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Canadian professor’s appointment as head of UN commission on Gaza drawing fire

Human rights lawyer Amal Alamuddin.

A Canadian law professor will chair a United Nations commission examining possible violations of the rules of war in Gaza, but the appointment is already drawing fire.

William Schabas, who currently works as an international law professor at Middlesex University in England, is one of three lawyers who will investigate any violations of international humanitarian and human rights law in Gaza.

He will be working alongside British-Lebanese lawyer Amal Alamuddin, who is engaged to George Clooney, and Senegalese lawyer Doudou Diene, who has filled UN posts on racism and human rights in Ivory Coast.

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Schabas has previously served as one of three international members of the Sierra Leone Truth and Reconciliation Commission and has been a consultant on capital punishment for the United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime.

Hours after the appointments were announced Monday, the Geneva-based advocacy group UN Watch called on Schabas to recuse himself from the commission because of prior statements critical of Israeli leaders.

The group's executive director, Hillel Neuer, also questioned whether the UN is "trying to inject some Hollywood publicity into the process" by appointing Alamuddin.

The appointments for the new commission were announced by Gabon Ambassador Baudelaire Ndong Ella, who is president of the 47-nation UN Human Rights Council.

The month-long war between the Israeli military and rocket-firing Hamas militants in Gaza, has killed more than 1,900 Palestinians, the majority civilians, according to Palestinian and UN officials.

In Israel, officials say 67 people have been killed, all but three of them soldiers.

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