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Human Rights Council holds Interactive dialogue on Report of Fact-Finding Mission on Israel's attack on the Humanitarian Flotilla

Human Rights Council
MORNING 28 September 2010

The Human Rights Council this morning held an interactive dialogue with the United Nations Fact-Finding Mission to investigate violations of international law, including international humanitarian and human rights law, resulting from the Israeli attacks on the flotilla of ships carrying humanitarian assistance.

In concluding remarks, Justice Karl Hudson-Phillips, Chief of the Fact-Finding Mission, said he only heard two discordant comments from the floor. He personally regretted the statement made by the Ambassador of the United States, who characterized the content of the mission’s report as unbalanced and unsubstantiated. With regard to UN Watch, Mr. Hudson-Phillips stated that he had taken into account the two points that they had raised. In any event, the points raised by UN Watch would not have changed the outcome of the report and would not have made the Israeli actions legal in this incident. Of course, the Mission had to rely on eyewitness accounts and the members did their best to maintain impartiality under the circumstances.

Desmond de Silva, Member of the Mission, also in concluding remarks, said the Fact-Finding Mission had taken very seriously the mandate given to it by the Council with a view to seek the truth within the context of the law. He had been most interested to hear the observation made by the representative of United Nations Watch whose remarks betrayed a fundamental and underlying ignorance of the law. Great store was placed on the fact that some people who had been on the board of the Mavi Marmara had made certain statements, but where was the imminent threat to Israel? Even if Bin Ladin himself was on board of the flotilla, it would not have made the blockade legal. However, it was also right to say that Hamas committed a crime every time it fired a rocket into Israel.

Mary Shanti Dairiam, Member of the Mission, in concluding remarks, said the intention of the Fact-Finding Mission was to establish the truth, and it was satisfied that grave violations of international humanitarian law and human rights law were committed by the representatives of the Government of Israel. The victims were civilians, and not core belligerents, and therefore the extent of the violence was disproportionate, and excessive, and the Mission stood by that conclusion. At this point what was of paramount importance was justice for the victims, and the Human Rights Council should move towards ensuring that it prevailed and was carried out. Apart from whatever action would be initiated for judicial remedies, the Council should see fit to ensure that existing human rights mechanisms of the United Nations would be used for follow-up, in particular the treaty-body system.

The report of the Fact-Finding Mission was presented on 26 September in the afternoon and the presentation of the report, as well as statements from Israel, Palestine and Turkey as concerned countries, can be found in press release HRC/10/111.

In the context of the interactive dialogue, speakers raised, among other points that the unwarranted and unprovoked military action by Israel against a humanitarian mission constituted a flagrant violation of international law and norms and values of humanity; Israeli forces and leadership were fully responsible, and should be held accountable for these blatant violations of international human rights and humanitarian laws. The unlawful blockade of Gaza by Israel had led to a true humanitarian crisis and the violation of human rights, and this constituted a violation of international humanitarian law and the Geneva Conventions.

The attack on the peaceful civilian activists had been unlawful and the actions of Israeli soldiers were tantamount to inhuman treatment, among others: this constituted war crimes and was a blatant violation of human rights and international law. Israel should carry out prompt, independent, and impartial judicial investigations of violations of international law, including international humanitarian law and human rights law, speakers said. Israel's refusal to investigate and prosecute the perpetrators of these actions was condemned, as it proved that Israel's position was one of violation of international law. All measures must be taken to make the occupying power abide by its international obligations.

However, the report should not be used for actions that could disrupt the direct Israeli-Palestinian talks now underway, a speaker urged. The international community and the United Nations must ensure respect for international law, particularly international humanitarian law and human rights law, force Israel to compensate victims and put an end to its impunity for committing all kinds of offences as the Occupying Power. It was only through guaranteeing respect for international law that the human rights of Palestinians could be ensured. Many speakers also called for an immediate lifting of the blockade on Gaza.

Speaking this morning were the representatives of Pakistan on behalf of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, Egypt, Syria, Cuba, United Arab Emirates, Jordan, United States, European Union, Qatar, Sudan, India on behalf of the India, Brazil and South Africa Forum, Thailand, Libya, Switzerland, Indonesia, Senegal, Kuwait, Morocco, Yemen, Japan, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Malaysia, Algeria, Lebanon, South Africa, Bangladesh and the Maldives.

