Saturday, October 9, 2010

Raid on Free Gaza Flotilla: family of victims bring case before ICC in The Hague

The International Criminal Court is being urged to prosecute members of the Israeli defence force for the raid on the Gaza-bound aid ship Mavi Marmara.The British newspaper The Guardian learned that lawyers acting for Turkish citizens injured or killed when Israel intercepted the flotilla on 31 May have written to Luis Moreno Ocampo, the court's prosecutor, claiming there is an "overwhelming" case for prosecution.

The request is a significant step towards a criminal investigation by the court, which experts say has jurisdiction to prosecute those involved in the raid despite Israel not recognising its jurisdiction.

"The attack on the flotilla occurred in international waters, which directly violated many parts of international law as well as international public and criminal law," said Ramazan Ariturk, a partner at Elmadag Law Office, the Turkish legal body that is representing the Turkish victims and the human rights group IHH. "The crimes committed by Israeli Defence Forces should be prosecuted and the International Criminal Court is the sole authority which is able to do that."

Last month a UN report into the incident, in which nine Turkish activists were killed, accused Israel of violating international law. According to the report Israel "betrayed an unacceptable level of brutality" during the raid. Also it stated that the attack on the flotilla "constituted grave violations of human rights law and international humanitarian law". Israel called the report "biased and distorted".
It has created its own state-appointed inquiry, headed by retired supreme court justice Jacob Turkel. A
government spokesman pointed out that also an investigation is underway under the auspices of the UN secretary general. He called further investigations redundant and unnecessary, and said the might contribute to further alienation between otherwise friendly countries, " according to The Guardian.

Neither Israel nor the Palestinian territories are parties to the Rome statute, which established the international criminal court. An investigation of incidents involving the two countries is possible only after a reference from the UN security council. But the Turkish victims' lawyers say the involvement of Turkey with the Mavi Marmara and the fact it was sailing under the flag of the Comoros Islands give the court with jurisdiction. Both countries are members of the ICC.

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