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Craig Mokhiber, UN official who denounced Gaza ‘genocide’ had been under review

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A senior UN official who sent a letter denouncing the organisation’s failure to protect civilians in Gaza had been subject to a review into allegedly biased social media posts after a pro-Israel lobby group complained.

According to UK Guardian, Craig Mokhiber, director of the New York office of the UN high commissioner for human rights, wrote on 28 October to the UN high commissioner in Geneva, Volker Türk, accusing Israel of committing genocide and his employer of failing to stop it. “This will be my last communication to you,” he said. He has since stepped down.

A complaint about Mokhiber’s social media output and broadcast interviews had been under review since March by the UN’s investigations division office of internal oversight services.

After an assessment as to whether there may have been merit in further action, the case was passed on earlier this month to the high commissioner for human rights, as the “responsible official” to make his own assessment.

Mokhiber said he had not been made aware of the review.

He said: “Israel lobby groups regularly harass and complain about UN officials who speak out on Israeli violations, but the UN is used to this tactic, so I would be surprised if any such ‘complaint’ went anywhere.

“Indeed, as I said, I never heard of it. And, indeed, a complaint that a UN human rights official had criticised a country’s human rights violations is unlikely to go anywhere. If it did, it would be quite extraordinary indeed.”

In the original complaint against Mokhiber, an organisation called UK Lawyers for Israel had argued that his views “as expressed on social media and in televised interviews clearly show an extreme anti-Israel bias and there is therefore a clear failure to comply with the international civil service rules on independence and impartiality and the guidelines for UN staff on social media”.

After the death of the Palestinian-American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, who was almost certainly fatally shot by an Israeli sniper, Mokhiber posted on X, formerly known as Twitter, that Israel was “whitewashing the cold blooded murder of its own citizen”.

The post continued: “No accountability. Just an official cover-up. A pattern of supporting #impunity that goes back 75 years and includes covering up war crimes, crimes against humanity, ethnic cleansing, apartheid & state terrorism.”

A spokesperson for the UN confirmed that the official was “retiring” and had “informed the UN in March 2023 of his upcoming retirement”.

Mokhiber had worked at the UN since 1992. A lawyer who specialises in international human rights law, he lived in Gaza in the 1990s.

In his departure letter, which does not refer to the 1,400 people killed by Hamas on 7 October nor the hostages taken into Gaza, he argued that a genocide was unfolding, which the UN appeared “powerless” to stop.

“High commissioner we are failing again,” he wrote. “The current wholesale slaughter of the Palestinian people, rooted in an ethno-nationalist colonial settler ideology, in continuation of decades of their systematic persecution and purging, based entirely upon their status as Arabs … leaves no room for doubt.”

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