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UN rights body urges Israel to allow international inquiry into flotilla raid

The UN Human Rights Committee [official website] on Friday called on Israel to cooperate [report, DOC] with an international inquiry into the May flotilla incident [JURIST news archive], in which Israeli forces raided several Turkish ships bound for the blockaded Gaza Strip [BBC backgrounder]. The committee, charged with monitoring compliance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights [text], made a series of recommendations in order to bring the Israeli government into compliance with the covenant, to which it is a state party. It went on to call for an end to the blockade on Gaza, noting that a recent easing [JURIST report] was insufficient to ensure that Gazans had access to basic necessities. The committee also called into question the independence of the Israeli government's internal investigation into the flotilla incident, urging Israel to invite in an international inquiry, something which Israel has refused to do [JURIST reports]. The committee stated:

While noting the preliminary findings of the State party's investigation into the incident, the Committee is concerned at the absence of independence of the commission of inquiry and the prohibition to question the officials of the State party's armed forces involved in the incident. The State party should lift its military blockade of the Gaza Strip, insofar as it adversely affects the civilian population. The State party should invite an independent, international fact-finding mission to establish the circumstances of the boarding of the flotilla, including its compatibility with the Covenant.
The committee went on to criticize Israel's noncompliance with the covenant in several other areas. It called on Israel to amend its Basic Law [text] to include general provisions for nondiscrimination, which are currently lacking, and urged Israel to enforce the provisions of the covenant in Gaza, the West Bank [GlobalSecurity backgrounder] and the Golan Heights [History backgrounder]. The Israeli government argues that this is not required due to an ongoing state of war, something the committee disputes. The committee also called on Israel to repeal its citizenship law, outlaw the use of torture in all circumstances, end construction of the separation wall, reform its housing policies [JURIST reports] and conduct a credible investigation into international human rights violations during Operation Cast Lead [JURIST news archive].

Earlier this week, a senior Israeli official announced that his government would not cooperate with an investigation into the incident conducted by the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) [official website], but will comply with a separate UN investigation created under the authority of UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon [official website]. Also in July, an Israeli military probe found insufficient intelligence and planning in the raid, but also concluded that no punishments were necessary. The military probe was conducted at the same time as a civilian one established by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu [official profile; BBC profile] last month. In June, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) [official website] called for an end to the blockade [JURIST report], which it labeled a violation of international humanitarian law. The organization described the blockade as collective punishment, a war crime under Article 33 of the Geneva Conventions [text; ICRC backgrounder], and called on the international community to work to persuade Israel to lift the closure.

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