Guilty As Charged: UN Report on Gaza Flotilla Massacre
Guilty As Charged: UN Report on Gaza Flotilla Massacre - by Stephen Lendman
On September 22, Reuters headlined the news, saying:
"UN Experts Condemn Israel Attack on Gaza Flotilla"
It explained that the UN Human Rights Council's (HRC) "panel of international experts" concluded what was obvious on day one - that Israel's international water attack "was unlawful and resulted in violations of human rights and international humanitarian law...."
A one paragraph AP report said the same thing. America's leading paper, The New York Times (always pro-Israeli), published the above two accounts, not its own, ducking its responsibility to do in detail.
In contrast, Israeli papers covered it prominently, including Haaretz headlining, "UN Human Rights Council: Israel flotilla raid broke international law," saying:
"The UN Human Rights Council's fact-finding mission concluded that Israel's naval blockade of the Palestinian territory was unlawful because of the humanitarian crisis there, and described the military raid on the flotilla as brutal and disproportionate."
Israel's response was unsurprising, Foreign Ministry spokesman Ygal Palmor saying:
"Israel is a democratic and law abiding country that carefully observes international law and, when need be, knows how to investigate itself."
True on the last point, but it never does nor will it. False on the others. As honest observers know, Israel is a lawless, undemocratic, pariah state believing in Jewish exclusivity above all other religions. As a result, its 1,548,000 Israeli Arabs (as of spring 2010) have no rights. In addition, the four million + in Gaza and the West Bank (Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics mid-2010 figures) have been persecuted under military occupation for over 43 years, living in constant terror.
Balad Party MK Hanin Zuabi, on board the Mavi Marmara mother ship, praised the HRC's report, saying "the criminals who ordered and carried out the raid should be brought to justice." More on Israeli retribution against her below.
Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said "Now it's required to be a mechanism in order to translate this report into action and to bring occupation commanders to trial for the crimes they committed." Indeed so, but no measures whatever have been proposed or implemented.
Information on the Flotilla Massacre
Seven earlier articles covered it in detail, accessed through the following links:
The Human Rights Council (HRC) Report
On May 31, 2010, Israeli commandos attacked unarmed, nonviolent civilians attempting to deliver vitally needed humanitarian aid to 1.5 million Gazans, trapped under siege for three years at the time. At least nine were murdered in cold blood, over 50 wounded, some seriously. They and the others were arrested, detained, and treated harshly until let out of the country to go home.
Released on September 22, the HRC (called the Mission below) report detailed serious Israeli crimes of war and against humanity, based on 112 witness testimonies in Geneva, London, Istanbul and Amman as well as other information, including forensic evidence, video footage, and other photographic material. As a result, the HRC:
"concluded that 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 Mission thanked the Turkish and Jordanian governments for cooperation. Also OCHA, UNRWA, UNSCO and others for their help. Israel refused, saying its position was "one of non-recognition of and non-cooperation with the Mission."
Under international law, Israel's blockade is illegal. It caused a grave humanitarian crisis affecting 1.5 million Gazans, mostly civilians. Aid is vitally needed. Attacking anyone trying to deliver it is a clear crime against humanity, especially in international waters.
A "vessel on the high seas (posing no threat) is subject to the exclusive jurisdiction of its flag State."
Under the laws of armed conflict, "a blockade is illegal if:
(a) it has the sole purpose of starving the civilian population or denying it other objects essential for its survival; or
(b) the damage to the civilian population is, or may be expected to be, excessive in relation to the concrete and direct military advantage anticipated from the blockade."
In other words, no blockade is permitted it it inflicts disproportionate harm to civilians. Israel has done it grievously for over three years, suffocating 1.5 million Gazans illegally.
Among other international law provisions, Fourth Geneva's Article 33 states:
"No protected person may be punished for an offence he or she has not personally committed. Collective penalties and likewise all measures of intimidation or of terrorism, are prohibited."
The Mission called Israel's blockade disproportionate and illegal, and the attack on the Flotilla unjustified and criminal.
