The head of a United Nations Human Rights Council commission to investigate violence in Gaza this year, has resigned due to “personal reasons” the UN said on Wednesday.
David Crane, a former war crimes prosecutor for Sierra Leone and professor at Syracuse University, was appointed on July 25 as chair of the three-person inquiry, investigating the clashes during weekly “March of Return” protests on the border that began in late March.
Vojislav Suc, Slovenian ambassador to the UN in Geneva and president of the council, will appoint a new president of the commission, which includes lawyers Sara Hossein from Bangladesh and Betty Murungi from Kenya, an official statement said.
The Israeli army have killed at least 170 Palestinians in what it has called “border protection” during the protests. One Israeli soldier has been killed by a Palestinian sniper. Palestinians in Gaza have also launched incendiary devices toward Israel, burning forest and farmland.
The UN Human Rights Council voted in May to investigate the killings. Israel said it was being demonised and that the inquiry was intended to undermine its right to self-defense. But Israel did not criticise the appointment of Crane, likely because he has not overtly criticised the Jewish state in the way that past jurists for the council have done.
Crane said in 2006 of Israel: “Every nation has a right to defend its citizens… but you must launch an attack in a proportional way and can’t cause unnecessary suffering for civilians. Israel tends toward disproportional responses, which just fuel further anger in the region.”
In 2009, he told CBS News that Hamas firing rockets at civilians violates the laws of war.
But he added that this did not excuse violations on the other side. “Even if the other side is not following the laws, you cannot step away from them.”
Last month Crane told the Times of Israel that he would enter the investigation “with an open mind with no preconceived positions or perspectives.”