Human Rights Council Refuses to Disclose Witnesses, NGOs that Contributed to Report

JERUSALEM – The UN Human Rights Council’s (HRC) report on the May 31, 2010 flotilla violence is based on secret and unverifiable allegations, is highly biased, and is therefore no more than hearsay, finds NGO Monitor, a Jerusalem-based research institution. The HRC-appointed “fact-finding mission” submitted the report to the HRC during the Fifteenth Session currently underway in Geneva.

“This so-called fact finding mission met with numerous political advocacy NGOs and interviewed hundreds of witnesses from different countries, but it refuses to disclose these names or their statements,” says Professor Gerald Steinberg, president of NGO Monitor. “The UNHRC and their latest ‘report’ indicting Israel have no legitimacy if the sources of the allegations and narrative are hidden.  Unfortunately, this is indicative of the general lack of transparency surrounding the role of NGOs in the exploitation of human rights and international law.”

The “Free Gaza” flotilla violence involved the IHH, a Turkish-based organization with a history of links to terror, as well as the ISM, whose virulent incitement against Israel is also well documented. But instead of focusing on these organizations, the mission, chaired by Karl Hudson-Phillips, former justice on the International Criminal Court in The Hague, interviewed some participant-witnesses as well as ambassadors in London, Geneva, Amman, and Istanbul.  News reports show that interviews in Jordan included members of the Muslim Brotherhood and those involved with anti-normalization campaigns with Israel. In addition, the panel spoke to MK Hanin Zoabi, a member of the Balad party, which rejects the idea of a Jewish state. Zoabi has also spoken in support of Iran’s fierce hostility to Israel, and was on the boat involved in this violent incident.  But the sources of other testimony remain secret.

“The UN is required to adhere to the highest standards of transparency, particularly when it relates to an inquiry such as this,” adds NGO Monitor legal advisor, Anne Herzberg.  “Instead, by not releasing the names of NGOs, all individuals involved, or their allegations, the UN and the NGO community are again violating basic requirements of due process and good government.  This is but another example of the bias that plagues the Human Rights Council and highlights the moral failings of those organizations that collaborate with it.”

The Goldstone “fact finding mission,” established by the HRC, on the 2008-2009 Gaza war also relied heavily on NGO claims that were cloaked in secrecy and could not be verified. Witnesses and contributors to that report were not allowed to be cross-examined. NGO Monitor’s repeated inquiries to the Mission’s office and Mr. Goldstone himself regarding the contributors to that report (September 2009) were ignored. The manner in which the HRC is now hiding the sources of the flotilla report shows no change.

“Both the inherent bias and the manner in which the UN conducted this inquiry deserve the strongest condemnation,” adds Steinberg. “When highly political NGOs are among the main sources of allegations, and their roles are entirely secret, without any accountability for their claims, the entire process is invalid and immoral. This is another case highlighting the degree to which NGOs and their UN partners have appropriated the rhetoric of human rights, international law, and morality while violating these core values.”