Also speaking were Mouvement contre le racisme et pour l'amitié entre les peoples, United Nations Watch, and North-South XXI.

The Council today is holding three back-to-back meetings from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. During its midday meeting, the Council will hold a clustered interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, and the Chairperson of the Working Group of Experts on people of African descent, and then hold a general debate on racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance.

Interactive Dialogue on Report of Fact-Finding Mission to Investigate Violations of International Law Resulting from Israeli Attacks on Flotilla of Ships Carrying Aid

MARIAM AFTAB (Pakistan), speaking on behalf of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, said the Organization of the Islamic Conference welcomed the report of the Fact-Finding Mission - as the report clearly established in its conclusions, the actions of the Israeli Defence Forces in blocking the flotilla were a violation of international law, as was the naval blockade that preceded it. The report further concluded that the Israeli military committed serious human rights violations against the civilian passengers of the flotilla. The Organization of the Islamic Conference strongly endorsed all these conclusions and wished to reiterate its strong condemnation of the crimes committed by the Israeli occupation forces against innocent people. This unwarranted and unprovoked military action by Israel against a humanitarian mission constituted a flagrant violation of international law and norms and values of humanity. Israeli forces and leadership were fully responsible, and should be held accountable for these blatant violations of international human rights and humanitarian laws. The Organization of the Islamic Conference regretted that the occupying power refused to cooperate with the Fact-Finding Mission and demanded that it carry out prompt, independent, and impartial judicial investigations of violations of international law, including international humanitarian law and human rights law. The important conclusions contained in the report should be implemented in full by all concerned parties.

MONA ELBAHTIMY (Egypt) said Egypt welcomed the report of the Fact-Finding Mission on the flotilla and the serious attitude adopted by the experts in preparing the report. Egypt presented its condolences to the families of the victims and regretted that Israel had refused to cooperate with the fact-finding mission. The unlawful blockade of Gaza by Israel had led to a true humanitarian crisis and the violation of human rights. This had constituted violations of international humanitarian law and the Geneva Conventions. The attack on the flotilla was a blatant violation of international law and such an attack would be repeated until there was a peace. In closing, Egypt called on the Fact-Finding Mission to concentrate on providing compensation to the victims and their families and expressed its support for the draft resolution presented to the Council.

FAYSAL KHABBAZ HAMOUI (Syria) said Syria wished to thank the Fact-Finding Mission for its efforts, courage and the important conclusions it had reached, mainly that the attack on the peaceful civilian activists had been unlawful and that the action of the Israeli soldiers was tantamount to inhuman treatment, among others. This constituted war crimes and was a blatant violation of human rights and international law. Syria also paid tribute to the other conclusions made in the report, particularly that the siege must be lifted immediately from Gaza. This was a collective punishment to civilians and unlawful under any circumstances. The members of the Committee had described Israel as a country of impunity par excellence and Syria thus wished that the guilty Israeli officials be brought to justice and that Israel was not once again allowed to enjoy impunity. Syria called upon all those supporting the crimes of Israel to cease their silence and bring justice to all the innocent civilians and victims.

JUAN ANTONIO QUINTANILLA (Cuba) said the attack on the flotilla and the criminal violence exercised by the Israeli army against the flotilla represented a flagrant violation of international law, including international humanitarian law and human rights law. The flotilla had been no threat to Israel - it had been a sea expedition of peace-lovers and human rights activists, with the aim of aiding those suffering in the Gaza Strip. Cuba condemned strongly the indiscriminate use of force against the passengers, all the more serious as it took place in international waters, violating the principle of freedom of the seas. The Council had held an urgent debate and condemned the attack, setting up the Fact-Finding Mission to investigate it. Cuba agreed with the conclusions of the Mission that Israel’s actions had been disproportionate and that Israel had committed with premeditation international offences such as murder, torture, and infringements of health. Israel's refusal to investigate and prosecute the perpetrators of these actions was condemned, as it proved that Israel's position was one of violation of international law. The Council should not remain silent faced with the confirmation and the proof of such serious crimes. Cuba repeated its unstinting support for the Palestinian people and their continuing struggle for self-determination, and extended its solidarity to the just claims of the people of Syria, Lebanon and other Arab peoples threatened by Israel.

