Ref: 60/2012

The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) welcomes the
indictment on Monday, 28 May 2012, of four senior Israeli military commanders,
who have been charged in a Turkish court in connection with the killing of nine
Turkish citizens in 2010.

 

Last Thursday, 31 May 2012, marked the second anniversary of the
Israeli attack on the Mavi Marmara, one of the ships of the Freedom Flotilla.
The attack occurred while the ship was in international waters and travelling
towards the Gaza Strip, carrying humanitarian aid for Gaza’s civilian
population.

 

Indicted are the former Israeli military chief of staff, Lieutenant
General Gabi Ashkenazi, the former head of military intelligence, Major General
Amos Yadlin, head of the navy, Vice Admiral Eliezer Marom, and head of the air
force, Brigadier General Avishai Lev. It has been reported that warrants have
been issued for their arrest.

 

PCHR holds that the attack against Mavi Marmara was a crime, which
involved the use of excessive and lethal force and resulted in the killing of
nine civilian solidarity activists and the wounding of at least 50 others.
Israel carried out an inquiry into the attack, which failed to meet the
requirements of international law. Israel has not prosecuted anyone involved in
the raid.

 

These crimes must be fully investigated and those
responsible held to account. For example, under Article 146 of the Fourth
Geneva Convention, each High Contracting Party is “under the obligation to
search for persons alleged to have committed, or to have ordered to be
committed, such grave breaches, and shall bring such persons, regardless of
their nationality, before its own courts.” It may also, if it prefers, choose
to hand such persons over for trial to another High Contracting Party.

 

PCHR welcomes the indictments by Turkey as the fulfilment of its
legal obligations and an important step in the tackling of impunity. The Report
of the UN Fact-Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict found that “long-standing
impunity has been a key factor in the perpetuation of violence in the region
and in the reoccurrence of violations, as well as in the erosion of confidence
among Palestinians and many Israelis concerning prospects for justice and a peaceful
solution to the conflict”. PCHR believes that Israel must be held accountable
for the killing and wounding of human rights activists in May 2010. It is
imperative that the rule of international law be upheld.

 

PCHR holds that the closure imposed by Israel on the Gaza Strip is
illegal and constitutes a form of collective punishment, prohibited under
Article 33 of the 1949 Fourth Geneva Convention Relative to the Protection of
Civilian Persons in Time of War. It is also a war crime, the recurrence of
which must be prevented by all parties, including the High Contracting Parties
to the Fourth Geneva Convention. This view is maintained in legal opinions
issued by many international legal experts and UN bodies concerned with human
right and international humanitarian law.

 

In this context, PCHR calls upon:

 

1. Turkey to conduct the impending
trial in accordance with the rule of law and international fair trial
standards, to establish whether the accused hold responsibility for the illegal
attack on Mavi Marmara;

 

2. Israel to bring an end to the
illegal closure of the Gaza Strip, which constitutes a form of collective
punishment, prohibited under Article 33 of the 1949 Fourth Geneva Convention
Relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War;

 

3. Israel to respect the right to
freedom of movement of international humanitarian organisations and human
rights defenders; and

 

4. The international community and
the High Contacting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention to fulfil their
legal and moral obligations, apply the rules of international law, and put a
just end to the suffering of the Palestinian people.