Prof. Yuval Shany, the Hersch Lauterpacht Chair in International Law and former Dean of the Law Faculty of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, was elected on Monday as chairman of the UN Human Rights Committee in Geneva. The committee is comprised of 18 experts that meet three times a year for four-week sessions (spring in New York, summer and fall in Geneva) to consider the five-yearly reports submitted by 169 UN member states on their compliance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), and any individual petitions concerning 116 States which are parties to the Optional Protocol.
This is the first time an Israeli has been appointed to this senior position. Prof. Shany has been a member of the UNHRC since 2013. His term will expire in 2020.
He has also been a member of anti-Zionist NGO B’Tselem, and is generally identified with the most extremist line in the Israeli Supreme Court. He has been a staunch opponent of the Netanyahu government agenda, including its most recent move to allow government ministers to have a say in picking their offices’ legal counsels. Suggesting that unelected civil servants better represented the voters than the politicians who were actually elected by the voters, Shany argues that the very notion of a minister picking his legal advisor inevitably invites corruption.
In 2013, Prof. Shany evaluated the Israeli judicial system – we believe his views foretell a worse scrutiny of Israel by the UNHRC in the next 18 months.
Prof. Shany issued a statement saying (translated from Hebrew), “I am very pleased that my colleagues at the UN Human Rights Committee have decided to choose me as chairman. Unlike the Human Rights Council, the Human Rights Committee is a professional, non-political body that examines objectively how states implement their obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
“The Committee faces many challenges, especially in the face of an international environment that does not support human rights as has been the case in the past. I hope that in my new position I will be able to promote the reforms that will help the committee operate more effectively and increase its positive impact on reality around the world.”