HRN condemns Israeli attack on civilians in international waters and calls for the dispatch of an international fact-finding mission
In the early morning of
May 31, 2010, Israeli security forces attacked the Gaza Freedom Flotilla, which
was sailing for the Gaza Strip, in international waters.
The flotilla was sailing
to the Gaza Strip, which is blockaded by Israel, in order to deliver
humanitarian aid, on board the flotilla were civilians, including among them
activists, journalists and politicians. It has now become clear that at least 9
civilians have died, and approximately 30 injured as a result of the
attack by Israeli commandos on the boats of the flotilla.
Human Rights Now (HRN), a
Tokyo-based international human rights NGO, strongly condemns the attack of
Israeli military, which resulted in the loss of precious lives.
The Israeli military
attacked the civilians with guns, and used weapons to attack them, causing
injury and deaths. It is clear that attacking and killing non-combatants is a
grave violation of international law. Even if, as Israel claims, civilians had
displayed resistance with the use of bats, it would never be acceptable to
attack and kill civilians since it breaches the principle of proportionality.
Further, Israel’s act of attacking civilians, based on the mere suspicion that
terrorists might be on board, is a violation of the principles of international
The blockade which Israel
has imposed on Gaza for more than three years has severely limited the flow of
basic commodities and reconstruction materials into Gaza. As a result, the
people of Gaza live in poverty and Gaza itself has fallen into a situation of
extreme humanitarian crisis. The flotilla planned to deliver precisely the
goods which would aid the people of Gaza.
Israel’s blockade amounts
to “collective punishment” which is prohibited under Article 33 of the Fourth
Geneva Convention. The international community has repeatedly requested that
Israel lift the blockade, however, Israel has completely ignored these
requests. Further, Israel, as an occupying power, has the obligations under
articles 55 and 23 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, to ensure the distribution
of food and medical supplies for the occupied population and to allow the free
passage of humanitarian aid for civilians. While Israel has clearly failed to
carry out its obligations under the Geneva Conventions, it is also clear that
Israel’s act of killing civilians on board the flotilla, who were attempting to
deliver humanitarian aid to Gaza, is unacceptable under international law.
HRN emphasizes that a
situation of impunity must not be allowed to exist in cases of grave human
rights violations, such as this one.
investigations which are independent, transparent, and impartial should be
carried out without delay, and those responsible must be punished
appropriately. The Israeli government must be held completely accountable for
this matter. On 1 June 2010, the U.N. Security Council released a statement
regarding this case. The statement calls for a prompt, impartial, credible and
transparent investigation conforming to international standards.
(S/PRST/2010/9) On 2 June 2010, the U.N. Human Rights Council adopted a
resolution in which it resolved to dispatch an independent,
international fact-finding mission to investigate violations of international
humanitarian law concerning the Israeli attacks. (A/HRC/14/L.1) The U.N.
Secretary General supported the decision to carry out these investigations.
However, Israel stands
firm in its rejection of international investigations and plans to conduct its
own investigations. However, it seems unlikely that the independence and
impartiality of such investigations can be ensured.
Israel has failed to
pursue those responsible for the deaths of numerous citizens during the Gaza
conflict which lasted from December 2008 to January 2009. In spite of the
recommendations made by the U.N. Fact-Finding Mission on the Gaza conflict, the
Goldstone Mission, Israel has not conducted credible investigations and has
denied all responsibility of war crimes.
If a situation of impunity
continues to exist, in spite of the endless human rights violations and the
deprivation of people’s llives, human rights violations will continue to
HRN strongly calls on the Israeli government to:
Disclose all the information regarding this
Accept and fully cooperate with independent
international fact-finding missions, and fulfill its accountability, with the
view to reveal fact situations and responsibility for the human rights
Release all members of the flotilla who are
still detained; and
Immediately lift the blockade on the Gaza Strip.
HRN also calls on the international community to
Establish an independent and impartial
international mission to investigate this case with concerted efforts and
strongly call on Israel to accept it; and
Strongly encourage Israel to lift the blockade
on the Gaza Strip, which is ina state of humanitarian crisis, immediately.
The Japanese government
abstained from a vote on the resolution at the U.N. Human Rights Council on 2
June 2010, even though it called for a thorough international
investigation in the talk at the U.N. Security Council on 1 June 2010. HRN
expresses deep concern about Japan’s ambiguous policy and calls for Japan to
take an initiative to bring the truth of this human rights problem to light.