Wednesday, 15 May 2013

ICC launches inquiry into Israeli raid on Gaza flotilla

The International Criminal Court (ICC) has launched a preliminary inquiry into an Israeli raid on a Gaza-bound flotilla which left nine Turkish activists dead.

ICC chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda said it would establish whether there were grounds for a full investigation.

The move follows a request from the Comoros islands, in which one of the vessels was registered.

The boats were trying to transport aid supplies to Gaza in May 2010.

The Free Gaza Flotilla, which had more than 600 pro-Palestinian activists aboard several ships, was trying to break Israel's naval blockade.

The activists were killed when Israeli commandos boarded the lead flotilla vessel, Mavi Marmara.

"My office will be conducting a preliminary examination in order to establish whether the criteria for opening an investigation are met," Ms Bensouda said in a statement on Tuesday.

She said she had met with a Turkish law firm acting on behalf of the government of the Union of the Comoros, an island state in the Indian Ocean.

Israel's assault on the Mavi Marmara drew widespread foreign criticism and strained its ties with Turkey.

A UN inquiry in 2011 found the Israeli commandos' actions were "excessive and unreasonable".

However, it also found Israel's naval blockade "was imposed as a legitimate security measure" which "complied with the requirements of international law".

Israel says the blockade is necessary to prevent weapons and ammunition being smuggled to the Gaza Strip, which has been governed by the Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas since 2007.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu apologised to Turkey in March 2013 for "any errors that could have led to loss of life" during the raid, and agreed to compensate the families of those killed.

The ICC investigates and tries cases of war crimes and crimes against humanity in countries that are unwilling or unable to prosecute them on their own, often at the request of ratifying states.

It does not have automatic jurisdiction over Israel as it is not a party to the treaty establishing the ICC.

But lawyers from the Istanbul-based firm Elmadag argued that events should be considered as having taken place on the territory of Comoros, which is a member of the court, according to the news agency AP.

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