OBAID SALEM SAEED AL ZAABI (United Arab Emirates) said that the United Arab Emirates welcomed the report of the Fact-Finding Mission to investigate Israel’s attack on the flotilla carrying humanitarian assistance to Gaza. The violation of international humanitarian law and international human rights law that had occurred and the disproportionate use of force were unacceptable. Once again, Israel was challenging the international community with its disregard for international law. The United Arab Emirates reminded the Council of the seriousness of the situation and said that all measures must be taken to make the occupying power abide by its international obligations. Israel must lift the blockade of Gaza and stop the occupation of the Palestinian and Arab territories, since the occupation was the source of troubles in the region.

SHEHAB A. MADI (Jordan) thanked the Fact-Finding Mission for its professional, impartial and objective report. That document contained a detailed and thought provoking assessment of Israel’s violations of international humanitarian law and international human rights law. The conclusions contained in the report were welcomed and deserved the Council’s serious consideration and follow-up. Jordan deeply regretted the injury and loss of life of many human rights activists and Israel’s non-cooperation with the Fact-Finding Mission. This was not the first time that Israel had declined to cooperate with an independent international inquiry. The Gaza Strip remained an Occupied Palestinian Territory and was subject to the provisions of international humanitarian law. The Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip was unlawful, unjustifiable, constituted collective punishment of the civilian population, and it must end. Jordan also endorsed the other conclusions contained in the report, especially those pertaining to accountability and effective remedy. Victims of the attack on the flotilla were entitled to an effective remedy.

EILEEN CHAMBERLAIN DONAHOE (United States) said the United States deeply regretted the tragic loss of life and injuries suffered among those involved in the incident aboard the Gaza-bound ships. The United States was concerned by the report's unbalanced language, tone and conclusions, and urged that the report not be used for actions that could disrupt the direct Israeli-Palestinian talks now underway, or actions that could make it harder for Israel and Turkey to move beyond the recent strains in their historically strong bilateral relationship. The United States believed in the importance of a credible, impartial, and transparent investigation into the tragic events of May 31. The resolution adopted in June passed judgement on the facts before they were determined and handed the Fact-Finding Mission a flawed mandate, something the Mission itself acknowledged in its report. With the benefit of more time and consideration, the United Nations Secretary-General was able to obtain the support of both Turkey and Israel for the establishment of a panel of enquiry to receive and review the reports of Israel and Turkey's national investigations into the tragic incident, and the United States continued to await the outcomes of these processes.

JOELLE HIVONNET (European Union) expressed deep concern about the events that had taken place in international waters in May 2010 and condemned the use of violence that had resulted in the death of nine civilians. The European Union asked for an immediate, full and impartial inquiry into the events and the circumstances surrounding them. The situation in Gaza remained unsustainable. The continued policy of closure was unacceptable and politically counterproductive, the European Union said, and called for an immediate and unconditional opening of crossings for the flow of humanitarian aid, commercial goods and persons to and from Gaza. The European Union welcomed the measures announced by the Israeli Government and called for a solution that addressed Israel’s legitimate security concerns including a complete stop to all violence and arms smuggling into Gaza. The European Union supported the creation by the United Nations Secretary-General of the international panel of inquiry into the flotilla incident and was encouraged by the creation of an independent public commission established by the Government of Israel. The European Union suggested transmitting the report before this Council to the international Panel of Inquiry and strongly encouraged Israel to follow-up on the conclusions of the Human Rights Council Fact-Finding Mission in the context of its national investigations and to continue to fully cooperate with the Panel of Inquiry.

MANSOOR ABDULLA AL-SULAITIN (Qatar) thanked the Fact-Finding Mission for its objective report. Qatar also thanked all those who had assisted the mission and particularly Jordan, Turkey, the United Nations security forces in the area, as well as the victims and families who had largely contributed to establish the truth. Qatar had learned with great interest the content of the report which was a professional, impartial, and legal analysis of the circumstances surrounding the assault by Israeli commanders. The report also described Israel’s violations of international humanitarian law, international human rights law, and the law of the sea, as well as describing the assault on the boats on high sea which had led to the loss of life and many injuries. The report established the criminal responsibility of Israel for the offences committed, Qatar said, underlining that Israel should be prosecuted before the relevant courts. What Qatar expected from the international community and the United Nations was simple and straightforward: they must ensure respect for international law, particularly international humanitarian law and human rights law, force Israel to compensate victims and put an end to its impunity for committing all kinds of offences as the Occupying Power.

