I.P.O. Information Service
Free Gaza flotilla:
International Progress Organization calls for investigation of reports of cold-blooded murder on board the Turkish ship Mavi Marmara;
calls upon Israel and Egypt to immediately and permanently lift the illegal siege on Gaza;
urges Arab governments to follow humanitarian example set by the Republic of Turkey
Vienna, 3 June 2010
In a statement issued today, Dr. Hans Köchler, President of the International Progress Organization (I.P.O.), an international NGO in consultative status with the United Nations, called for an urgent investigation into reports of cold-blooded murder on board the Turkish ship Mavi Marmara in international waters, while it was on a sail with humanitarian cargo to be unloaded at the port of Gaza. Credible eyewitness reports from passengers of the Turkish ship and initial reports from Turkish forensic experts indicate that several passengers, including a journalist, were shot at close range. An investigation will also urgently have to reconcile the discrepancy between the number, reported by the flotilla organizers, of wounded who were handed over to the Israelis for treatment (38), and the number of wounded given by the Israeli authorities (21). The numerous eyewitness reports of mistreatment of passengers in Israeli detention will also have to be investigated.
Commission with adequate authority
While welcoming the initiative of the United Nations Human Rights Council, the President of the I.P.O. said that an international commission of inquiry should be set up by the United Nations Security Council on the basis of a Chapter VII resolution. Only such a procedure, for which there are precedents, would give the commission the necessary authority and independence vis-à-vis all states involved. The “international standards” which the Security Council’s “Presidential Statement” of 1 June 2010 is referring to in its “call” for a “prompt, impartial, credible and transparent investigation,” can only be met if the Council follows up on its declaration and uses its coercive powers to establish a commission of inquiry.
As regards the legal issues in the ongoing controversy over the use of force against the Free Gaza flotilla, the President of the I.P.O. stated that the State of Israel has no legal right to prevent ships with humanitarian cargo from reaching the port of Gaza. As de facto occupying power in Gaza, Israel is under an obligation to strictly observe the provisions of the Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War of 12 August 1949 (Fourth Geneva Convention). The blockade imposed on Gaza since June 2007 by Israel, together with Egypt, has caused enormous suffering among the civilian population and is an act of collective punishment. As such, it constitutes a blatant violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention, and in particular its Article 33. Apart from the attack on the Gaza flotilla having occurred in international waters – far from the territorial waters of the occupied Gaza strip and still outside the unilaterally declared Israeli “exclusion” zone –, there exists no legal justification for the enforcement of an illegal embargo.
On the basis of the principle of state responsibility, the State of Israel and the Arab Republic of Egypt are jointly responsible for the human suffering caused by the siege imposed on the people of Gaza, a tragedy that is documented in numerous reports of international humanitarian organizations, including United Nations agencies such as UNRWA. Those states are liable to compensate the innocent people of Gaza for the damages caused by the embargo. While welcoming the (partial) opening of the Rafah border crossing by Egypt – a decision made only after the tragedy on board Mavi Marmara and because of public opinion in the Arab and wider Muslim world –, the President of the I.P.O. called upon the Egyptian government to unconditionally lift the blockade and follow the example of the government of the Republic of Turkey in its just and steadfast support to the people of Gaza. Innocent civilians must never be made hostage to political disputes, the President of the I.P.O. concluded.
International Progress Organization