‘Israel flotilla raid was unlawful’
The UN Human Rights Council’s fact-finding mission has accused Israeli forces of violating international law when they raided a Gaza-bound aid flotilla.
The three UN-appointed human rights experts said in a report released on Wednesday that Israeli forces showed “incredible violence” during and after their raid on the aid flotilla that left eight Turkish activists and one Turkish-American killed.
The UN probe said there was “clear evidence to support prosecutions” against Israel for “wilful killing” and torture committed when its troops stormed the aid flotilla last May.
Israel’s military response to the flotilla “betrayed an unacceptable level of brutality” and violated international law “including international humanitarian and human rights law.” The three-member panel said.
“The conduct of the Israeli military and other personnel towards the flotilla passengers was not only disproportionate to the occasion but demonstrated levels of totally unnecessary and incredible violence.”
The report is scheduled to be debated by the Human Rights Council on Monday.
The report also rejected Israel’s stance that its forces acted in self-defence when they raided the flotilla, arguing that even those who did not attempt to stop Israeli soldiers from boarding the aid ships “received injuries, including fatal injuries.”
“It is apparent that no effort was made to minimise injuries at certain states of the operation and that the use of live fire was done in an extensive and arbitrary manner. The circumstances of the killing of at least six of the passengers were in a manner consistent with an extra-legal, arbitrary and summary execution.”
Israel rejected the report as “biased” and “one-sided.”
“The report… is as biased and as one sided as the body that has produced it,” the statement said.
“Israel… is of the opinion that the flotilla incident is amply and sufficiently investigated as it is. All additional dealing with this issue is superfluous and unproductive.”
Israel insisted that it acted in line with international law, arguing that it had the right to retaliate against ships attempting to breach its blockade of the impoverished Gaza Strip.
However, the panel said that since Gaza was suffering from a humanitarian crisis on the day of the deadly raid, for this reason alone, Israel’s blockade is unlawful and cannot be sustained in law.
Hamas welcomed the report and told Al Jazeera that the findings show that Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territories violates human rights.
“More should now be done, the commander who led the raid should be taken to International Criminal Court.” Hamas said.
The fact-finding mission, chaired by Karl Hudson-Phillips, former judge of the International Criminal Court in The Hague, had travelled to Turkey, Jordan and Britain to interview witnesses and officials for the probe.
Desmond de Silva, former chief prosecutor of the Sierra Leone War Crimes Tribunal, and Shanthi Dairiam, as Malaysian human rights expert, are the other members of the panel.