Israel avoids ‘war crimes’ action over flotilla raid

Israeli forces may have committed war crimes when they stormed an aid flotilla boat heading to Gaza, but the possible crimes aren’t grave enough to merit a prosecution at the International Criminal Court (ICC), its prosecutor said yesterday.

Eight Turks and one Turkish-American were killed and several other pro-Palestinian activists were wounded when Israeli commandos stormed the Mavi Marmara on May 31, 2010.

“Following a thorough legal and factual analysis of the information available, I have concluded there is a reasonable basis to believe that war crimes under the jurisdiction of the ICC were committed on one of the vessels ...when Israeli Defence Forces intercepted the ‘Gaza Freedom Flotilla’ on 31 May 2010,” Fatou Bensouda said in a statement.

But Bensouda said that any cases relating to the storming “would not be of sufficient gravity to justify further action by the ICC.”

“I have to be guided by the Rome Statute, in accordance with which, the ICC shall prioritise war crimes committed on a large scale or pursuant to a plan or policy,” Bensouda said. Israel’s Foreign Ministry welcomed the decision. It called the case “legally unfounded and politically motivated”.

Bensouda opened a preliminary investigation last year after the tiny African state of Comoros — which is a member of the court — filed a complaint about the storming of the ship which was flying under a Comoros flag. A Turkish lawyer representing Comoros vowed not to give up the case.

“This is a moral struggle... It’s a legal struggle, a struggle in the name of humanity. This struggle isn’t over,” Ramazan Ariturk told reporters. A UN report in July 2011 found that the raid was justified, but that Israel used excessive force.


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