Security Council calls for inquiry into Israeli action against Gaza aid ships

The UN Security Council on June 1 called for a “prompt, impartial, credible and transparent investigation” into the previous day’s raid by Israeli commandos on an aid flotilla bound for the blockaded Gaza Strip in which 10 civilians on a Turkish ship were killed. Reaffirming two earlier resolutions calling for a two-state solution (Resolution 1850) and unimpeded humanitarian assistance (Resolution 1860), the Council urged Israel to allow other nations to retrieve their wounded and deceased and to ensure delivery of the aid materials aboard the ships.

During the meeting, Turkish Minister of Foreign Affairs Ahmet Davutoglu said that Israel had committed a “grave breach of international law” by attacking a civilian vessel with inappropriate and disproportionate force, and had violated international maritime law by boarding a vessel without the consent of the captain or the flag state. Davutoglu said suspected illegal acts by a ship’s crew did not justify the violation of international customary norms. Claims that the military action was a violation of international law were also made by representatives from Russia, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Mexico.

Israeli Deputy Permanent Representative Daniel Carmon defended the action, saying that a maritime blockade is a legitimate measure during armed conflict, and that the blockade of Gaza was necessary to prevent the smuggling of arms into Palestinian territory. Carmon insisted the activists aboard the ships were “not peace activists” or “messengers of goodwill,” but rather were using the promise of humanitarian aid as a cover for blockade-running. Carmon noted that the raid came after repeated warnings from the Israeli government about the existence of the blockade, the convoy’s attempts to bypass the UN and other international aid agencies, and the refusal of offers to transfer the aid materials to Israeli ships for distribution.

The Security Council’s statement comes a day after UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay both condemned the Israeli action and called for an independent inquiry.

The Gaza naval blockade began in 2007 after Hamas, designated as a terrorist organization by the US State Department, was elected as the ruling party of the Palestinian Authority. In January 2008, then-UN High Commissioner on Human Rights Louise Arbour condemned the blockade, saying that it was collective punishment.

From Jurist, June 1. Used with permission.

  1. US equivocates in Israeli attack
    The Obama administration backed the Security Council resolution that condemned “acts” resulting in the nine deaths on the Mavi Marmara. But the New York Times reports June 1 that US diplomats “diluted” demands for exclusive condemnation of Israel. “Direct delivery by sea is neither appropriate nor responsible, and certainly not effective, under the circumstances,” said Alejandro D. Wolff, the US deputy permanent representative to the UN. But he also described the situation in Gaza as “unsustainable” and called on Israel to undertake a credible investigation.

    Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan called the raid, which killed at least four Turkish citizens, a “bloody massacre” and said Israel should immediately end “the inhumane embargo on Gaza.”

    Most of the detained activists remain in custody in southern Israel, awaiting deportation. At least 48 who agreed to identify themselves to the Israeli authorities—including a former US diplomat, Edward Peck, and the Swedish writer Henning Mankell—were on their way back home. The Israeli government said it intends to deport all the activists within 48 hours. Israel has not provided journalists with access to those detained.

  2. UN Human Rights Council authorizes Gaza investigation
    The UN Human Rights Council voted over US opposition to authorize an independent international investigation of Israel’s deadly naval raid. The resolution was adopted by a 32-3 vote, with nine abstentions. The US, Netherlands and Italy voted against the measure. The resolution states that the Geneva-based council “decides to dispatch an independent international fact-finding mission to investigate violations of international law, including international humanitarian aid and human rights law, resulting from the Israeli attacks on the flotilla of ships carrying humanitarian assistance.” (Bloomberg, June 2)