HAMZA AHMED (Sudan) said that three months ago, Israeli forces had boarded a humanitarian vessel and took the lives of nine people in a premeditated manner. There were reports that Israeli forces had lists of those who needed to be apprehended, which ran counter to claims made by Israeli authorities. Sudan called for a thorough investigation of these crimes and appropriate redress for the victims and their families. Israel had turned Gaza into a large prison in which 1.5 million people were living in horrendous living standards. For this reason, the Government of Sudan also called for the immediate lifting of the siege on Gaza.

GOPINATHAN ACHAMKULANGARE (India), speaking on behalf of the India, Brazil and South Africa Forum, said the Forum commended the international Fact-Finding Mission for its detailed report on violations of international law resulting from the Israeli attacks on the flotilla of ships carrying humanitarian assistance. The Forum regretted that the Government of Israel had chosen not to cooperate with the mission. The Forum called upon all relevant parties to ensure accountability for the violations and adequate compensation for the victims and their families. Only then would the significant contribution of the Mission have value for the victims. The flotilla incident stemmed from conflict that remained political in nature and could not be resolved by force by any side. In view of the ongoing peace talks, the Forum called upon all sides to refrain from measures which might pose additional difficulties to the process. India, Brazil and South Africa recognised the recent improvements in the circulation of goods to and from Gaza, but in view of the humanitarian situation, called upon Israel to lift the blockade and to further alleviate circulation restrictions on the movement of people and goods in Gaza and in the West Bank.

VIJAVAT ISARABHAKDI (Thailand) said it was commendable how the Fact-Finding Mission had fulfilled its mandate in such an extensive and comprehensive manner under tremendous time constraints. By contrast, it was unfortunate that Israel had not seized the opportunity to cooperate with the Mission, which would have been a chance to gain the goodwill of all parties concerned. Thailand saw a need for further coordination in terms of information sharing, particularly between this Mission and the Panel of Inquiry appointed by the Secretary-General. What was most important was that the findings and recommendations contained in the report were given due consideration. How the Council took action on these findings and recommendations would have an important bearing on the Council’s work in responding to urgent situations in the future. Thailand hoped that steps would be taken to bring accountability and remedies to the victims of the unlawful acts, and that any domestic judicial investigations would be prompt, independent and impartial with an aim to bringing perpetrators to justice. The report should serve as a stepping stone that allowed looking ahead to the broader agenda of advancing peace and cooperation.

IBRAHIM ALDREDI (Libya) extended its thanks to the members of the Fact-Finding Mission and their report, despite the intransigence of the Israeli Government in cooperating with the Mission. Israel’s treatment of the aid flotilla was merely a reflection of its complete disregard for international law. This incident could not have happened without the support of certain States and the silence of others. The massacre took place in international waters and was a continuation of the policy of imprisonment committed against the people of Gaza. Until the Palestinian people were able to obtain their destiny, the international community had a duty to hold the perpetrators accountable and bring them to justice.

BARBARA FONTANA (Switzerland) said that following the flotilla incident Switzerland had immediately called for an independent inquiry to shed light on the incident and the responsibilities of different actors who had taken part in it. Switzerland was very concerned about the result of the report and recalled that all victims had a right to remedy. It was therefore important that Israel took all measures to prosecute those responsible for violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law. Switzerland was concerned by the creation of two investigations into this incident by the United Nations and hoped that this report would be shared with the Panel set up by the United Nations Secretary-General. Switzerland asked whether the Panel set up by the United Nations Secretary-General was planning a follow up with the independent commission set up by Israel.

DESRA PERCAYA (Indonesia) said Indonesia supported the findings of the report which concluded that the interception of the flotilla by the Occupying Forces had been unlawful and that the use of force used by the Israeli soldiers had been “unnecessary, disproportionate and excessive.” Indonesia also concurred with the report’s findings that the subsequent detention of the passengers had been illegal and that the treatment of the activists had been cruel, inhuman and disproportionate. That was in line with the testimonies from six Indonesian victims, one of whom had been shot in the chest. The separate findings of an investigation towards the Indonesian victims, affidavit from which had been submitted to the Mission as further evidence, had reinforced the validity of the other witness statements and added further weight to compelling evidence of human rights violations by the Occupying Power. The flotilla incident was a direct consequence of the ongoing illegal blockade of the Gaza Strip and only justified to prove that the international community could not stand by and allow Israel to act, yet again, with impunity. Indonesia urged the Council to follow-up on the findings of the report. Those found guilty of violating international human rights law must be held accountable and brought to justice. They must not go unpunished.

