UN Rights Council Names Team to Probe Israel Flotilla Raid

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Agence France-Presse

UN Rights Council Names Team to Probe Israel Flotilla Raid

by
Hui Min Neo

Israeli soldiers intercept a Gaza-bound aid flotilla in the Mediterranean Sea. (AFP))

GENEVA — The UN Human Rights Council named a panel of experts Friday
to investigate whether Israel's deadly raid on a Gaza-bound aid flotilla
breached international law and urged the Jewish state to cooperate.

Briton
Desmond de Silva, Malaysian Mary Shanthi Dairiam and Karl
Hudson-Phillips from Trinidad and Tobago would probe the events
surrounding the May 31 raid in which nine Turkish activists were killed,
the council announced.

"This is not about finger pointing, it's
about establishing the facts of what took place because the incident was
humanitarian tragedy and it's in the interests of everyone," said
council president Sihasak Phuangketkeow.

"So I'm hoping and I'm
urging all the parties concerned to render their full cooperation,
because it is in their interests and it's in the interests of the
international community as a whole."

Israel has consistently
rejected calls for an international independent investigation into the
raid by its commandos and instead launched its own military probe and
set up a separate panel to examine the legality of the raid.

Last week the military investigation admitted that mistakes were made at a "relatively senior" level.

However,
it also found that the use of live fire by commandos was justified and
that troops on board the Turkish-owned Mavi Marmara had behaved in a
"very professional and courageous way."

The Israeli panel, led by
retired Supreme Court judge Yaacov Tirkel, will hear testimony from all
of the top political and military decision makers involved in planning
the raid, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Still
seething over a report by the UN investigator Richard Goldstone last
year into its conduct during the 2008-2009 war in Gaza, Israel has
refused to countenance an international investigation into the flotilla
raid.

The 47-member state Human Rights Council condemned the raid
as an "outrageous attack" during an emergency session in June. The
decision to set up a panel was made at the same session.

Phuangketkeow insisted that the panel would be completely unbiased.

"The
expertise, independence and impartiality of the members of the mission
will be devoted to clarifying the events which took place that day and
their legality," added Phuangketkeow.

Hudson-Phillips was a judge
at the International Criminal Court, de Silva was chief prosecutor of
the UN court for Sierra Leone while Dairiam serves on the gender
equality taskforce of the UN Development Programme.

The panel is expected to draw up a plan of action as well as contact relevant parties before travelling to the region.

Although
no exact timetable for the panel's work was revealed, the report on
their findings was scheduled to be made to the Human Rights Council
during its 15th session in September.

The bloodshed on the aid
flotilla sparked a deep crisis in already strained relations between
Turkey and Israel, once close allies.

Ankara has urged the Jewish
state to apologise, compensate the families of the victims and lift the
blockade of Gaza to repair the relations.

Israel says its
commandos used force only after they were attacked with sticks and
stabbed as soon as they landed on the Turkish ferry Mavi Marmara.

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