Al-Haq calls for UN inquiry into attack on humanitarian aid flotilla
High Contracting Parties also must act
Independent, impartial, international inquiry imperative
On 14 June Israel announced the establishment of a Commission of Inquiry to review its attack on the humanitarian aid flotilla to Gaza. Al-Haq considers such an inquiry to be inadequate given the gravity of the three year long blockade of Gaza and the killing of nine civilians on board one of the ships of the flotilla by Israeli forces.
It is imperative that an international inquiry, under the auspices of the United Nations, be established and that the full facts about the blockade of Gaza, and about the attack on the flotilla, as well as the legality of Israel’s actions, be examined by a team of impartial and independent experts.
The internal Israeli investigation, staffed by individuals closely aligned to the Israeli military and political elite, and appointed by the Israeli government, cannot compel witnesses to appear. Israeli soldiers will not be giving testimonies, with the Chief of Staff of the Israeli occupation forces submitting his own version of events.
In the aftermath of its 2006 invasion of Lebanon the Israeli government established the Winograd Committee of Inquiry. Despite having received several submissions from international human rights NGOs providing credible evidence of war crimes committed by Israeli forces, the Winograd Report dismissed all claims regarding violations of international law. This was justified on the basis that Israel “did not find it appropriate to deal with issues that are part of a political and propaganda war against the State.” Following the UN General Assembly’s endorsement of the Goldstone Report, Israel was requested to undertake prompt and effective investigations into allegations of war crimes and crimes against humanity within three months. No such investigations have yet taken place and there have been no prosecutions. Again, allegations of war crimes are dismissed as merely efforts to discredit Israel, with no attention given to the substance of the allegations.
Israeli PM Netanyahu was clear in affirming that the new inquiry would follow this mould. The findings of the Inquiry need not be made public and anyone who does give testimony to the Inquiry will be immune from any subsequent legal prosecution. Netanyahu outlined that the purpose of the inquiry was to maintain the freedom of Israeli soldiers to act, and to give a “credible and convincing response” to the international community. Al-Haq considers this inquiry, in scope, content, and control, to be nothing other than a public relations effort to limit the criticism that Israel has received. Its aim is solely to provide the Israeli government with a means of legitimizing its attack on the flotilla and its blockade of Gaza.
Al-Haq calls upon the United Nations
* To establish an independent and impartial international inquiry, with the power to compel witnesses to appear, that can investigate fully the lawfulness of Israel’s blockade of Gaza and the attack on the humanitarian aid flotilla.
Al-Haq calls upon High-Contracting Parties to the Geneva Conventions
* To act in accordance with their duties to investigate and prosecute any grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions arising from Israel’s blockade of Gaza or the attack on the flotilla.
This statement is available on Al-Haq’s website.
Al-Haq is an independent Palestinian non-governmental human rights organisation based in Ramallah, West Bank. Established in 1979 to protect and promote human rights and the rule of law in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT), the organisation has special consultative status with the United Nations Economic and Social Council.