Ban meets with members of panel of inquiry into Gaza flotilla incident

10 August 2010 - Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today met with the four-member panel of inquiry into the May Gaza flotilla incident as they sat down to map out how they will conduct their work.

The panel - comprising chairperson Geoffrey Palmer, the former New Zealand prime minister; Alvaro Uribe, vice-chair and former Colombian president; Israel's Joseph Ciechanover; and Turkey's Özdem Sanberk - "will spend the coming days determining how they will undertake their task," according to information released by the Secretary-General's office.

Mr. Ban stressed during the meeting at United Nations Headquarters in New York that the panellists "should seek the fullest cooperation of the national authorities" as they carry out their work, and they should discharge their mandate in line with the Security Council presidential statement issued following the flotilla incident on 31 May.

The first progress report from the panel is scheduled to be delivered to the Secretary-General by 15 September.

The panel is not designed to determine individual criminal responsibility, but to examine and identify the facts, circumstances and the context of the incident involving the flotilla, which had departed Turkey and was bound for the Gaza Strip.

As part of that, the panel will receive and review the reports of national investigations into the incident and request clarifications and information as it needs from national authorities.

"The Secretary-General expressed the hope that this inquiry would also make a positive contribution to the broader peace process, and more specifically to improving relations between Turkey and Israel," Mr. Ban's spokesperson said.

"He promised the full support of the Secretariat, and expected that they would also receive the fullest cooperation of the relevant national authorities," he added, noting that Mr. Ban welcomed the support he had received from the Turkish and Israeli Governments in establishing the panel.

Meanwhile, the UN Human Rights Council's international independent fact-finding mission of high-level experts that is inquiring into the same incident held its first meeting yesterday in Geneva.

That mission is charged with determining whether any violation of international law, international humanitarian and human rights law has taken place. Its report is expected to be presented to the Council's next session, slated for September.

Judge Karl T. Hudson-Phillips, a former judge with the International Criminal Court (ICC), chairs the mission, and the other members are Sir Desmond de Silva, a former chief prosecutor at the UN-backed Special Court for Sierra Leone (SCSL); and Shanthi Dairiam, a member of the Gender Equality Task Force at the UN Development Programme (UNDP).

After the first meeting Judge Hudson-Phillips stressed that the mission would approach its responsibility in an unbiased manner that is free from assumptions or pre-judgements.

He also noted that the main task of the mission is to conduct an inquiry into legal issues and possible violations of law, and that he hoped that the team would be allowed full access to all relevant persons and material.

The mission experts intend to travel to the Middle East to interview persons and gather first-hand information as far as possible.