Turkey's report: Israeli troops shot dead activists before raid

Turkey's interim report says Israeli soldiers shot from the helicopter onto the Mavi Marmara using live ammunition and killing two passengers before any Israeli soldier descended on the deck.

Turkey's report: Israeli troops shot dead activists before raid

Turkey has given information about the Mavi Marmara attack in its interim report, indicating, "it is a central principle of international law that when a state violates its international obligations, it has a duty to make reparations for the wrongs committed and provide for compensation."

Turkey submitted its interim report to the interrogation panel on September 1, 2010 which was established upon a request by the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.

The report first gives information about the incident, "Israeli military forces on the early hours of 31 May 2010 attacked in international waters an international and multi-faith convoy of six ships organized by a coalition of NGOs from 37 countries transporting certified humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip. The attack took place 72 nautical miles from the coast of Israel. As a result of the attack on the Mavi Marmara, the passenger vessel with 600 civilians on board, nine civilians were killed, eight of whom were Turkish citizens and one was US citizen of Turkish descent. More than 40 civilians were also injured."

"The necessary security checks, passport controls and vessel safety of the ships that set sail from Turkey had been completed within the letter in law. The passengers on board the three vessels, their personal belongings and the large volume of humanitarian aid had also been thoroughly checked. No firearms or any sort of weapons were found. Those Turkish ports from where the ships in the convoy set sail are duly certified under the International Ship and Port Facility Security Code (ISPS) of the International Maritime Organization," it said.

"The Israeli forces which mounted a full-fledged and pre-meditated attack with frigates, helicopters, zodiacs and submarines, were heavily armed with machine guns, laser-guided rifles, pistols and modified paintball rifles. The Israeli soldiers shot from the helicopter onto the Mavi Marmara using live ammunition and killing two passengers before any Israeli soldier descended on the deck. During the attack, excessive, indiscriminate and disproportionate force was used by the Israeli soldiers against the civilians on board. The passengers only exercised a lawful right of self-defense, without any firearms, against the armed attack of the Israeli forces," it said

The report indicated, "once the Israeli forces took over the vessel, instead of exercising caution and restraint, they continued to brutalize and terrorize the passengers, abusing them physically and psychologically. The passengers were beaten, kicked, elbowed, punched, deprived of food and water, hand-cuffed, left exposed to sun for hours, denied toilet access and subjected to verbal abuse."

"Sexually humiliating treatment"

"After ten hours of sailing to the port of Ashdod in Israel, most of the passengers were kept handcuffed. Some of them were stripped and searched; women were subjected to sexually humiliating treatment; one of them, a journalist, was forced to strip multiple times and a metal detector was placed between her legs. All passengers were forced to sign incriminatory statements; they were not allowed access to legal assistance to consular officials, nor provided with proper and timely medical care. They were denied adequate food and were placed in restricted spaces with extreme temperatures," it said.

"The Israeli officials confiscated all property belonging to the passengers. Aside from the unlawful seizure of personal property, evidences of critical importance to shed light on the attack was destroyed, tampered with or despoiled," it said.

The report said, "the bodies of the deceased were completely washed and repatriated to Turkey without any accompanying medical and autopsy reports. The Mavi Marmara itself, when returned after being held for 66 days in Ashdod, had been scrubbed down thoroughly, blood stains completely washed off, bullet holes painted over; ship records, Captain's log, computer hardware, ship documents seized, CCTV cameras smashed, all photographic footage seized and presumably destroyed or withheld."


The report said that the killing of nine civilian passengers on the Mavi Marmara was first and foremost a violation of the right to life as enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and also in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) to which Israel has been a party since 1991, adding that the international law was also violated as a result of mistreatment of injured and other passengers on board of the Mavi Marmara and in Ashdod by the Israeli forces and officials.

"Furthermore, the fact that the Israeli forces committed torture, engaged in degrading and inhuman treatment; forcibly deprived passengers of their human rights and fundamental freedoms, including the right to privacy, physical security and due process; and abused them physically and psychologically constitutes clear violations of the prohibition of torture and ill-treatment under Article 7 of the ICCPR and the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT) to which Israel has been a party since 1991. These acts also constitute a breach of Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR)," it said.

"Israeli attack on the humanitarian aid convoy in international waters constitute a violation of freedom of navigation and safety of navigation on the high seas. Freedom of navigation on the high seas is a long-standing rule of customary international law. The 1958 High Seas Convention and the 1982 United Nations Law of the Sea Convention codify what widely recognized to be the customary international rules of the freedom of the high seas. One of the components of freedom of the high seas is the exclusive jurisdiction of the flag State," it said.

"International law against ship raid"

The report reminded that the 1958 and the 1982 Conventions restricted the right of a warship to seize a foreign ship, and its property and arrest the persons on board only in the case of pirate ships or aircraft.

"According to the San Remo Manual, vessels engaged in humanitarian missions, including vessels carrying supplies, are exempt from attack. The Mavi Marmara and the other ships of the convoy were all transporting humanitarian aid vital for the survival of the civilian population in Gaza. Based solely on this ground, the Israeli forces failed to meet the established rules of maritime interdiction in international waters. In other words, the conduct of Israel is de jure unlawful," it said.

"Israel's naval blockade against the Gaza Strip, as it existed on May 31, 2010, violated the principles of international law, as also laid down in the San Remo Manual, governing blockade. The Israeli blockade was excessive in relation to any advantage to Israel?s military objective and has a disproportionate impact on the civilian population as documented by numerous UN agencies and the international community at large. The UN Security Council, the OCHA, the World Food Programme, the ICRC, the World Bank, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, the UNHCR and the UNDP all described the humanitarian situation in Gaza as dire, unacceptable and unsustainable," it said.

"Numerous authoritative commentators have stated that Israel's blockade was 'illegal' and had to be lifted, describing the blockade as 'collective punishment on civilians'. The blockade failed to meet the other requirements of a lawful naval blockade under international law, such as specifying the duration and extent of the blockade. Israel remains the occupying power in the Gaza Strip and as a result, any imposition of a naval blockade of the territory of the Gaza Strip is a legal nullity: a State cannot, by definition, blockade the borders of territory it occupies. Therefore, Israeli blockade is illegal and any interdiction based on such blockade is unlawful," it said.

The report concluded, "finally, it is a central principle of international law that when a state violates its international obligations, it has a duty to make reparations for the wrongs committed and provide for compensation."

"This case is a critical litmus test for the international community in upholding the rule of law. No State should be allowed to act above the law. Impunity must give way to accountability. Israel must acknowledge its responsibility and accordingly convey a public apology to the Republic of Turkey and provide compensation for all damages and losses resulting from its unlawful attack," it added. 


Related news reports:

Turkey's interim report on Israeli attack - 2

Turkey's interim report on Israeli attack - 3

Turkey refutes Israel's "legal" claim in Mavi Marmara probe

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