Al Mezan Condemns Results Related to the Legality of the Siege, Calls for Immediate End
The New York Timeshas now published the report of the UN’s Palmer Commission. The Secretary-General established the Panel of Inquiry on the 31 May 2010 Flotilla Incident on 2 August 2010. Nine civilian activists were killedand about 50 other persons were injured on board the Mavi Marmara by Israeli forces. Hundreds of people who were on board the ship were subjected to cruelty and ill-treatment during arrest and interrogation. The UN Palmer Commission consists of Sir Geoffrey Palmer, Chair; Former Colombian President Álvaro Uribe, Vice-Chair; Mr. Joseph Ciechanover Itzhar, Israel’s representative; and Mr. Süleyman Özdem Sanberk, Turkey’s representative.
In flagrant contradiction of the position of the international community, the report concludes that the Israeli blockade imposed on the Gaza Strip is legal and complies with the standards of international law, in view of Israeli security and military circumstances.The report considered the Israeli use of force against passengers on board the Mavi Marmara, in the manner it was carried out, as “excessive and unreasonable.” The report also criticized the ill-treatment of passengers once they were detained. The Al Mezan Center for Human Rights condemns the conclusions of the Panel of Inquiry, particularly those related to the Israeli blockade imposed on the Gaza Strip. Al Mezan calls on the international community to begin workingimmediately towards bringing to an end the illegal and immoral blockade. Al Mezan points out that:
Establishment of this panel and its membership was and still isquestionable. The UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) established an International Fact Finding Mission on the violation of international law during the incident, including violations of International Humanitarian Law (IHL) and international human rights law resulting from Israel’s attack on the flotilla of ships carrying humanitarian assistance. The mission consisted of independent experts of good reputation charged to investigate the incident. The mission submitted its report to the UNHCR during its 15th session. The mission presented different conclusions based on international law than those reached in the Palmer report. The mission pronounced on the illegality of the Israeli blockade imposed on the Gaza Strip, considering it to be a form of collective punishment in violation of international law, including Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention. This analysis is in agreement with the position of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), which is considered a point of reference in the interpretation and analysis of international humanitarian law. The ICRC considers the Israeli blockade as a form of collective punishment imposed on the civilians of the Gaza Strip “in clear violation of Israel’s obligations under international humanitarian law.”The attitude of the Panel of Inquiry also contradicts the conclusions of the Goldstone report, and the posture of the international community in general.
The report of the Panel of Inquiry adopts the Israeli attitude on the blockade imposed on Gaza. This is the same attitude presented by the State of Israel in its Turkel Committee, which was established by the Israeli Prime Minister to investigate the attack on the flotilla. The Turkel Committee was headed by former justice Jacob Turkel. It concluded that the Israeli blockade on the Gaza Strip is legal, based on a narrow interpretation of IHL, ignoring the fact that Israel is an occupying power that is not allowed to blockade areas under its control. The Turkel Committee did not present any analysis based on the Israeli obligations under international human rights law. Al Mezan views the adoption of the conclusions of the Israeli committee by the Panel of Inquiry as clear bias towards Israel.
The selection of the members of the international Panel of Inquiry established by the Secretary General was bizarre. For example, when the Secretary-General chose Mr. Uribe as vice-chair, several objections arose, given that throughout his long rule his personal record was replete with violations of human rights, corruption, obstruction of rule of law and judicial independence, and attacks against human rights defenders in Colombia. These violations of international law rise to a level that would make Mr. Uribe a war criminal.
The Panel of Inquiry depended in its decisions on seeking the unanimous agreement of its members, which included the representative of the Turkish Government. In case a unanimous agreement could not be reached, the chair and the vice-chair, Mr. Uribe, were to take the decisions related to the Panel’s recommendations. This meant that any text in the report could not pass without Mr. Uribe’s approval. Accordingly, the recommendations related to the Israeli blockade imposed on Gaza are weak and unjust, as they are limited to asking Israel to evaluate the blockade and its importance from time to time and working on easing it in accordance with the humanitarian needs of the population of the Gaza Strip. The Panel of Inquiry asserted that humanitarian assistance must be allowed into the Gaza Strip in agreed ways and in coordination with Israel. The Panel of Inquiry did not recommend that Israel lift the unlawful blockade or cease its control over the entry of individuals and goods, in effect since the Israeli occupation of Gaza began in 1967.
The Al Mezan Center for Human Rights condemns the conclusions of the Panel of Inquiry, particularly its contradiction of the international consensus on the legality of Israel’s blockade on Gaza. The report of the Panel of Inquiry lacks credibility for the aforementioned reasons. Al Mezan emphasizes the importance of ending the siege and the unlawful collective punishment imposed by Israel on the Gaza Strip through action within the international community.
 See, for example, the open letter sent by members of the German Bundestag to the UN General Secretary about the appointment of the former Colombian President, available at this link:http://www.webofdemocracy.org/open-letter-flotilla-to-the.pdf. See also the more detailed essaysat the following links: http://electronicintifada.net/content/uribes-appointment-flotilla-probe-... and http://www.greenleft.org.au/node/45047.