TALAL ALMUTAIRI (Kuwait) welcomed the sincere efforts of the Fact-Finding Mission to produce a balanced report on Israeli actions against the freedom flotilla. The organizers of the freedom flotilla were on a humanitarian mission, despite all of the arguments provided by the Israeli authorities. A large number of women and children were the victims of the blockade on Gaza. Kuwait also condemned Israel’s refusal to cooperate with the Mission and said that the perpetrators needed to be brought to justice. Finally, Kuwait said that Israel should no longer be allowed to circumvent established international law.

MOHAMED ACHGALOU (Morocco) said Morocco welcomed the members of the Fact-Finding Mission and thanked them for their work. The report came to a number of conclusions which revealed the serious humanitarian situation in Gaza and set tragic legal consequences of this act. Morocco underscored its particular interest to the follow up by the international community to the conclusions of the Fact-Finding Mission in terms of international law and in full respect of the right of victims and their families for remedy for harm suffered during the attack by Israel on the flotilla. Morocco called on all parties to seize the time and the opportunity opened by the direct peace talks in Washington. The parties should work together with the international community to create peaceful and lasting solution for the Palestinian people. That was the only way to avoid further tragedies in this region.

IBRAHIM AL-ADOFI (Yemen) said Yemen extended great thanks to the Fact-Finding Mission for their report on their conclusions. Humanitarian activists had been attacked on the high seas while carrying humanitarian assistance and had been subjected to ill-treatment and abuse by the Israeli authorities. The report had concluded that Israel had committed torture, inhuman treatment, deliberate harm and injuries, which was a series of crimes committed by the Israeli forces. These aggressions on the passengers of the flotilla were not only disproportionate they were also a criminal and barbarian action, once again constituting evidence of Israel’s aggression against the Palestinian people. Hence, unless the conclusions of the Fact-Finding Mission were taken seriously, the Council and the international procedures would become a burden without any purpose. It was time to end the impunity of Israel and it was time that Israel began abiding by international human rights and humanitarian law.

KENICHI SUGANUMA (Japan) said that Japan too deplored the nine deaths and the many more injuries caused by the incident on 31 May and condemned the violent acts that caused them. Japan considered that a full and comprehensive investigation into the incident needed to be conducted. Japan strongly hoped that all the concerned countries cooperated fully in establishing the facts of the incident. Based on these results, justice should be done and the international community had to find practical ways to prevent the recurrence of similar incidents. Japan concluded by saying that it would continue to help promote peace and a two-State solution to the ongoing conflict in the region.

MOHAMMAD REZA GHAEBI (Iran) said Iran took note of the report of the Fact-Finding Mission and strongly condemned the non-cooperation by the occupier into the incident in which its forces mercilessly claimed the lives of humanitarian workers. It was most deplorable that according to the report a series of grave violations on international humanitarian law and international human rights law had been committed by the occupier. Iran also noted the conclusions of the report and the deplorable situation still existing in Gaza which was characterised as total unsustainable and unacceptable. The illegal and inhuman blockade lay at the heart of the misery and plight of over 1.5 million people of Gaza. The conduct of the military and other personnel towards the flotilla passengers was not only disproportionate, but demonstrated levels of totally unnecessary violence. Iran reiterated that the root cause of all violence, insecurity and instability in the region was the illegitimate and illegal occupation of Palestinian and other Arab territories and the international community must step up its efforts to end this occupation.

AHMED FAHAD ALMAREK (Saudi Arabia) welcomed the Fact-Finding Mission and thanked it for its efforts in issuing the report on the violations resulting from Israel’s interception of the flotilla carrying humanitarian assistance. Saudi Arabia welcomed this report and supported its conclusions. The report had established that the Israeli response to the activists had been disproportionate. Even more, it showed that Israeli forces had used unacceptable and barbaric actions and that the siege on Gaza had led to a serious humanitarian crisis. Israel’s refusal to cooperate with the Fact-Finding Mission was not surprising – Israel had always shied away from its responsibility, it continued violating international legitimacy and deepening the conflict, thus creating obstacles to international peace. The report further mentioned that the suffering of Palestinians in Gaza was due to the siege and the closure of crossing points, and that Israel’s actions were tantamount to collective punishment. Saudi Arabia reaffirmed the need for legal prosecution for all those responsible for the loss of life of those on the humanitarian flotilla and called on all to adopt the draft resolution regarding the follow-up on the report of the Fact-Finding Mission.

