23 February 2015

The Honorable Mr. Ban Ki-Moon
Secretary General, United Nations Headquarters
New York

Dear Secretary General Ban,

On 30 January 2015, the Permanent Representative of Israel submitted a letter to Ambassador Joachim Rücker, President of the UN Human Rights Council, on the failure of William Schabas to disclose a clear conflict of interest. Mr. Schabas then submitted his letter of resignation, stating: “On 2 February 2015, the Bureau of the Human Rights Council, which operates as its executive or standing committee between regular sessions, decided to examine the complaint and to request a legal opinion from United Nations Headquarters in New York.”

Mr. Schabas’s resignation comes at a very late stage in the work of his committee, making the issues raised by his lapse highly salient to the integrity of the investigation and report.

Therefore, we would appreciate your response to the following questions:

1) Has the UN legal opinion, as requested by the Bureau of the HRC, been provided? If yes, where can the text be found? If not yet available, is there a timeframe for completion of this process?

2) If the request for a legal opinion has been withdrawn, what is the basis for this withdrawal?

3) How does the revelation of Mr. Schabas’ ethical lapse affect the status of the Commission, the planned presentation of its report, and the investigatory activities prior to 2 February?  How is it possible to use any of the materials of the Schabas Commission and at the same time meet the “highest standards of independence and impartiality” as pledged by Mary McGowan Davis in her letter to you of 3 February.

We look forward to your response,


Prof. Gerald M. Steinberg
President, the Amuta for NGO Responsibility
Jerusalem, Israel

cc: Ambassador Joachim Rücker
President, Human Rights Council
Permanent Mission of Germany

and the heads of other delegations