Turkey publishes its report on the Mavi Marmara

February 12, 2011


Turkey unveils its final report on Israeli attack on Gaza-bound aid convoy

Plus: Richard Silverstein provides an analysis in Turkey Flotilla Inquiry: Activists Killed ‘Execution Style’

Turkey on Friday made public its report on the May 31 Israeli attack on a humanitarian aid convoy that killed eight Turks and an American of Turkish origin and injured many others.

Turkey repeatedly asked Israel to officially apologize and pay compensation for all the loss and damages caused by its illegal attack.

The report, prepared by Turkish National Commission of Inquiry, has been submitted to the Panel of Inquiry set up by the UN Secretary-General in August 2010, in accordance with the Presidential Statement issued by the UN Security Council in June 2010 which called for a prompt, impartial, credible and transparent investigation conforming to international standards.

The executive summary of the report recalled that Israeli military forces on the early hours of May 31, 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 nearest coast, and 64 nautical miles from the zone declared unlawfully, as will be seen, blockaded by Israel. As a result of the attack, eight Turkish citizens and one US citizen of Turkish descent were killed. Over 70 passengers from a host of nationalities were wounded. One of these remains in a coma to this day,” the summary said.

The executive summary of the report continues: The vessels that set sail from Turkey had been duly inspected for security, immigration and customs. The passengers on board, their personal belongings and the large volume of humanitarian aid had also been thoroughly checked. It was firmly established that there were no firearms or any sort of weapon on board the vessels. 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.

The Israeli forces mounted a full-fledged and well-planned attack with frigates, helicopters, zodiacs, submarines, and elite combat troops 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 Israeli military action was of excessive disproportion to such magnitude that the United Nations Human Rights Council Fact-Finding Mission used the terms ’totally unnecessary and incredible violence.. unacceptable level of brutality.’ The passengers only exercised a lawful right of self-defense, without any firearms, against the armed attack of the Israeli forces.

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, verbally and psychologically. The passengers were beaten, kicked, elbowed, punched, deprived of food and water, handcuffed, left exposed to sun, sprayed with sea-water for hours, and denied toilet access.

During and after the 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 in Hebrew which most did not even understand; they were not allowed access to legal assistance, or to consular officials, nor provided with proper and timely medical care. They were denied adequate food and were confined to restricted spaces with extreme temperatures.

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.

The severe abuse against the passengers continued throughout their stay in Israel, including their transport to prison/hospital and therefrom to the Ben Gurion Airport which was the scene to the second most brutal episode in this tragedy. The passengers who arrived at the airport, exhausted by the ordeal they were subjected to, were taunted, paraded as terrorists and enemies, verbally abused, spat on, bullied, pushed around and manhandled just to spark the slightest reaction which would be countered with massive retribution, resulting in mass beatings where officers brutalizing the passengers were shielded from view by their colleagues.

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 unlawfulness of the attack put aside, the killing of nine civilian passengers on the Mavi Marmara was first and foremost a violation of the right to life 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. 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).

The Israeli attack on the humanitarian aid convoy in international waters constitutes 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.

The Law of the Sea restricts the right of warships to seize a foreign ship, and its property and arrest the persons on board only in the case of pirate ships or aircraft.

Israel’s failure to recognize its armed conflict with Hamas as one of international character precludes it from establishing any lawful naval blockade off the Gaza Strip. Since Israel’s naval ’blockade’ on the Gaza Strip is unlawful, any act it performs as a function of this ’blockade’ is also unlawful par excellence.

Israel’s naval ’blockade’ against the Gaza Strip, as it existed on 31 May 2010, was also in violation of the principles of international law governing blockade, as laid down in the San Remo Manual.

Even assuming, in arguendum, the validity of the basis of Israel’s ’blockade’, its implementation would render it unlawful. It was excessive, unreasonable, and disproportionate to any military advantage to be achieved in relation to its impact on the civilian population. This has been documented by numerous UN agencies and the international community at large.

Numerous official statements acknowledged 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 retains effective control over the Gaza Strip and is generally recognized by the international community and the UN as the occupying power there. As a result, Israel cannot lawfully impose a blockade on the Gaza Strip. From this perspective also, the Israeli blockade is illegal and any interdiction based on such blockade is, by definition, unlawful.

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.

The condemnation of Israel’s attack is also crucial for the future of the right of navigation on the high seas. Otherwise, a dangerous precedential derogation from that paramount right will be established?with far-reaching ramifications that may not be accurately estimated today.

tikun-olamTurkey Flotilla Inquiry: Activists Killed ‘Execution Style’

Richard Silverstein, 12 February 2011

Turkey’s investigation of the Mavi Marmara massacre contains troubling findings that two victims were killed before any IDF soldiers boarded the ship, in fire from helicopters, that the youngest victim, a Turkish-American, was killed execution style after being wounded in the leg, and that a photographer was killed with a laser-guided weapon while taking photographs:

The report said Israeli soldiers fired live bullets from helicopters, killing two of the activists, even before they had rappelled on board. Five of the victims were killed from close range, it added.

