Israeli forces may have committed war crimes when they stormed an aid flotilla boat heading to Gaza in 2010 but they are not grave enough to merit a prosecution at the International Criminal Court (ICC), the institution’s prosecutor said today.
“Following a thorough legal and factual analysis of the information available, I have concluded that there is a reasonable basis to believe that war crimes under the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court were committed on one of the vessels, the Mavi Marmara, when Israeli defence forces intercepted the ‘Gaza Freedom Flotilla’ on May 31 2010,” Fatou Bensouda said in a statement.
However, Ms Bensouda said that any cases relating to the storming “would not be of sufficient gravity to justify further action by the ICC”.
Eight Turks and one Turkish-American were killed and several other pro-Palestinian activists were wounded when Israeli commandos stormed the ship on May 31 2010.
Ms Bensouda opened a preliminary investigation last year after the tiny African state of Comoros – which is a member of the court – filed a complaint about the boarding of the ship which was flying under a Comoros flag.
A Turkish lawyer representing Comoros vowed not to give up the case.
“This is a moral struggle that we’re pursuing by ourselves. It’s a legal struggle; a struggle in the name of humanity. This struggle isn’t over,” said attorney Ramazan Ariturk.
“We will object to a higher court at the International Criminal Court and we believe without a doubt that we will prevail.”
In a 61-page report, prosecutors conclude that “there is a reasonable basis to believe” that Israeli forces may have committed the crimes of wilful killing, wilfully causing serious injury and committing outrages upon personal dignity.
The report said that the findings were based on “information available at this stage” and that ICC prosecutors did not collect the evidence.
A UN report in July 2011 found that the raid was justified but that Israel used excessive force.
Israel and Turkey are not members of the court, which only has jurisdiction over its members, over cases that are referred to it by the UN Security Council and over events that take place on the territory of member states.