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Amnesty: Israel's flotilla probe a 'whitewash'

Jan. 29, 2011 12:30 P.M. (Updated: Jan. 30, 2011 10:22 A.M.)
LONDON (Ma'an) -- London-based rights group Amnesty International condemned on Friday the findings of an Israeli inquiry into last year’s raid on a Gaza-bound aid flotilla as a “whitewash,” saying the Israeli investigating panel failed to account for the deaths of nine Turkish nationals at the hands of Israeli commando forces.

The findings of the inquiry, known as the Tirkel Commission, were released on Sunday, and said that Israel's military acted lawfully when they captured the Mavi Mamara on 31 May 2010, killing nine activists on board, and intercepted five other ships.

Named after leading investigator, former Israeli justice Yaakov Tirkel, the investigation was the second launched by Israel into the events on the flotilla. A military probe found issues with the intelligence gathering process used ahead of the attack, but said soldiers acted bravely and within the military's code when they shot and killed the passengers.

"Despite being nearly 300 pages long, the [Tirkel] report crucially fails to explain how the activists died and what conclusions the Commission reached regarding the IDF’s specific actions in each case," said a statement from AI.

"The Commission’s failure to account for the deaths reinforces the view that the Israeli authorities are unwilling or incapable of delivering accountability for abuses of international law committed by Israeli forces," the organization accused, saying the inadequate findings of the commission, "highlights the need for follow-up to ensure that the sharply contrasting conclusions of the International Fact-Finding Mission appointed by the UN Human Rights Council, which were issued on 22 September 2010, but not even mentioned by the Commission, are addressed and that the rights of victims to an effective remedy are upheld."

Amnesty also criticized the legal framework used by the report, which was overseen by two international observers appointed by Israel, a former Canadian brigadier general and an Irish Nobel peace laureate.

Humanitarian law used to govern situations of armed conflict, AI said in its statement, "allows much greater latitude for the use of lethal force," and said it "categorically rejects the application of this legal framework to the events concerned."

Of the 133 incidents of force used by the military which were identified by the commission, it found 127 were in conformity with international law, while it had “insufficient information” to make a determination on the other six, three of which involved the use of live fire.

"The Commission does not indicate which of the incidents of force resulted in deaths or even if it has this information," AI reviewers said, adding that information containing a detailed analysis of each incident, as well as the Israeli soldiers’ written testimonies on which the analysis was based, "are contained in an unpublished annex to the report."
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