THE HAGUE, Netherlands — The International Criminal Court prosecutor said Thursday she is standing by her previous decision not to open a full-scale investigation into the storming by Israeli forces of a blockade-busting flotilla heading to the Gaza Strip in 2010.
Fatou Bensouda in November 2014 declined a request by the Indian Ocean island nation of Comoros to investigate the May 31, 2010, storming of a vessel in the flotilla, which was sailing under a Comoros flag.
She said war crimes may have been committed on the Mavi Marmara ship, where eight Turks and one Turkish-American were killed and several other pro-Palestinian activists were wounded in a melee after they attacked Israeli commandos who boarded the ship, but the case wasn’t serious enough to merit an ICC probe. A ninth Turkish man who was seriously injured died four years later.
Israel maintains the blockade to prevent Hamas, the Islamist terror group that seized control of Gaza in 2007 and seeks Israel’s destruction, from importing weaponry.
The ICC was set up as a court of last resort intended to prosecute senior leaders allegedly responsible for grave crimes including genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity when national courts prove unable or unwilling to take on such cases.
ICC judges told her to reconsider, but Bensouda said Thursday that after carefully reviewing more than 5,000 pages of documents and statements from more than 300 passengers on the Mavi Marmara she has reaffirmed her decision to close her preliminary investigation.
Bensouda said in a statement that her decision was a purely legal one, applying standards laid down in the court’s founding treaty, the Rome Statute.
“I want to be clear, however, that I fully recognize the impact of the alleged crimes on the victims and their families and my conclusion does not excuse any crimes which may have been perpetrated in connection with the Mavi Marmara incident,” she said.
Israeli officials were reviewing the decision and had no immediate comment.
Israel and Turkey had previously been close economic and defense allies but relations deteriorated after the 2008/2009 Operation Cast Lead in the Gaza Strip and ruptured after the flotilla raid.
A lengthy reconciliation process between the countries began in 2013 and an agreement was finally signed in 2016. Israel and Turkey exchanged ambassadors earlier in January, restoring ties.
Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.