Israel can improve war crimes investigations: commission report News
Israel can improve war crimes investigations: commission report
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[JURIST] A civilian committee tasked with investigating Israel’s 2010 flotilla raid [UN report, PDF; JURIST news archive] on several Turkish ships headed for the blockaded Gaza Strip concluded [report, PDF] on Wednesday that investigations by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) [official website] of alleged war crimes violations meet the standards proscribed by international law, but that there is still room to improve “the system of reviewing and investigating.” In Part II of its overall report, the Turkel Commission [official website] made 18 recommendations [press release, PDF] to various branches of the Israeli government for improving its response to future incidents like the raid. Among its most imperative recommendations, the commission stressed the need to “establish a unit specializing in the laws of armed conflict … at the Ministry of Justice.” Additionally, given that a criminal investigation was not opened immediately after the Gaza flotilla raid, the group urged “the adoption of a policy that requires investigations into significant and unusual incidents” despite there being no legal obligation to do so. Finally, the commission recommended that the scene of such incidents be investigated by a fact-finding assessment team assigned to focus on the legal aspects of the incident. The work of the commission, which is headed by former Israeli Supreme Court [official website] Justice Jacob Turkel and began over two years ago, is now complete.

The Turkel Commission released the first part of its report [JURIST report] in January 2011, finding that Israel was in full compliance with international law regarding both security maritime regulations and humanitarian obligations during the Gaza flotilla raid, which resulted in the deaths of nine pro-Palestine activists. In September 2010 the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) [official website] agreed to adopt a report that criticized Israel’s raid [JURIST reports] of the Gaza-bound flotilla and finding that the country committed various violations of human rights and international humanitarian law. One month prior, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu [official website] testified before the civilian commission [JURIST report] and expressed confidence that the commission would find Israeli actions to be in compliance with international law, explaining the Israeli response to the flotilla in the context of the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas. In July 2010 an Israeli military probe into the flotilla incident found insufficient intelligence and planning, but concluded that no punishments were necessary [JURIST report]. The incident took place on May 31, 2010 when Israeli forces raided six ships attempting to deliver more than 10,000 tons of aid to Gaza. International law scholars have disagreed about the propriety of the IDF’s raid, with some claiming that there were clear violations of international law while others found the raid necessary and proportionate [JURIST op-eds].