Tuesday, June 1

Al Mezan Calls on International Community to Investigate and Protect Solidarity Activists

In a very serious escalation, today, Monday, 31 May 2010, Israeli navy vessels attacked the Freedom Fleet in international waters. The fleet carried medical and humanitarian aid that was destined to the besieged Gaza Strip's population, who has been under a tight Israeli siege for three years. According to media sources, at least 16 activists have been reported killed. Dozens others were injured. Different media sources, including Israeli media, reported that the attack took place while the fleet was more than 34 nautical miles off the Gaza shore. All states must enjoy high seas rights in international waters. Al Mezan Centre for Human Rights strongly condemns this assault and calls for an independent international investigation into it.

Al Mezan Centre has followed the developments with the Freedom Fleet with much concern. Al Mezan expresses its shock at the conduct of the Israeli navy, which has resulted in the loss of civilian life. The Israeli navy used excessive and lethal force against civilian solidarity activists on board of the ships. These activists come from about 40 countries.

Al Mezan expresses its strong condemnation of this new Israeli attack, which shows that Israel continues to absolve itself of its obligations under international law. It also shows Israel’s contempt of the international community.

Al Mezan reiterates that the conduct of the Israeli navy exposes a deep contradiction in Israel’s contention that the Gaza Strip is no longer an Israeli-occupied territory. Israel claims that it does not have any responsibility for the human rights of Gaza’s population. However, today’s assault confirms the opposite. Israel controls the Gaza Strip and its aerial and marine spaces. Although the actual attack was in international waters, Israel had announced its intention to intercept the fleet on its way to Gaza. Therefore, Israel is an occupying power and is obliged to respect international humanitarian law and international human rights law in its dealings with the population.

Al Mezan emphasizes that the Israeli excessive use of force against the fleet constitutes a grave violation of international law and international human rights law. In this particular situation, Israel was dealing with a group of civilians carrying humanitarian aid. They do not represent any threat that could justify resorting to using military force in self-defence. The fleet poses not threats to Israel or its forces which take part in besieging and occupying the Gaza Strip. Moreover, the attack took place in international waters, where the crews of the ships are entitled to prevent any persons from boarding their ships without their permission. The fleet’s ships were flying flags of various states. Attacking these vessels is a violation of the sovereignty of these states.

Al Mezan expresses its deep shock at the Israeli attack and the loss of life in this attack against solidarity activists who were on the fleet. Al Mezan strongly condemns Israel’s conduct, which adds to Israel’s serious violations of international law. Al Mezan also expresses its concern for the hundreds of solidarity activists who remain in Israeli detention.

Al Mezan calls on the international community to take effective and urgent steps to ensure the safety of the civilian solidarity activists who were on their way to the Gaza Strip. It also calls the international community to investigate Israel’s conduct and bring those who ordered or committed violations to justice.

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