Government expands authority of Gaza flotilla probe commission 4Jul10 July 5, 2010

by Barak Ravid  -  Haaretz -  4 July 2010

The government unanimously voted Sunday to expand the authority of the Turkel Commission investigating Israel’s raid of a Gaza-bound aid flotilla.

According to a statement released by the Prime Minister’s Office, new powers will allow the commission, headed by Supreme Court justice Jacob Turkel, to subpoena witnesses and receive sworn testimony.

“The decision excludes Israel Defense Force soldiers,”  a move designed maintain the independence of a separate military investigation already underway, the government said.

Nine pro-Palestinian activists were killed in Israel’s May 31 raid on a Turkish-flagged aid ship, drawing worldwide condemnation and demands for an inquiry.

Turkel is tasked with determining whether Israel’s efforts to stop the flotilla from reaching Gaza accorded with international law, and whether the soldiers’ use of force was proportionate.

Last week, Turkel approached Justice Minister Yaakov Neeman, citing legal grounds to support a demand to extend his investigative powers.

According to Turkel, paragraphs 8 and 8a of the Basic Government Law grant an independent committee of inquiry the right to conduct a full judicial investigation, including the authority to subpoena any witness or evidence it requires and to take testimony under oath.

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