March 29, 2016 7:20 pm

Canadian man who was appointed UN human rights advisor rebuffs allegations

Foreign Affairs Minister Stephane Dion voiced his concerns over the appointment on Twitter last Thursday.

THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
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A Canadian legal scholar appointed as the United Nations Human Rights Council’s overseer for Palestine says allegations that he harbours a long-held, public bias against Israel are based on comments that have been taken out of context.

Law professor Michael Lynk of Western University in London, Ont., said in a statement that vocal attacks on him by the Conservatives and the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs focus on selective remarks he’s made in the past.

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“Some of these snippets have been taken out of context, with important commentary omitted, and then given a meaning quite different from what was intended,” Lynk wrote.

“Other attacks fail to mention that views ascribed to me are shared by such organizations as the United Nations, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International.”

The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs strongly denounced Lynk’s appointment to the UN position. In a news release, it accused Lynk of long-term, anti-Israel advocacy, including calling for Israel to be prosecuted for war crimes and accusing the Jewish state of ethnic cleansing.

READ MORE: Stephane Dion questions Canadian appointment as UN human rights advisor

Shimon Koffler Fogel, the group’s CEO, said in an interview Tuesday that neither Lynk’s credentials nor integrity were being called into question, but rather his suitability as an impartial and objective adviser, as required by the Human Rights Council’s guidelines for the position.

“The special rapporteur is supposed to be entirely free of bias or any attributes that are going to bring into question the individual’s ability to exercise a view or an approach that is free from a parochial point of view,” Fogel said.

“Clearly Michael Lynk doesn’t meet those qualifications. … I would make the same argument about one of my board members.”

Fogel similarly dismissed the suggestion the centre was misrepresenting Lynk’s words.

“This isn’t a case of cherry picking or exploiting a particular phrase and taking it out of context,” he said. “There is a pattern that traverses many years. It paints a holistic picture of the orientation of the individual.”

On Friday, Foreign Affairs Minister Stephane Dion called on the UN Human Rights Council to review its decision to appoint Lynk as its special rapporteur in Palestine.

Dion did not elaborate on Twitter, but later that day the minister’s office said he was concerned about past statements Lynk had made.

In an emailed statement, Dion’s office wrote that special rapporteurs are not nominated by their countries and that the Ontario professor would have applied on his own for the position.

Dion’s statement prompted former New Democrat MP Craig Scott, now a law professor at York University’s Osgoode Hall in Toronto, to write a public letter to the minister urging him to reconsider his decision and to question the accuracy of the allegations levelled against Lynk.

Scott criticized the commentary from the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, describing it as “character assassination” and “a reputation-destroying exercise.”

“We as members of Parliament (me formerly and you currently) may be used to being targets of politicized personal attacks,” Scott wrote to Dion.

“But it is not the role of politicians to dole out the same treatment to Canadian citizens who are in good faith trying to do their part to achieve respect for human rights and the rule of law.”

© 2016 The Canadian Press

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