Israeli raid on Gaza aid flotilla broke law – UN probe 22Sep10 September 23, 2010
BBC News -Â 22 September 2010
Israel’s military broke international laws during a raid on a Gaza-bound aid flotilla, a UN Human Rights Council investigation says.
Its report said the action by commandoes, which left nine dead, was “disproportionate” and “betrayed an unacceptable level of brutality”.
It said there was clear evidence to support prosecutions against Israel for “wilful killing”.
Israel insists its soldiers acted in self-defence during the 31 May raid.
Nine Turkish pro-Palestinian activists were killed and many others injured after Israeli commandoes boarded the six-ship convoy as it tried to breach an Israeli naval blockade of Gaza.
The convoy’s passengers were detained and later deported by Israel.
There was widespread international criticism of Israel’s actions, which severely strained relations with its long-time Muslim ally, Turkey.
In a 56-page report, the UN panel of three international lawyers said: “There is clear evidence to support prosecutions of the following crimes within the terms of article 147 of the Fourth Geneva Convention: wilful killing; torture or inhuman treatment; wilfully causing great suffering or serious injury to body or health”.
The Convention is an international treaty governing the protection of civilians in times of war.
The UN fact-finding mission also said the Israeli blockade of the Palestinian territory was “unlawful” because of a humanitarian crisis there.
The panel had interviewed more than 100 witnesses in Britain, Jordan, Switzerland Turkey, but not in Israel.
Just before the report was released, Israel dismissed the Human Rights Council as being biased, politicised and extremist.
But the findings of these three senior international lawyers – one a former judge at the International Criminal Court, another a UN war crimes prosecutor, and the third a renowned human rights expert – will be hard to dismiss, says the BBC’s Imogen Foulkes in Geneva.
The Israeli government also said that work on its own independent inquiry into the flotilla raid, the Turkel Commission, was continuing.
It has two foreign observers, but critics say its remit is too narrow.
Last month, the head of Israel’s military, Lt Gen Gabi Ashkenazi, defended its troops’ use of live ammunition during the raid. He told the Israeli inquiry that the soldiers had underestimated the threat and should have used more force to subdue activists before boarding.
Those aboard the Mavi Marmara, where the activists were killed, say the commandos opened fire as soon as they boarded the vessel, which was in international waters at the time.
On Tuesday, one of the members of the Turkel Commission, Shabtai Rosenne, died at the age of 93. However, a spokesman said the commission’s work would stay on schedule.
There is also a separate UN enquiry – ordered by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon – into the raid.