TURKEY’S REACTION TO THE PALMER REPORT
TURKEY’S REACTION TO THE PALMER REPORT
The United Nations Secretary General’s Panel of Inquiry released its report (known as the Palmer Report) regarding the attack by the Israeli forces against an international humanitarian convoy en route to Gaza on May 31, 2010.
The aid convoy for Gaza was a humanitarian initiative with people from 34 countries (including the United States and Israel) in ships sailing under the flags of several nations.
Nine people lost their lives when Israeli commandos boarded their ship, the Mavi Marmara, and used excessive and lethal force against them. The attack in international waters of the Mediterranean violated all established norms of international law, as the U.N. Human Rights Council’s fact-finding mission concluded.
Eight of the nine killed were Turkish citizens, and one was a 19-year-old American citizen of Turkish descent. Most of the deceased were shot at close range and multiple times, some in the head.
At the time of the attack, the convoy was 72 nautical miles off the coast of Israel, and 64 nautical miles away from the nearest point of the Israeli-imposed “Gaza blockade area.”
Aftershock and Inquiry
Turkey was shattered by the loss of its citizens and shocked that for the first time in its history, Turkish citizens were killed by a foreign armed force during peacetime. Hence, Turkey rightly asked for a formal apology and appropriate compensation to the families of those killed.
When Israel did not meet these requests, Turkey extended its full support to the U.N. Secretary-General’s efforts to establish a Panel of Inquiry and participated in this Panel in good faith. In contrast, Israel resorted to every possible way to impede the Panel’s progress.
Turkey also sincerely sought a solution to the impasse through bilateral negotiations with Israel. Although Turkey refrained from any negative rhetoric and upheld the confidentiality of the talks, Israel continued its intransigent behavior and insistently tried to distort the truth by leaking false information to the international media.
The following conclusions of the Palmer Report testify to the severity of the crimes committed by the Israeli soldiers and other officials:
“Israel’s decision to board the vessels with such substantial force at a great distance from the blockade zone and with no final warning immediately prior to the boarding was excessive and unreasonable:
a. Non-violent options should have been used in the first instance. In particular, clear prior warning that the vessels were to be boarded and a demonstration of dissuading force should have been given to avoid the type of confrontation that occurred;
b. The operation should have reassessed its options when the resistance to the initial boarding attempt became apparent.
The loss of life and injuries resulting from the use of force by Israeli forces during the take-over of the Mavi Marmara was unacceptable. Nine passengers were killed and many others seriously wounded by Israeli forces. No satisfactory explanation has been provided to the Panel by Israel for any of the nine deaths. Forensic evidence showing that most of the deceased were shot multiple times, including in the back, or at close range has not been adequately accounted for in the material presented by Israel.
There was significant mistreatment of passengers by Israeli authorities after the take-over of the vessels had been completed through until their deportation. This included physical mistreatment, harassment and intimidation, unjustified confiscation of belongings and the denial of timely consular assistance.”
Turkey disagrees with the Chair and the Co-Chair of the Panel regarding the question of the legality of the blockade imposed on Gaza. Turkey believes that this blockade is unlawful.
Many governments around the world, including the U.S. Administration, declared that the situation in Gaza is not sustainable. Furthermore, the report mandated by the U.N. Human Rights Council concluded that the blockade was unlawful. This report received the consent of the U.N. General Assembly.
By claiming that the blockade is legal, the Chair and the Co-Chair contradicted the U.N. Human Rights Council. We believe that political rather than legal considerations dominated the Chair and the Co –Chair’s approach on this matter. By drawing the Panel into a legal imbroglio, the Chairmanship of the Panel has actually diverted the Panel’s work from its main task.
Under the circumstances, Turkey is determined to take the necessary steps – including submitting the matter to the International Court of Justice – to bring about a competent opinion on such a delicate legal issue, which was well beyond the authority of the Panel. To this end, Turkey will start working on a U.N. General Assembly resolution to task the International Court of Justice accordingly.
Turkey supported the release of the Panel Report from the very outset. However, certain other conclusions reached by the Chair and the Co-Chair have the potential to set a dangerous precedent at the expense of freedom and safety of navigation.
The Report omits and disregards decisive facts about this incident. Only 15 percent of the Report deals with the actions of Israel, which led to the establishment of this Panel. It does not address how nine civilians received 30 bullets in their most vital areas and why Israeli soldiers acted in such a violent way. There is also a clear effort in the Report to demonize the international humanitarian convoy and its participants. The convoy which came under attack in international waters, resisted in self defense.
The Report claims that “the IDF faced significant, organized and violent resistance from a group of passengers when they boarded the Mavi Marmara requiring them to use force for their own protection.” On the contrary, it is clear from the evidence that the Israeli soldiers killed and wounded passengers even before they landed on the ship.
Therefore, Turkey challenges certain conclusions of the Palmer Report, which we believe will not serve the goal of stability and peace, particularly in our region.
Turkey is determined to defend the rights of its citizens and will take legal actions against all those responsible for the crimes committed.
Turkey also reaffirms that relations between Turkey and Israel will not normalize as long as Israel does not apologize and refuses to pay compensation for what it has done.
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