Israel PM appoints former Supreme Court judge to head flotilla raid probe

[JURIST] Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu [official website; BBC profile] on Sunday announced [press release] the composition of an internal probe into the May 31 Israeli raid on several Turkish ships bound for the blockaded Gaza Strip [BBC backgrounder]. To head the probe, Netanyahu appointed former Israeli Supreme Court [official website] Justice Yakov Tirkel, along with Shabbtai Rosen, an international law professor and former Israeli diplomat, and retired Major General Amos Horev, a former Israeli army leader. Due to the "exceptional circumstances" of the events in question, the commission will also be overseen by two international observers, Nobel Prize laureate David Trimble and former Canadian military prosecutor Ken Watkin, to ensure the impartiality of the inquiry. The commission will produce a published report of its conclusions with respect to a number of issues, including:

Examination of the security circumstances surrounding the imposition of the naval blockade on the Gaza Strip ... the conformity of the actions taken by Israel ... with the rules of international law ... [and] the question of whether the mechanism for examining and investigating complaints ... in relation to violation of the laws of armed conflict ... as implemented with regard to the present incident, conform with ... the rules of international law.
Addressing his cabinet in its weekly meeting on Sunday, Netenyahu reiterated [press release] Israel's policy on the blockade of Gaza: "The principle of our guiding policy is clear - to prevent ... war materiel from entering Gaza and to allow the entry of humanitarian aid and non-contraband goods into the Gaza Strip." The proposed commission will be voted on the by the government Monday.

The panel will investigate the events that took place in the early hours of May 31, when Israeli forces raided six ships attempting to deliver more than 10,000 tons of aid to the Palestinian territory of Gaza. The raid left numerous wounded and resulted in the shooting deaths of nine pro-Palestine activists - eight Turks and one American. Last week, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon [official website] reiterated the importance of an international component [JURIST report] in the investigation into the raid. Ban's original proposal to establish an investigatory panel comprised of representatives from Israel, Turkey, and other unnamed countries, was rejected by Israeli officials [JURIST report]. Israeli officials have insisted that Israel has the ability and the right to resolve matters through an internal investigation and does not require international oversight. Also last week, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) [official website] launched an internal investigation [JURIST report] into the flotilla attack. The investigatory unit will study the outcomes of the incident, "establish lessons," and present its findings by July 4. Netanyahu and the nation's seven senior ministers also decided to establish a panel of jurists [Haaretz report] to investigate the attack. The panel's inquiry will be independent from the IDF investigation. The Turkish flotilla on which the violence occurred was one of six organized by the Free Gaza Movement [advocacy website] to carry protesters and humanitarian supplies to the isolated Palestinian enclave. The Gaza naval blockade began in 2007 after Hamas forcibly expelled their chief rival, Fatah [CFR backgrounders] from Gaza.

 

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