Spain prosecutor requests ICC referral of case against Israel’s Netanyahu for 2010 flotilla attack

A protest outside Spain’s foreign ministry in Madrid on 31 May 2010, the day of the Israeli attack on the Mavi Marmara (source).

Olmo González Flickr

The prosecutor of Spain’s national court has formally requested a judge to begin steps to refer a case against Israeli leaders for the attack on the Gaza flotilla in 2010 to the International Criminal Court (ICC).

Three Spanish citizens, Manuel Tapial, Laura Arau and David Segarra, were aboard the Mavi Marmara when Israeli forces attacked and commandeered the ship in international waters on 31 May 2010, killing nine people, wounding dozens of others, and kidnapping all the crew and hundreds of passengers.

Tapial, Arau and Segarra filed the case against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, six ministers and a vice admiral of the Israeli navy who led the attack. Arau, a filmmaker, described the attack in an interview last August, and said the Israelis confiscated everything she recorded.

The Mavi Marmara was the largest of several vessels that formed the flotilla that attempted to break the Israeli siege on Gaza.

Prosecutor finds strong evidence of crimes against humanity

Spain’s reported that the prosecutor in the case, Pedro Martínez Torrijos, found that there was “strong evidence” of “crimes against humanity, illegal detention, deportation and torture” that merited investigation by the ICC.

Torrijos ruled that both Spain’s national courts and the ICC were competent to investigate the case, but that the ICC was preferable. If the ICC refused to investigate, or ruled the case inadmissible, according to Torrijos, then it could return to Spanish courts under universal jurisdiction.

The prosecutor said the ICC had jurisdiction because the vessels that were the victims of the attack were flagged in states that are members of the international court, and Spain was involved as its citizens were aboard the ships.

Government will decide

Under Spanish procedure, the prosecutor sent an official brief (PDF) containing his findings to a magistrate asking that the judge request the Ministry of Justice to refer the case to the ICC. In other words, reported, “the government will decide whether to refer the case to the ICC prosecutor.”

That could be a sticking point as several Western governments, including the UK and Belgium, have previously been complicit in frustrating efforts to bring Israeli war criminals to justice.

The three plaintiffs and Spanish civil society groups welcomed the Spanish prosecutor’s move.

Late last year the trial in absentia began in Turkey of Israeli officials accused of crimes related to the attack on the flotilla.




I hope that something comes of this but we should keep our expectations in check. The current Minister of Justice, Alfredo Ruiz-Gallardon, is an ultra-conservative dedicated to repealing Post-Franco reforms. I cannot imagine him resisting intense US/EU pressure to drop the case. Likewise, the Audiencia Nacional, Spain's highest court, is often bullied into submission by the executive power -- now in the hands of PP. Nevertheless, Israeli policies provoke widespread - virtually unanimous- disgust among the Spanish citizenry and public perception is important. If Rajoy's government, and by proxy the Audiencia, is perceived as a "poodle" to EU/US interests, there could be a political backlash in the next elections.