The council’s report, announced Wednesday, was met positively by Turkey but dismissed by Israel as “biased.”
In a 56-page report (pdf), the UNHCR’s three-member panel wrote that Israeli commandos had committed war crimes during their May 31 raid of the Turkish aid ship the MV Mavi Marmara that left nine Turkish, pro-Palestinian activists dead. Although Israel contends that its soldiers acted in self-defense, the council found that their response was “disproportionate” and that soldiers exercised an “unacceptable level of brutality.”
IN PICTURES: The Gaza flotilla and the aftermath of the Israeli naval raid
“There is clear evidence to support prosecutions of the following crimes within the terms of article 147 of the Fourth Geneva Convention: willful killing; torture or inhuman treatment; wilfully causing great suffering or serious injury to body or health,” wrote the report’s authors.
The council also found that Israel’s blockade of Gaza is “unlawful” because of the humanitarian crisis, reports the BBC.
The three-member council consisted of Karl T. Hudson-Phillips, a retired judge of the International Criminal Court; Desmond de Silva, former chief prosecutor of the United Nations-backed Special Court for Sierra Leone; and Mary Shanthi Dairiam of Malaysia, a former member of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women.
In Turkey, where relations with Israel have been immensely tense following the raid, most politicians welcomed the news and praised the objectivity of the panel. Turkey is Israel’s only Muslim ally and it has demanded that Israel officially apologize, compensate the victims’ families, and lift the blockade on Gaza, reports Press TV.
“We appreciate [the report]…. It meets our expectations. I hope the Israeli side will… from now on act within international law,” said Ahmet Davutoglu, Turkey’s foreign minister. “Our aim is not to cause any political crisis, but to make sure that everyone respects international law and that no country sees itself above the law.”