| ||A United Nations panel of human rights experts, appointed by the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC), has accused Israel of war crimes through unlawful killing, unnecessary brutality and torture in its “clearly unlawful” assault on board the MV Mavi Marmara in May. |
The MV Mavi Marmara was part of a flotilla of ships carrying aid to the besieged people illegal blockade of Gaza. Nine activists were killed by Israeli commandos when they stormed the ship in international waters on 31st May.
“The report by three experts appointed by the UN's Human Rights Council (UNHRC) described the seizure of MV Mavi Marmara, a Turkish vessel, by Israeli commandos as illegal under international law.”
“It condemned the treatment of the passengers and crew as brutal and disproportionate. It also said that the Israeli blockade of the Palestinian enclave is illegal because of the scale of the humanitarian crisis in Gaza.”
"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 report said.”
“A series of violations of international law, including international humanitarian and human rights law, were committed by the Israeli forces during the interception of the flotilla and during the detention of passengers in Israel prior to deportation.”
The report states that “lethal force was employed by the Israeli soldiers in a widespread and arbitrary manner which caused an unnecessarily large number of persons to be killed or seriously injured.”
“Less extreme means could have been employed in nearly all instances of the Israeli operation, since there was no imminent threat to soldiers.”
At the time of the assault, ENGAGE wrote to the Foreign Secretary, calling on him to denounce the “barbaric response” of the Israelis in killing members of the aid convoy. ENGAGE also produced a briefing for MPs on the Gaza blockade and the storming of the aid flotilla to explain the background of the event and the impact of the illegal blockade on Gaza. This was in conjunction with a cross-party parliamentary event, which called for international pressure to be applied on Israel to urge compliance with UN resolutions on “unimpeded provisions and distribution throughout Gaza of humanitarian assistance, including food, fuel and medical treatment” and called on MPs to sign Early Day Motions condemning Israel’s behaviour.
Another UN inquiry in to the assault on the MV Mavi Marmara is currently under way. Israel is also conducting its own inquiry in to the attack, with an Israeli Foreign Ministry statement saying, “That is how Israel has always acted and that is the way in which investigations were conducted following Operation Cast Lead."
Many would question the independence and credibility of Israel’s own inquiry. Let’s not forget that the independent inquiry into Operation Cast Lead, conducted by Justice Richard Goldstone and condemned by Israel, found that, although Israel and Hamas had both committed war crimes during the attack on Gaza, far greater war crimes being committed by Israel. The UN’s backing of the report was dismissed by Israel as “anti-Semitic.” Another inquiry by Israeli campaign group, “Breaking the Silence” into the Gaza assault was also dismissed by Israeli officials.
That this report was dismissed by Israel as “biased” should come as no surprise, as it has a history of blanket dismissals and condemnation of criticism over its actions. The question remains of what actions will result from this report? In particular the demands of the Turkish government of an official apology and compensation to the families of those unlawfully killed.
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