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UN investigative unit probing allegations against anti-Israel official

Francesca Albanese, special rapporteur for the Palestinians, didn’t say whether Hamas-supporting groups paid for her trips to Australia and New Zealand.

Francesca Albanese, United Nations special rapporteur on the rights situation in the Palestinian territories, during a session of the U.N. Human Rights Council, in Geneva, on March 26, 2024. Photo by Fabrice Coffrini/AFP via Getty Images.
Francesca Albanese, United Nations special rapporteur on the rights situation in the Palestinian territories, during a session of the U.N. Human Rights Council, in Geneva, on March 26, 2024. Photo by Fabrice Coffrini/AFP via Getty Images.

The investigative unit of the United Nations opened a case probing whether pro-Hamas lobbying groups funded Francesca Albanese’s trips in 2023 to Australia and New Zealand.

The U.N. Office of Internal Oversight Services told Hillel Neuer, executive director of UN Watch, on June 26 that it referred his allegations against the U.N. special rapporteur for the Palestinians to Volker Turk, the U.N. high commissioner for human rights, whose office oversees the activities U.N. special rapporteurs.

The U.N. office’s email came hours after the publication of a widely circulated video clip of JNS questioning a U.N. spokesman on why Albanese and other of the global body’s entities refused or ignored requests to clarify or refute details of the accusations.

UN Watch filed a report with the United Nations on June 2 documenting pro-Hamas lobbying groups that had announced their sponsorship or support of Albanese’s trips, estimated to cost about $20,000.

In Australia, Albanese participated in media and fundraising events, and met with pro-Palestinian politicians and civil society members. During a connected trip to New Zealand, the U.N. special rapporteur participated in what UN Watch calls a meeting “to lobby a major New Zealand sovereign wealth fund to divest from Israel-related companies.”

UN Watch also said that Albanese and her staff may be accepting honoraria outside of established U.N. protocol, based on a staffer’s interactions with a parody Twitter account.

Albanese has a documented history of making antisemitic comments and justifying terrorism against Israel. 

The French government rebuked her denial that Hamas attacked Israel on Oct. 7 based on the terror group’s hatred of Jews, calling her remarks “scandalous” and “a disgrace.” The German government said her comments were “appalling.”

Like other special rapporteurs at the United Nations, Albanese’s role is a volunteer position, which is technically independent of the global body. The United Nations pays her expenses out of a designated budget.

Accepting payment, including for travel, and honoraria from “any governmental or non-governmental source” for “activities carried out in pursuit” of the special rapporteur’s mandate is prohibited, per the United Nations.

In response to the U.N. Office of Internal Oversight Services notification, Neuer wrote on Tuesday to both Turk and Omar Zniber, president of the U.N. Human Rights Council, that beyond alleged fiscal improprieties, “it has become glaringly clear that repeated incitement to antisemitism, violence and terrorism by Francesca Albanese is casting a shadow upon the reputation of the United Nations as whole, and in particular the work of its human rights system.”

Neuer attached a draft resolution to terminate Albanese’s mandate, asking for Zniber’s and Turk’s support.

Neuer told JNS that UN Watch is sending the draft resolution to U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and is also requesting his support. JNS sought comment from the U.S. State Department.

UN Watch’s draft resolution notes the long-documented defects in the mandate of the position of U.N. special rapporteur for the Palestinians, including inherent anti-Israel bias, coupled with Albanese’s antisemitic statements and actions, which have drawn direct accusations of Jew-hatred from the German and French governments, in addition to criticism from the State Department.

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