The Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) strongly condemns the report of the Panel of Inquiry (Palmer Committee) established by the UN Secretary-General to investigate the attack on Mavi Marmara, one of the ships of the Freedom Flotilla, while it was in international waters and headed to the Gaza Strip, carrying humanitarian aid for Gaza’s civilian population. PCHR believes that the Committee prioritized political considerations over the rule of international law and the rights of victims, while legitimizing the policy of collective punishment represented in the blockade imposed on the Gaza Strip.
According to unofficial excerpts published by New York Times on 01 September 2011, the report concludes that the naval blockade of Gaza is legal as a matter of international law. Consequently, it does not demand Israel to apologize for the crime it committed against human rights defenders who were attempting to transfer humanitarian aid to Gaza, which left 9 civilians dead and injured at least 50 others. The report considers that Israel used excessive force against the Freedom Flotilla, and urges it to compensate families of the victims. PCHR believes that the recommendations of the report do not commensurate with the crimes it addresses. Forensic medical reports have indicated that the majority of victims were shot several times from short ranges. PCHR reiterates that the attack against Mavi Marmara is a hideous crime, in which excessive and lethal force was used, killing and wounding dozens of international civilian solidarity activists on board on the Freedom Flotilla.
PCHR believes that the Panel of Inquiry, established by UN Secretary-General Mr. Ban Ki-moon on 02 August 2010, which started its mission on 10 August 2010, is purely political, and consequently, its conclusions are purely political. It is not expected to provide legal opinions, like when it claims that the blockade imposed by Israel on Gaza is legal as a matter of international law. The Panel was comprised of Mr. Geoffrey Palmer, former Prime Minister of New Zealand, as Chairman; Alvaro Uribe, former Columbian President, as Vice-Chairman; the Israeli Joseph Itzhar, as a member; and the Turkish Sűleyman özdem Sanberk, as a member. Several civil society groups in Columbia and Latin America accuse the Panel's Vice-Chairman, Alvaro Uribe, of perpetrating serious human rights violations in his country over several years.
PCHR further believes that the Panel of Inquiry lacks professionalism as its conclusions contradict various legal opinions issued by many international legal experts and UN bodies concerned with human right and international humanitarian law, which have all considered that the blockade imposed by Israel on the Gaza Strip is illegal and constitutes a form of collective punishment, prohibited under Article 33 of the 1949 Fourth Geneva Convention Relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War. It is also a war crime, the recurrence of which must be prevented by all parties, including the High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention. PCHR views the mobility of international humanitarian organizations and human right defenders is logical to break the illegal blockade imposed on the Gaza Strip since mid 2007, when Israel imposed a total siege and closed all border crossings of the Gaza Strip after Gaza International Airport had been completely destroyed in 2000.
In light of the above, PCHR condemns the initial findings concluded by Palmer Committee, which contradict the position of the international community towards the blockade impose on the Gaza Strip, particularly international reports addressing the human rights situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including the Gaza Strip, including, inter alia, reports of the UN Human Rights Council and the UN Special Rapporteur on the occupied Palestinian territories. The findings of the report of Palmer Committee are also in contradiction with the Goldstone Report prepared by the Inquiry Mission on Gaza Conflict established by the UN Human Rights Council to investigate the Israeli military offensive on the Gaza Strip in 2008-2009, which considered the blockade imposed on the Gaza Strip illegal. They are further in contrast with the legal opinion issued by the ICRC, a preeminent organization for interpreting international humanitarian law, which indicated that the closure policy constitutes a form of collective punishment against the civilian population in the Gaza Strip, and an explicit violation of Israel's obligations under international law.
1- PCHR totally rejects the findings of the report of Palmer Committee considering it is politicized and disregards for the international law. PCHR calls upon all international organizations to condemn the report, and not to deal with the findings that contradict with international law and human rights standards.
2- PCHR emphasizes that this report will bring more pains and suffering for 1.6 million Palestinians living in the Gaza Strip under an illegal siege that violates the international humanitarian law and human rights law.
3- Reiterates that the blockade is illegal as it constitutes a violation of international law, as confirmed by the UN bodies, including the UN Human Rights Council, reports of the UN Special Rapporteur on the occupied Palestinian Territories, reports of the ICRC and reports of international human rights organizations, including the International Federation for Human Rights, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.
4- PCHR calls upon the international community to intensify efforts to stop the policy of collective punishment against the population of the Gaza Strip and lift the blockade that has been imposed for the past five years.
5- PCHR calls for opening an international criminal investigation into this crime based on the available legal evidence and documents, including the forensic medical reports of victims.
6- PCHR supports the move of the Government of Turkey to the International Court of Justice, as the highest international judicial body to consider this crime, and reminds of its Advisory Opinion on the wall in the West Bank issued in July 2004, which considered the siege imposed on the Occupied Palestinian Territory a form of collective punishment prohibited under the international law. PCHR calls upon all States and international organizations to support the Turkish move in this regard.