Furkan Dogan, the 19-year-old Turkish-American, was lying wounded after being shot in the leg when he was kicked by two soldiers, who then shot him from close range “execution-style,” according to the summary.

Another activist, Cevdet Kiliclar, was killed with laser-guided weapons while taking photographs, the report said.

…The report said none of the people on board had firearms and that Israeli soldiers continued to fire even after activists waved white flags.

The Dogan murder in particular echoes the known IDF “kill shot” technique (also known in Hebrew as “confirming the kill”) by which anyone wounded in specific types of operations is killed execution style by a shot to the head. The murder of Ziad Jilani followed this method. A 13 year-old Gaza schoolgirl carrying a school bag was shot 17 times while 100 yards from an IDF watch tower. Captain R too fired three point blank kill shots into the unarmed girl to confirm the kill, placed his weapon on automatic and emptied the magazine into her. He did so despite the fact that troops under his command repeatedly identified her as a child and never identified her as posing any threat. Here is a transcript of conversations among the officer and his observation tower:

From the watchtower “It’s a little girl. She’s running defensively eastward.” “Are we talking about a girl under the age of 10?” “A girl about 10, she’s behind the embankment, scared to death.” “I think that one of the positions took her out.” “I and another soldier … are going in a little nearer, forward, to confirm the kill … Receive a situation report. We fired and killed her … I also confirmed the kill. Over.”

“This is commander. Anything that’s mobile, that moves in the zone, even if it’s a three-year-old, needs to be killed. Over

The IDF cleared him of all but minor charges in the incident. The following year he was promoted to major and received compensation for his legal fees.

In Bethlehem in 2008, an IDF hit squad first wounded and then executed four wanted Palestinians. Here is how an eye-witness described the murders, which may give you an impression of what it was like that night on the Mavi Marmara:

I stood in front of the shop…and saw a red Daihatsu parked behind my car. I saw a man walking three meters from the car. Then I heard someone call out, “’Imad!”…I saw the man called ‘Imad turn toward the voice and then I heard the sound of a gunshot. The bullet hit ‘Imad in the leg and he fell to the ground.

Immediately after that, I saw six soldiers, in uniform, with helmets and masks, approach the Daihatsu and open massive gunfire at it. I saw the blue ricochet of the bullets. They fired into the car for a long time. The man who had called out to ‘Imad stood next to the minibus and didn’t fire. He was wearing civilian clothes – a blue shirt and jeans – and looked as though he was in his forties. He had a potbelly and was tall, dark-skinned and bald…

I heard ‘Imad cry out. He was lying in the middle of the street. Then I saw the soldiers who had fired at the Daihatsu turn toward him and shoot him in the head. His brain scattered all over the ground, which was a horrible sight.

Then I saw the man in civilian clothes holding a weapon. He went over to the Daihatsu and shot the heads of the three men who were inside. They didn’t move. He shot them from behind, in the head. I didn’t know who they were or why they had been executed.

After that, the man in civilian clothes fired one shot into the head of ‘Imad, whose brain was already scattered on the ground. Then he went back to the minibus, got in with the soldiers, and they drove off.

I went over to the Daihatsu and looked inside. I was shocked when I saw my uncle, ‘Issa Marzuq Zawahreh, who was 36 years old, sitting in the back seat of the car. His head was shattered and resting on the shoulder of his friend, Muhammad Shehadeh, who was next to him…Their heads, which had bullet holes in the back, were leaning forward. It was a terrifying sight, as was the sight of Ahmad al-Balbul, who was sitting next to the driver’s seat. Part of his body was scattered on the seat. The three were killed while sitting in the car. The firing was massive and lasted about two minutes.

In a separate report on France24, a Turkish diplomat specifically refutes an Israeli claim that those on board the Mavi Marmara fired weapons at the IDF boarding party:

Rende also dismissed the claim Friday, saying that “the passengers in no way used any firearms against the Israeli forces.”

He said passengers had seized three weapons from Israeli soldiers in the melee on board, but threw them into the sea.

The UN has been waiting for both countries’ reports before issuing its own. It doesn’t seem possible for the UN to issue a finding that won’t be deeply controversial unless the actual one makes virtually no substantive judgments. It will be interesting to see whether the UN inquiry has the courage of its convictions or takes the easy way out.

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