UWO law professor Michael Lynk was named by the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) as a “Special Rapporteur on Palestine”. Within 24 hours, the Israel lobby was in full attack mode, claiming Lynk had a long record of hostility toward Israel and demanding the Government of Canada oppose the nomination. Shortly thereafter, Global Affairs Minister Stephane Dion tweeted that he would ask the UN to review his appointment. But has Dion really checked out Lynk’s background? Read more
On Wednesday, March 23, the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) named Canadian law professor Professor Michael Lynk to be its “special rapporteur for the Palestinian Territories”. According to his bio, Lynk is well published in the fields of labour and international law.
The UHRC frequently names “special rapporteurs’ to make investigation of human rights abuses (or allegations of abuses) in different countries around the world. At present there are more than a dozen of these “special rapporteurs” named to investigate the situation in countries as different as Cambodia, the Central African Republic and Syria. These rapporteurs are usually lawyers with considerable experience in the area of international law and are NOT from the country involved. No country likes being investigated.
Almost as soon as Lynk’s nomination was made public, Israel was on the attack. “UN nominates pro-Palestinian legal expert to investigate Israel”, said an article in the Jerusalem Post. In Canada, Israel’s key allies took up the refrain. Bnai Brith said it was “outraged” over the appointment”. Opposition Foreign Affairs Critic Tony Clement argued that the Government of Canada should “disqualify” Lynk.
“We strongly denounce the appointment of Michael Lynk to this role,” said Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs CEO Shimon Fogel. “Despite the specific requirement that candidates for the position demonstrate impartiality and objectivity, Mr. Lynk has a long record of involvement with anti-Israel initiatives and has repeatedly made public statements that demonstrate hostility towards Israel.” Fogel called on the Government of Canada to object to Lynk’s appointment.
“Lynk’s crime? According to CIJA, Lynk is on record as critical of Israel, even going so far as to claim in an op ed in the Toronto Star that Israel should be investigated for possible war crimes following the 2014 Gaza war.
Did Dion check his facts or was he bullied by the lobby?
Apparently the attack by the pro-Israel lobby was so powerful that it intimidated Hon. Stephane Dion, who rapidly tweeted that he thought the appointment should be “reviewed”.
But a backlash against the “public hanging” of Professor Lynk is developing. A number of Lynk’s professional colleagues have pointed out that CIJA has used a very selective reading of Lynk’s writings to build a case of bias. In a powerful open letter written to Minister Dion, Osgoode Hall law professor and former NDP member of Parliament Craig Scott, castigates Dion for folding so quickly in the face of CIJA’s allegations.
“The speed with which your condemnation came out makes me very worried that your appreciation came as a consequence of rushed advice. I cannot imagine that properly trained lawyers in Global Affairs Canada would have objections to Professor Lynk if they had truly assessed his scholarship and contributions to public-policy debate, so I can only assume that assessment was somehow short-circuited,” wrote Scott.
Read the whole letter here: March 26 2016 – Email Letter to Dion re Lynk
Scott notes that a careful reading of Lynk’s public statements and his academic writings over the last 20 years show that he has been careful to hew to international law. In the specific case of the Israeli war crimes allegation, Scott shows that in fact Lynk had argued that both Israel and Hamas should be investigated.
Scott recommends to Dion that he make better use of professional advice before caving into unfair allegations about Professor Lynk.
The harsh criticism directed at Professor Lynk should not surprise. Israel and its supporters could be expected to oppose the nomination of any independent legal expert. In fact, in his statement condemning Lynk, CIJA’s Fogel outlined that his real demand is to stop the UN from investigating any human rights issues in the Palestinian territories.
“Bodies like the UNHRC must be fundamentally restructured to ensure they are no longer abused as platforms for extreme agendas,” wrote Fogel. “This requires shutting down the position of a Special Rapporteur for the Palestinians – an office that reflects the UNHRC’s systemic prejudice against Israel.”
However, if Canada really wants a seat on the Security Council, trying to shut down the UNHRC’s ability to independently investigate claims of Israel’s human rights abuses against Palestinians is not a good way to show that “Canada is back”..
Comments: Agree? Disagree? Think I have left out something important? All polite, respectful and thoughtful comments are welcome.