Melbourne Law School academic appointed to Israeli flotilla commissionJuly 20, 2011
International humanitarian law expert Professor Tim McCormack has been named as one of two international observers to the second phase of the Israeli Government’s Turkel Commission.
Set up in 2010, the Commission was established to enquire into Israel’s actions in stopping a humanitarian flotilla on its way to Gaza in May last year.
Following the release of the Commission’s first report, Professor McCormack will work closely with the second observer, former First Minister of Northern Ireland and Nobel Peace Prize winner Lord David Trimble, to assess how Israel’s military justice system compares with that of other countries, particularly Australia, Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany and The Netherlands.
Professor McCormack said the appointment was not only an honour but also a rare academic opportunity. “While it’s an honour to be invited to participate, I'd also say that as an academic working in the field of international humanitarian law, I've always been grateful for the opportunities that have been presented to me to test and to apply what I think I know in real and challenging practical situations.“
“I think it (the Commission) is important work for both Israel and Australia at the moment. In this country over the last few years we've been trying to figure out how we can change and restructure our own military justice system, and I’m very conscious that in taking on this appointment I'll have the chance to learn about what some other countries are doing, and see how the Australian system compares.”
“I do know that the Israeli government is taking the work of the commission very seriously and there are high hopes that some positive benefits will emerge from its recommendations.”
According to Professor McCormack the role of the international observers will be to ensure that the process the commission follows is transparent and independent from the government. The commission will also need to be able to make its own objective recommendations about improving the Israeli processes for investigation of allegations of violations of international humanitarian law, said Professor McCormack, and both observers will play a role in overseeing the development of any suggestions and recommendations on this front.
Dean of Melbourne Law School, Professor Carolyn Evans, expressed her delight at Professor McCormack’s appointment. “This appointment is a wonderful illustration of the international community’s esteem for Professor McCormack. This news also supports last week’s QS University rankings that saw Melbourne Law School placed among the world’s Top 10 law schools, alongside Oxford, Yale and Harvard.”
In taking up the position, Professor McCormack replaces the international observer from the first phase, the former Judge Advocate General of the Canadian Armed Forces Brigadier General Ken Watkin QC. It will mark a return of sorts to Jerusalem for Professor McCormack, who was Australia’s inaugural Golda Meir Postdoctoral Fellowship recipient to the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in 1989.