SITI HAJJAR ADNIN (Malaysia) said, mindful of the time and other constraints faced by the Fact-Finding Mission, it had been dedicated to pursuing the mandate entrusted to it by the Council, and Malaysia agreed with the assessment in the report. Malaysia was of the view that the current track of the report, which was a Geneva process, should not be confused with the work of the Panel of Inquiry, which was essentially a New York process. Malaysia was profoundly disappointed that yet again the occupying power had decided to not cooperate with or recognize a mechanism of the Council. The attitude of the occupying power was unacceptable and reeked of self-righteous arrogance. Malaysia would carefully study the conclusions in the report and pursue the implementation thereof to the greatest extent possible, in consultation with stakeholders and the relevant parties. Malaysia called for closure to the issue, and would work closely with all in that regard.

IDRISS JAZAIRY (Algeria) said that Algeria supported the efforts of the Fact-Finding Mission in documenting the horrible acts committed against the freedom flotilla. The delegation of Israel did not apologize for its country’s acts and tried to justify its aggression. The acts committed by Israel against the humanitarian aid vessel were violations of international humanitarian law and human rights law. Now that light had been shed on this incident, Algeria hoped that it would help prevent new crimes of this nature from being committed by the Israeli authorities. Algeria urged the Government of Israel to try those responsible for the crimes and to overcome any obstacles in the process of compensating the victims and their families.

RANA MOKADDEM (Lebanon) said Lebanon welcomed the report of the Fact-Finding Mission regarding Israel’s assault on the humanitarian flotilla. That proved clearly how Israeli forces had carried out their attack and terrorised and ill-treated the international peace activists for hours, humiliating them. The Council must take every step possible to hold responsible the perpetrators and ensure that the resolution did not remain on paper only. Lebanon also called for a lifting of the inhuman siege without which the humanitarian flotilla and others would not have tried to break the blockade and without which innocent blood would not have been shed.

JERRY MATTHEWS MATJILA (South Africa) said South Africa wished to extend its appreciation to the members of the Fact-Finding Mission undertaken to investigate possible breaches of international law, including international human rights law, as well as international humanitarian law. The conclusions of the Fact-Finding Mission attested to such violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law. It was regrettable that the Israeli Government chose once again not to cooperate with the Fact-Finding Mission, thereby continuing to treat the international community with disrespect. This placed an onerous responsibility on the Human Rights Council to act decisively for the sake of the victims of these violations. The Israeli Government should take advantage of the peace talks that commenced recently to find a political solution to the Middle East conflict. The blockade of Gaza continued to undermine the enjoyment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms by Palestinians, and the Israeli Government should therefore fulfil its international human rights obligations.

NAHIDA SOBHAN (Bangladesh) said that Bangladesh deplored the non-recognition and non-cooperation of Israel with the Fact-Finding Mission. The killing of passengers in the humanitarian convoy of ships was done in a manner that violated international human rights law. Moreover, seizure of cameras, CCTV footage and digital media storage devices and the suppression of those materials were clear violations of freedom of expression. There was no legal, political, moral or humane justification for such actions. The international community had to take urgent action in response to this flagrant flouting of international law or else impunity would continue to escalate such violations of international law. Bangladesh believed that a lasting and acceptable peace in the region could only be achieved through recognition of the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people to have a viable State of their own.

LIVSHA ZAHIR (Maldives) said the Maldives welcomed the report of the Fact-Finding Mission. The Maldives reiterated its condemnation of the aggression against civilians, especially civilians engaged in humanitarian work, and deeply regretted Israel’s non-cooperation with the Mission. Protection of civilians was one of the most sacred obligations resting on parties to a conflict under international law. Thus, the onus rested with the responsible members of the international community to ensure that legal standards and norms were being upheld. For any hope of peace and stability in the Middle East, it was crucial that accountability be established over the clear and manifest violations of human rights and humanitarian law. The Maldives endorsed the report’s conclusions and called upon all parties involved to ensure their immediate implementation, also urging the Council to follow-up on the conclusions and monitor their implementation. A negotiated outcome was the only way to ensure long-term peace, security and stability in the region. The Maldives therefore called for a final, just and comprehensive settlement with the realisation of two States, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace and within secure and recognised borders. To this end, the Maldives supported the ongoing peace talks between the two parties.

