operations conducted since June 13.”
In one section of the resolution, the council “Deplor[es] the massive Israeli military operations in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, since 13 June 2014, which have involved disproportionate and indiscriminate attacks and resulted in grave violations of the human rights of the Palestinian civilian population, including through the most recent Israeli military assault on the occupied Gaza Strip, the latest in a series of military aggressions by Israel, and actions of mass closure, mass arrest and the killing of civilians in the occupied West Bank.”
The UN’s High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay in a statement on human rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territory accused Israel of not doing enough to protect civilians in Gaza and suggested war crimes may have been committed. She also accused Hamas of “indiscriminate attacks” on Israel.
The United States was the only country to vote against the resolution. Twenty-nine countries voted in favor of the resolution, 17 abstained.
Keith Harper, U.S. ambassador to the Human Rights Council, defended the vote in an interview with ICTMN.
“I think it was the right vote because that resolution was not constructive, it was going to make it more difficult to get a ceasefire, which should have been the goal of all of us. In addition, the resolution was extraordinarily one-sided, it did not mention Hamas rocket attacks, for example, and so because of the biased nature of that resolution there was no reason to support it,” Harper said. “I’ll also say this: There’s already an investigative mechanism in place – the special rapporteur, a respected diplomat from Indonesia – and so now to have another commission of inquiry did not make much sense to us. We also have to realize there’s a long history with the council taking action against Israel time and time again.”
Given U.S. opposition to the resolution and its investigative commission and Clooney’s widely reported friendship with President Obama, it is not known if Alamuddin’s decision to decline the appointment to the commission was politically charged. The Telegraph has reported that Obama described Clooney as "a good man and a good friend” who works tirelessly on humanitarian issues and said his relationship with Clooney runs deeper than politics. In 2012, Clooney hosted a $15 million fundraiser at his Los Angeles home for Obama’s presidential campaign, the Telegraph reported.
The Human Rights Council appointed Doudou Diène of Senegal, an attorney and former UN Special Rapporteur on racism and human rights expert on Cote d’Ivoire, and William Schabas, a Canadian professor of international law at Middlesex University in London, who will chair the commission. The council has not announced who will replace Alamuddin.