NEW YORK: A United Nations panel of human rights experts has accused Israel of war crimes through wilful killing, unnecessary brutality and torture in its ''clearly unlawful'' assault on a ship attempting to break the blockade of Gaza in May, in which nine Turkish activists died.
The report by three experts appointed by the UN's Human Rights Council described the seizure of MV Mavi Marmara, a Turkish vessel, by Israeli commandos as illegal under international law. Israel swiftly dismissed the accusations as ''politicised and extremist''.
The report further condemned the treatment of the passengers and crew as brutal and disproportionate. It said that the Israeli blockade of the Palestinian enclave was illegal because of the scale of the humanitarian crisis in Gaza.
''There is clear evidence to support prosecutions of the following crimes within the terms of article 147 of the fourth Geneva convention: wilful killing; torture or inhuman treatment; wilfully causing great suffering or serious injury to body or health,'' the report said.
''A series of violations of international law, including international humanitarian and human rights law, were committed by the Israeli forces during the interception of the flotilla and during the detention of passengers in Israel prior to deportation.''
Israel's foreign ministry said: ''As expected of a democratic country, Israel has been – and still is – investigating the events of the Gaza flotilla.'' It added that its own inquiry, which includes two international observers, was still at work and that Israel had agreed to take part in a separate inquiry set up by the UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon.
''The report … is as biased and as one-sided as the body that has produced it. Israel … is of the opinion that the flotilla incident is amply and sufficiently investigated as it is. All additional dealing … is superfluous and unproductive,'' the ministry said.
However, the Turkish Foreign Minister, Ahmet Davutoglu, hailed the report, saying it ''is extremely unbiased and based on sound evidence … I hope the Israeli side will … from now on act within international law.''
Relations between Turkey and Israel have cooled dramatically since the assault in May.
The 56-page report – compiled by a former UN war crimes prosecutor, Desmond de Silva, a judge from Trinidad, Karl Hudson-Phillips, and a Malaysian women's rights advocate, Mary Shanthi Dairiam – accuses Israeli forces of crimes including violating the right to life, liberty and freedom of expression, and of failing to treat prisoners with humanity.
''The conduct … towards the flotilla passengers was not only disproportionate to the occasion but demonstrated levels of totally unnecessary and incredible violence. It betrayed an unacceptable level of brutality,'' the report said.
Israel, which refused to co-operate with the inquiry, has said its troops resorted to force and opened fire after coming under attack by activists.
- Grave violations of human rights law.
- Clear evidence to support prosecutions for ''wilful killing'' and ''torture''.
- IDF used ''totally unnecessary and incredible violence''.
- Blockade of Gaza is ''illegal''.
- Israel dismissed the report as ''one-sided'' and ''extremist''.