GIANFRANCO FATTORINI, of Movement against Racism and for Friendship among Peoples, said the Mouvement contre le racisme regretted once again the total lack of cooperation from Israel with the mechanisms established by the Human Rights Council. Again, an independent international mission had noted that Israel had severely violated the rules of international human rights law and international humanitarian law. The Mission considered that its findings called for court action to be taken against the war crimes that had been committed. It was time that the Palestinian people could appeal to international justice. The Goldstone Report indicated the way: it belonged to the representatives of “We the Peoples of the United Nations” to give the Palestinian victims the opportunity to enjoy their rights. The Human Rights Council should recommend that the General Assembly establish a Special Tribunal to prosecute the violators of international law in the context of the occupation of the Palestinian territories and ensure just compensation to the victims.

LEON SALTIEL, of United Nations Watch, said the Fact-Finding Mission acknowledged yesterday that resolution 14/1 which created the probe, contained "apparent predeterminations", and that "the tenor and wording of the preambular and operative parts of the resolution indicated a certain bias". In light of the Council's long and well-known record on such matters, the Mission should express its views on the reasonable likelihood if change would occur in this regard, and whether the Mission had any concerns that its work had aided and encouraged, and was now in the hands of, those who, in the Mission's own words, resorted to bias, predetermination and prejudgements. Numerous items documented the Jihadist intent and actions of the militants on the ship. This was probative to what really happened, to the true nature and intentions of the so-called humanitarians.

CURTIS DOEBBLER, of North-South XXI, said North-South XXI strongly supported the independent report on the application of international law on Israel's attacks on the humanitarian flotilla for its honesty and integrity. The report concluded that "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". The Human Rights Council should urgently act to follow-up this report by recommending to the General Assembly that it create a subsidiary body with judicial authority to investigate and prosecute the persons alleged to have committed violations of international law. It was only through guaranteeing respect for international law that the human rights of Palestinians could be ensured. The Council could play a significant role in ending Israel's impunity for violations of international law, but it was up to its members to act decisively, with integrity, and in an effective manner.

Concluding Remarks

JUSTICE KARL HUDSON-PHILLIPS, Chief of the Fact-Finding Mission, in concluding remarks, said that he only heard two discordant comments from the floor. He personally regretted the statement made by the Ambassador of the United States, who characterized the content of the mission’s report as unbalanced and unsubstantiated. With regard to UN Watch, Mr. Hudson-Phillips stated that he had taken into account the two points that they had raised. In any event, the points raised by UN Watch would not have changed the outcome of the report and would not have made the Israeli actions legal in this incident. Of course, the mission had to rely on eyewitness accounts and the members did their best to maintain impartiality under the circumstances.

DESMOND DE SILVA, Member of the Fact-Finding Mission, said the Fact-Finding Mission had taken very seriously the mandate given to it by the Council with a view to seek the truth within the context of the law. Mr. De Silva had been most interested to hear the observation made by the representative of United Nations Watch whose remarks betrayed a fundamental and underlying ignorance of the law. Great store was placed on the fact that some people who had been on the board of the Mavi Marmara had made certain statements, but where was the imminent threat to Israel? Even if Bin Ladin himself was on board of the flotilla, it would not have made the blockade legal. However, it was also right to say that Hamas committed a crime every time it fired a rocket into Israel.

MARY SHANTI DAIRIAM, Member of the Fact-Finding Mission, in concluding remarks, said the intention of the Fact-Finding Mission was to establish the truth, and it was satisfied that grave violations of international humanitarian law and human rights law were committed by the representatives of the Government of Israel. The victims came from around 20 nationalities, and had wide international support. They were civilians, and not core belligerents, and therefore the extent of the violence was disproportionate, and excessive, and the Mission stood by that conclusion. At this point what was of paramount importance was justice for the victims, and the Human Rights Council should move towards ensuring that it prevailed and was carried out. It was only through justice that there would be closure for the victims and their families, and as part of this closure, not only judicial remedies and the law needed to be examined, but also psychological aid and counselling for the victims and their families, and many showed signs of psychological trauma and shock. Apart from whatever action would be initiated for judicial remedies, the Council should see fit to ensure that existing human rights mechanisms of the United Nations would be used for follow-up, in particular the treaty-body system.

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