Melbourne Law School academic appointed to Israeli flotilla commission

July 11 / 65

International humanitarian law expert Professor Tim McCormack has been named one of two international observers of the second phase of the Israeli Government’s Turkel Commission.

The commission was established to examine Israel’s actions in stopping a humanitarian flotilla on its way to Gaza in May last year. 

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.

He said the appointment was not only an honour but also a rare academic opportunity.  “While it’s an honour to be invited to participate, as an academic working in the field of international humanitarian law, I've always been grateful for the opportunities 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.  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 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.”

Professor McCormack said the role of the international observers was to ensure the process the commission followed was transparent and independent from the government.  

Dean of Melbourne Law School Professor Carolyn Evans said, “This appointment is a wonderful illustration of the international community’s esteem for Professor McCormack”. 

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 marks a return to Jerusalem for Professor McCormack, who was Australia’s inaugural Golda Meir Postdoctoral Fellowship recipient to the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in 1989.


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