LONDON: Hollywood star George Clooney's fiancee Amal Alamuddin has declined her nomination to join a commission probing Israel's Gaza offensive, the head of the UN Human Rights Council said on Tuesday.
In a statement, Baudelaire Ndong Ella said that the Lebanese-born British lawyer had cited "prior professional commitments and regrets that the commission will not benefit from her expertise in the field."
Ella, who this year holds the rotating presidency of the top United Nations rights forum, had on Monday named Alamuddin to the three-member commission of inquiry.
He said that he had approached a "number of individuals" as potential candidates before making the announcement, and that Alamuddin had several hours later said that she was not in a position to accept the role.
Despite Alamuddin's decision, the commission of inquiry is now operational, Ella said, adding that he would "decide on the way forward."
The commission will be led by Canadian international lawyer William Schabas, and also include Doudou Diene of Senegal, who has previously served as the UN's watchdog on racism and on post-conflict Ivory Coast.
Meanwhile Israel lashed out on Tuesday at the nomination of Schabas, who is widely regarded in Israel as being hostile to the Jewish state over reported calls to bring Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu before the International Criminal Court.
"This commission's anti-Israeli conclusions have already been written, all it needs is a signature," railed foreign ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor.
"For this commission the important thing is not human rights but the rights of terrorist organisations like Hamas," he told AFP.
But in a series of interviews with the Israeli media, Schabas defended himself against allegations of bias.
"I've frequently lectured in Israel, at universities in Israel, I'm a member of the editorial board of the Israel law review, I wouldn't do those things if I was anti-Israel," he told public radio.
He challenged Palmor's assertion that the commission's findings were a foregone conclusion.
"As far as I'm concerned they're not written at all, that's the whole point of an investigation," he told the radio.
"Many of the questions we have to examine will deal with very precise matters on which the generalities about the conflict don't provide any insight.
"When we look at specific incidents in which... civilians were killed during the conflict, there are issues about targeting, about proportionality, each one of these has to be examined specifically." In a second interview with Israel's army radio, he said that he would also be looking into the actions of Palestinian militants.
"The mandate that the commission has been given doesn't specify this and I think a reasonable interpretation would be that mandate requires you to look at both sides," he said.