The Center for Constitutional Rights called on US President Barack Obama last week to break his three-year silence over Israel’s 2009 killing of 18-year-old US citizen Furkan Doğan during its siege on the Gaza-bound Mavi Marmara ship in international waters.
The CCR states in its 16 May letter (emphasis theirs):
Recently, the Israeli government apologized to Turkey, acknowledging “a number of operational mistakes” that might have led to the loss of life or injury. Despite these admissions, the US still has not publicly called upon Israel to provide any detailed information on Furkan’s death or made any public call for accountability regarding his killing. The silence from the US in relation to the killing of its citizen and eight other civilians effectively results in impunity. Furthermore, it sends a message that the government will tolerate the killing of US human rights defenders by Israel.
The New York-based group issued its call the same day as Obama’s joint White House press conference with Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, during which the Turkish prime minister raised his efforts to obtain compensation from Israel for the families of the Mavi Marmara victims, and his upcoming visit to Gaza.
A White House video shows Erdoğan stating through a translator: “In the attack on on the Mavi Maramara, which was taking humanitarian aid to Gaza, Turkish citizens and one Turkish American citizen were killed, and as you know we are working with the Israeli government for compensation for those who lost their lives. The visit I will pay to Gaza will contribute to the peace in Gaza and unity in Palestine in my opinion.”
The US brokered the recent rapprochement between Turkey and Israel, made public by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s famous apology phone call to his Turkish counterpart at the conclusion of Obama’s state visit to Israel. Nevertheless, Obama appeared to shift uncomfortably and smirk during Erdoğan’s brief remarks on the Mavi Marmara during the press conference, which mainly focused on Syria.
Obama applauded Erdoğan’s “efforts to normalize relations with Israel” in his opening remarks. However, the Turkish head of state emphasized his intention to help facilitate national reconciliation between the rival Palestinian parties Fatah and Hamas, the latter of which is boycotted by the US and is designated as a foreign terrorist organization, while the former has been co-opted as a proxy for the US and Israel.
“According to my plans, most probably I would be visiting Gaza in June,” Erdoğan stated. “But it will not only be a visit to Gaza, I will also go to the West Bank. I place a lot of significance on this visit in terms of peace in the Middle East, and this visit in no way means the favoring of one [party] or the other. I’m hoping that visit will contribute to unity in Palestine; this is something that I focus on very much and I hope that my visit can contribute to that process.”
US blocked investigations
Earlier this year, the Center for Constitutional Rights published 5,000 pages of US government documents related to the killing of the nine humanitarian activists on the Mavi Marmara. The files, some of them almost entirely redacted, were obtained when the group sued the US government after it failed to respond to a Freedom of Information Act Request filed one month after the attack.
The documents show the extent to which the US disregarded the rights and safety of its citizens participating in the humanitarian mission to the besieged Gaza Strip. The files also show the lengths to which the Obama administration shielded Israel from accountability and blocked independent investigations into Israel’s assault — even though the evidence indicates that a US citizen may have been extrajudicially executed.
As the Center for Constitutional Rights summarizes, “Israeli commandos shot Furkan [Doğan, a US citizen,] five times, including one shot to the head at point-blank range. At the time of the attack, it is believed Furkan was filming with a small video camera on the top deck of the Mavi Marmara.” A United Nations inquiry into Israel’s attack on the flotilla states that the teen’s wounds indicate that “he may already have been lying wounded when the fatal shot was delivered, as suggested by witness accounts to that effect.”
It took the US government three days to learn that Furkan Doğan was slain on the Mavi Marmara, and has since failed to investigate his death. Yet the documents show that the Obama administration wasted no time in investigating passengers on the humanitarian convoy for terror group financing ties. (Read my interview with the Center for Constitutional Rights’ Jessica Lee for in-depth analysis of the documents.)
Compensation an “insult”
For their part, family of the Mavi Marara victims held a press conference in April during which they stated that Israel’s apology and promise of monetary compensation, in lieu of a meaningful accountability process, is “an insult.”
Meanwhile, justice for the Mavi Marmara victims is being pursued at the International Criminal Court. The Turkish humanitarian group IHH, which organized the Mavi Marmara, announced last week (emphasis mine):
For committing crimes which are recorded by the UN Human Rights Council, Attorneys Dr. Ramazan Ariturk and Cihat Gokdemir, with their Power of Attorney, have referred the case on behalf of the State of the Union of Comoros against Israel at the International Criminal Court on 14.05.2013 in order to try Israel and those responsible for the perpetration and commanding of the attack.
The referral together with its annexes contains images, documents, records and other evidence (witness, victim statements, videos and photographs, autopsy reports, other forensic medicine reports, expert reports and the UN Human Rights Council International Fact-Finding Mission Report which was accepted by the General Assembly).
The victims had also filed an individual application at the ICC on 14 October 2010. This application is still pending at the ICC Prosecutor.
As a State Party to the founding treaty of the ICC, the Rome Statute, The Union of Comoros has also the right to refer the case to the ICC, as the Mavi Marmara was waving its flag. On the bases of the territoriality principle, there is no doubt that the ICC has jurisdiction to try Israel for the crimes committed. As an international Court with jurisdiction of the crimes genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and the crime of aggression, The International Criminal Court will undoubtedly prosecute Israel too for committing the crimes stated by the UN Human Rights Council Report as war crimes and crimes against humanity.
At the international criminal prosecution, starting with this referral, it is requested to prosecute and punish all senior officials, starting with Benyamin Netanyahu with Power of Attorney by the Attorneys Dr. Ramazan Ariturk and Cihad Gokdemir on behalf of the State of the Union of Comoros.
There has also been a referral to the ICC against Israel for using illegal weapons during “Operation Cast Lead” in which 1,500 civilian Palestinians have been killed of which most were women and children. After Palestine received the status of ‘Observer State’ at the UN, Israel noticed the seriousness of this case and used all possible illegal ways to absolve from it and continue its unaccountability and lawless politics. However, after our referral on behalf of the Union of Comoros, Israel has no options to escape anymore from accountability for the war crimes it has committed.
This referral to the ICC will show the developments in the world in relation to universal human rights and humanitarian law and how much the ICC believes in these values and where it stands.
With thanks to Josh Ruebner.