US State Department withdraws nomination of a human rights expert to rights commission for criticizing Israel

WAFA  /  February 15, 2023

WASHINGTON – The US State Department yesterday withdrew the nomination of human rights defender James Cavallaro, executive director of the University Network for Human Rights and former Stanford Law and Harvard Law professor, only days after nominating him to serve as a commissioner in the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) and describing him as “leading scholar and practitioner of international law.”

“This morning, the US State Department informed me that it would withdraw my nomination to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (CIDH) due to my statements denouncing apartheid in Israel/Palestine,” wrote Cavallaro in a tweet.

“Let me explain,” he added, “It was an honor to be nominated last Friday by the US to serve as a Commissioner on the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. I had already devoted four years of my career CIDH, as a Commissioner (2014-2017) and as President (2016-2017). Today, the State Department informed me that they were withdrawing my candidacy because of my view that the conditions in Israel/Palestine meet the definition of apartheid under international human rights law. I reminded State Department officials that HRW, Amnesty, B’Tselem and Human Rights Harvard Law School have issued reports naming the conditions in Israel/Palestine as apartheid.”

Cavallaro went on to say, “I then declined to sign a joint statement announcing the withdrawal of my nomination, as I played no part in making this decision and was ready to commit to another term as a Commissioner.”

He added: “My nomination would not have affected US policy on Israel. What has the withdrawal of my nomination achieved? The removal from the CIDH of the potential return of a committed, experienced advocate for human rights in the Americas.”

The human rights expert criticized censorship at US institutions of critics of Israel, mentioning the withdrawal of the Kennedy School of a fellowship offered to former HRW director Kenneth Roth due to his advocacy for human rights in Israel/Palestine, a decision that has since been reversed.

“News that the university had blocked a fellowship for the former head of Human Rights Watch stirred debate over academic freedom and donor influence,” said Cavallaro. “Censorship of human rights advocates who denounce apartheid in Israel also affects countless Palestinian academics, activists and students who do not have the platform that Ken Roth or myself have.”

The IACHR is an organ of the Organization of American States comprised of seven commissioners with extensive human rights experience. It serves as a watchdog monitoring the Americas.