A United Nations panel of human rights experts has accused Israel of war crimes through willful killing, unnecessary brutality and torture in its “clearly unlawful” assault on a ship attempting to break the blockade of Gaza in May in which nine Turkish activists died.
The report by three experts appointed by the UN’s Human Rights Council (UNHRC) described the seizure of MV Mavi Marmara, a Turkish vessel, by Israeli commandos as illegal under international law.
It condemned the treatment of the passengers and crew as brutal and disproportionate. It also said that the Israeli blockade of the Palestinian enclave is illegal because of the scale of the humanitarian crisis in Gaza.
“There is clear evidence to support prosecutions of the following crimes within the terms of article 147 of the fourth Geneva convention: wilful killing; torture or inhuman treatment; wilfully causing great suffering or serious injury to body or health,” the report said.
“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.”
Israel swiftly dismissed the accusations as “politicised and extremist”. But the report is likely to be welcomed by Turkey which has dramatically cooled once-close relations with the Jewish state since the attack on the ship.
The 56-page report – compiled by a former UN war crimes prosecutor, Desmond de Silva, a judge from Trinidad, Karl Hudson-Phillips, and a Malaysian women’s rights advocate, Mary Shanthi Dairiam – accuses Israeli forces of various crimes including violating the right to life, liberty and freedom of expression, and of failing to treat the captured crew and passengers with humanity.