As ICC closes Marmara case, Israel says it should never have been opened
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As ICC closes Marmara case, Israel says it should never have been opened

Foreign Ministry denounces ‘pointless’ probe over Turkish flotilla incident, says decision by Hague court not to pursue war crimes investigation ‘positive’

The Mavi Marmara is towed by a tugboat as it leaves the port of the northern city of Haifa, August 5, 2010. (Herzl Shapira/Flash90)
The Mavi Marmara is towed by a tugboat as it leaves the port of the northern city of Haifa, August 5, 2010. (Herzl Shapira/Flash90)

Israel’s Foreign Ministry scolded the International Criminal Court Thursday for considering an inquiry into a deadly raid on a Turkish ship, despite the court’s decision not to pursue the probe.

In a statement, the ministry denounced the “pointless” and “unfounded and politically motivated” inquiry into the 2010 raid on the Mavi Marmara that left nine Turkish citizens dead during a melee with Israeli troops.

The ICC prosecutor said Thursday that Israeli forces may have committed war crimes when they stormed the aid flotilla boat heading to Gaza, but that the possible crimes were not grave enough to merit a prosecution at the International Criminal Court.

The Foreign Ministry condemned the court’s failure to address the right to self-defense of the IDF soldiers on board the Gaza flotilla, and maintained that the international body did not take into consideration Israel’s internal investigation of the incident and a previous UN probe.

“Israel believes that it was pointless to initiate a preliminary inquiry in the first place, and regrets that the resources and precious time of the Court – an institution established to combat the world’s worst atrocities – were allocated to an unfounded and politically motivated legal complaint,” the ministry said in a statement.

Footage taken from the "Mavi Marmara" security cameras, showing activists preparing to attack IDF soldiers, May, 2010. (Photo credit: IDF Spokesperson / FLASH90)
Footage taken from the “Mavi Marmara” security cameras, showing activists preparing to attack IDF soldiers, May, 2010. (Photo credit: IDF Spokesperson / FLASH90)

The ministry said it viewed favorably the decision to close the probe. That comment did not initially appear in an English version, though it was later added in.

Eight Turks and one Turkish-American were killed and several other pro-Palestinian activists were wounded when Israeli commandos intercepted the Mavi Marmara ship on May 31, 2010, as it attempted to bust Israel’s naval blockade on the Gaza Strip.

The Israel Defense Forces said its soldiers acted in self-defense after they were attacked with lethal weapons. Several soldiers were seriously injured in the fracas, which served to further damage ties between Jerusalem and Ankara.

Prosecutor Fatou 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 boarding of the ship, which was flying under a Comoros flag.

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

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

Although the international court ultimately dismissed the complaint, the Foreign Ministry criticized “imprudent statements” that appeared in its conclusive report, namely what it said was the omission of the “lethal, pre-planned and organized violence” perpetrated by activists on board the flotilla, such that the IDF soldiers were forced to defend themselves.

“It should be noted that any initial statement by the prosecutor regarding the conduct of the IDF soldiers, without addressing the main issue of self-defense that justifies the use of force and without having conducted a thorough investigation of the incident itself, necessarily leads to erroneous and misleading statements,” the ministry said.

Jerusalem also cried foul over the fact that the probe was initiated despite the fact that the matter was previously investigated both by an internal committee headed by former Supreme Court Justice Jacob Turkel, and a UN-ordered panel, led by ex-prime minister of New Zealand Geoffrey Palmer.

Bensouda said she had to abide by the Rome Statute, which prioritizes larger war crimes before smaller ones.

Chief Prosecutor at the International Criminal Court Fatou Bensouda. (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons ASA 3.0/Fatou Bensouda)
Chief Prosecutor at the International Criminal Court Fatou Bensouda. (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons ASA 3.0/Fatou Bensouda)

A Turkish lawyer representing Comoros vowed not to give up the case.

“This is a moral struggle that we’re pursuing by ourselves. It’s a legal struggle, a struggle in the name of humanity. This struggle isn’t over,” attorney Ramazan Ariturk told reporters in Istanbul. “We will object to a higher court at the International Criminal Court and we believe without a doubt that we will prevail.”

In a 61-page report, prosecutors concluded that “there is a reasonable basis to believe” that Israeli forces may have committed the crimes of willful killing, willfully causing serious injury and committing outrages upon personal dignity.

The report said that the findings were based on “information available at this stage” and that ICC prosecutors didn’t collect the evidence.

The UN report in July 2011 found that the raid was justified, but that Israel used “unacceptable” excessive force.

Israel and Turkey are not members of the court, which only has jurisdiction over its members, over cases that are referred to it by the UN Security Council, and over events that take place on the territory of member states.

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