Once again, Israel defies international law and all common sense by issuing the first part of their Turkel Committee report, absolving itself from piracy, murder on the high seas and theft.
Below is the eloquent response from Adalah, (‘Justice’ in Arabic) an independent human rights organization and legal center based in Israel. It works to promote and defend the rights of Palestinian citizens of Israel and Palestinians living under occupation in the OPT before Israeli courts.
23 January 2011
(Haifa, Israel) Today, 23 January 2011, the Turkel Committee (the Public Commission to Examine the Maritime Incident of 31 May 2010) issued part one of its report. It is Adalah's position that the conclusions reached by the Turkel Committee completely contradict international law and the findings released in September 2010 by the International Fact-Finding Mission to Investigate the Israeli attacks on the Flotilla, which was established by the UN Human Rights Council.
The main conclusions reached by the Turkel Committee were that:
· Israel’s ‘effective control’ of the Gaza Strip ended with the disengagement [in 2005];
· The purpose of Israel’s naval blockade on Gaza was primarily a military-security one and that it was imposed lawfully;
· Israel is complying with its humanitarian obligations towards the people of Gaza;
· The blockade does not constitute ‘collective punishment’;
· The Israeli military?s interception and capture of the Gaza Flotilla vessels in international waters was in conformity with international humanitarian law;
· The tactics and force used by the Israeli naval commandos to board the ships and against the civilians on board was consistent with international law.
The Turkel Committee’s finding concerning the purpose of the blockade - namely that it was established for ‘military-security’ reasons - even contradicts statements made by the Attorney General before the Israeli Supreme Court in the al-Basyouni case. In this case, which involved cuts to fuel and electricity in Gaza, the Attorney General argued that the blockade is justified as an economic sanction taken against an enemy entity. It is part of ‘economic warfare’ against the Hamas regime (see HCJ 9132/07, Jaber Al-Basyouni Ahmed v. The Prime Minister; decision delivered 30 January 2008).
The principal and ultimately devastating defect of the Turkel Committee is that it was not independent, impartial or transparent. The Committee’s members were appointed by the government after being carefully selected by the Prime Minister. Further, at least two committee members made statements prior to the Committee’s establishment that indicate their pro-Israeli political bias and raise serious questions about their impartiality toward the Israeli military’s attack on the flotilla.
In addition, the Committee’s powers and mandate were extremely circumscribed. Under Israeli law, official commissions of inquiry have the widest investigatory powers. However, even commissions of inquiry do not have the full powers granted to prosecutors or the police. The powers granted to the Turkel Committee were even less than those of an independent official commission of inquiry. Thus, for example, the Committee was expressly prohibited from interviewing Israeli soldiers and security officers, and consequently relied almost exclusively on the testimonies and reports of Israeli military and political leaders.
Thus, it did not have the tools or the powers to open an investigation to collect evidence regarding Israel’s interception of and attack on the flotilla in international waters, which left nine Turkish citizens dead and dozens of other passengers injured. The Turkel Committee did not possess the authority to criminally indict or otherwise order the prosecution of any individual. Finally its conclusions and recommendations are not binding.
The members of the Turkel Committee are: Justice (Ret.) Jacob Turkel, Chairman; Ambassador Professor Shabtai Rosenne (deceased 21.9.10); General (Ret.) Amos Horev; Ambassador Reuven Merhav; Professor Miguel Deutch; Foreign Observers: Lord David Trimble (United Kingdom); and Brigadier General (Ret.) Kenneth Watkin, Q.C. (Canada).
To note, during the Flotilla events, Adalah together with Physicians for Human Rights-Israel and the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel filed an extraordinary petition for habeas corpus to the Israeli Supreme Court to demand the whereabouts and status of the Flotilla passengers. The organizations also met and took testimonies from tens of passengers who were detained at Ela Prison in Beer el-Sabe (Beer Sheva) and represented Muhammed Zeidan, Chair of the High Follow-up Committee for Arab Citizens of Israel; Sheikh Raed Salah, Head of the Islamic Movement in Israel; and Sheikh Hamad Abu Daabes, Head of the Islamic Movement in Israel (southern branch), and Ms. Lubna Masarwa of the Free Gaza Movement following their arrest from the Mavi Marmara. Adalah has provided legal assistance to numerous passengers from the Flotilla in an attempt to secure the return of their personal possessions confiscated by Israel during the attack, and to gain compensation - and demand a criminal investigation - for one passenger whose credit card was used by a soldier without her authorization. Adalah and the Association for Civil Rights in Israel are also representing MK Haneen Zoabi in a petition before the Israeli Supreme Court challenging the Knesset’s decision to revoke several of MK Zoabi?s parliamentary privileges due to her participation in the flotilla. The hearing in this case is scheduled for 28 March 2011.
For more information, please contact:
Salah Mohsen, Adalah Media Coordinator, email@example.com, +972 (0) 525-950-922
Rina Jabareen, International Advocacy Director
Adalah: The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel
94 Yaffa Street
PO Box 8921, Haifa 31090, Israel
Tel: +972(0)4-950-1610 Ext. 106