International law regarding occupying powers is clear and unequivocal, enumerating explicit responsibilities. Israel is a serial violator. Gazans are protected persons. So were Flotilla passengers. Israel was prohibited from intercepting and attacking them. Under the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) Article 6, paragraph 1:
"Every human being has the inherent right to life. This right shall be protected by law. No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his life."
The Mission said "This right is non-derogable." The Flotilla interdiction was lawless "since there was no legal basis for the Israeli forces to conduct an assault and interception in international waters. Moreover," in doing so, Israel was "obligated" under international law and its own "international human rights obligations."
Under Article 2 of the Code of Conduct for Law Enforcement:
"in the performance of their duty, law enforcement officials shall respect and protect human dignity and maintain and uphold the human rights of all persons."
Article 3 states:
"Law enforcement officials may use force only when strictly necessary and to the extent required for the performance of their duty."
Israel, of course, used commandos, heavily armed trained killers, acting as law enforcers, instead of the Coast Guard or other protective forces. Clearly their mission was well-defined - to interdict, attack and murder designated targets, their names and photos provided in advance. Evidence uncovered proved it.
The Mission concluded that force used "was unnecessary, disproportionate, excessive and inappropriate and resulted in the wholly avoidable killing and maiming of a large number of civilian passengers."
It determined that at least six of the dead were killed by "extra-legal, arbitrary and summary executions," some shot multiple times in the head at close range. In addition, passengers detained weren't told why or informed of their rights, in violation ICCPR's Article 9, paragraph 2 stating:
"Anyone who is arrested shall be informed, at the time of arrest, of the reasons for his arrest and shall be promptly informed of any charges against him."
It wasn't done, "and in some instances passenger requests for such information were met with verbal abuse or physical violence."
On board the vessels and in detention, Israel treated them cruelly and inhumanely in clear violation of international law. As a result, injuries resulted or were exacerbated. For all onboard, willful pain and suffering were inflicted. For some, it amounted to torture, an Israeli specialty.
From the moment of interdiction until release and departure, their entire experience was shocking, excessive, disproportionate, and criminal, in violation of numerous international and Israeli laws.
In addition, Israel made "a deliberate attempt....to suppress or destroy evidence" besides fabricating its version of events, including fake videos and other falsified materials.
Another offense also deserves mention. Haneen Zouabi, an Israeli MK was on board the Mavi Marmara. She wasn't detained, but was extensively and abusively interrogated. Because of her participation, the Knesset voted on June 7 to deny her three parliamentary privileges:
-- to travel abroad;
-- retain her diplomatic passport; and
-- have her legal fees paid if losing her parliamentary immunity results in criminal prosecution.
In addition, during Knesset discussions of her participation, racist, sexist, and physically threatening remarks were made. Some MKs also wanted her criminally prosecuted and removed from the Knesset. Further, Israel's Interior Minister, Eli Yishai, accused her of treason and requested authorization from the Attorney General to revoke her citizenship. So far, no action has been taken, but Zouabi continues to receive death threats.
The Mission concluded that Israel caused "a humanitarian crisis (on) May 31, 2010," the day of the attack. "The preponderance of evidence from impeccable sources is far too overwhelming to come to a contrary opinion." Israel's justification on "security grounds" is entirely baseless. Moreover, "prosecutions" are clearly warranted under Fourth Geneva's Article 147, covering:
-- willful killing;
-- torture or inhuman treatment; and
-- willfully causing great suffering or serious injury to body or health.
Remedial action should be guaranteed all victims. Those responsible should be held criminally culpable. Their crimes shouldn't go unpunished. Those aboard are left with "deep psychological scars....The Mission is not alone in" condemning Israel for its actions, nor about Gaza's "deplorable (and lawless) situation."
So far, passengers have been denied justice, and culpable Israeli officials remain unaccountable, unpunished, and free to keep rampaging, what happens daily in Occupied Palestine while so-called "peace talks" continue, a charade by any standard.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.