Israeli Killings of Gaza Ship Activists Must Be Investigated

May 31, 2010

UPDATE: Amnesty International interim Secretary General Claudio Cordone called for an international inquiry into the deaths caused by the raid on the aid flotilla in international waters outside Gaza today.

Given the international nature of this incident and the continuing lack of credible Israeli investigations into violations of human rights in the context of the Gaza conflict, there is also a need for an immediate international investigation.

The Israeli authorities have the primary responsibility to investigate the use of lethal force by its forces, as well as the claims by Israeli officials that Israeli forces were attacked with a range of weapons. But for full credibility and transparency, Israel should invite the relevant UN experts to carry out an investigation into the events of 31 May.

Beyond this tragedy, however, it is imperative that Israel lifts the blockade of Gaza without delay, as it is a form of collective punishment in contravention of international law and primarily affects the most vulnerable among the population.

Israeli armed forces today stormed a ship carrying supplies for Gaza, killing 10 activists on board. The circumstances remain unclear; however, it appears that Israeli forces have used excessive force. Amnesty International has called for Israel to launch an immediate, credible and independent investigation into the killing. Malcolm Smart, Amnesty International’s director for the Middle East and North Africa, had issued the following statement:

Israeli forces appear clearly to have used excessive force. Israel says its forces acted in self-defence, alleging that they were attacked by protestors, but it begs credibility that the level of lethal force used by Israeli troops could have been justified. It appears to have been out of all proportion to any threat posed.

The killings have drawn strong criticism and worldwide condemnation. The UN is preparing an emergency session for Tuesday.

High Representative Catherine Ashton expresses her deep regret at the news of loss of life and violence and extends her sympathies to families of the dead and wounded. On behalf of the European Union she demands a full enquiry about the circumstances in which this happened…The continued policy of closure is unacceptable and politically counter-productive. She calls for an immediate, sustained and unconditional opening of the crossing for the flow of humanitarian aid, commercial goods and persons to and from Gaza – European Union

The United States deeply regrets the loss of life and injuries sustained, and is currently working to understand the circumstances surrounding this tragedy – White House Spokesman William Burton

It is vital that there is a full investigation to determine exactly how this bloodshed took place. I believe Israel must urgently provide a full explanation – UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon

Israel’s blockade of Gaza suffocates daily life
Israel’s blockade of Gaza leaves more than 1.4 million Palestinians cut off from the outside world and struggling with desperate poverty. Israel has a duty under international law to ensure the welfare of Gaza‘s inhabitants, including their rights to health, education, food and adequate housing.

The blockade does not target armed groups but rather punishes Gaza’s entire population by restricting the entry of food, medical supplies, educational equipment and building materials. Unsurprisingly, its impact falls most heavily on those most vulnerable among Gaza’s 1.5 million people: children, the elderly and the sick. The blockade constitutes collective punishment under international law and must be lifted immediately.