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For Immediate Release

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Rights Groups Welcome Human Rights Council Report on the Israeli Attack on Flotilla to Gaza and its Finding that On-Going Blockade of Gaza is Illegal, Denounce U.S. Response to Report

HRC Report Says That Gaza Blockade Was Imposed to “Punish” People of Gaza for Hamas Election


Discussions at the Human Rights Council (HRC) continued today following the
release of a report of the fact-finding mission that investigated the May 31,
2010 Israeli attacks on the flotilla of ships travelling to Gaza, in which it
found that Israel violated international law in attacking the flotilla and by maintaining
a blockade of Gaza. Nine people were killed during the Israeli attack on the
flotilla in international waters. The Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR),
the Free Gaza Movement (FGM), an
organizer of the flotilla, and the National Lawyers Guild (NLG)
responded to the report and the comments made by the United States at the
Council today.

Today, at the HRC, the
United States criticized what it termed as the report's "unbalanced language,
tone and conclusions." Rather than
acknowledging the harm to the "peace process" that comes from the on-going
blockade of Gaza and the building of settlements on occupied Palestinian
territory, the U.S. urged that the report not be used to "disrupt" direct talks
between Israel and the Palestinians.

"Unfortunately, the United States
used the opportunity of the HRC's discussion on the flotilla fact-finding
mission's report to promote its political agenda instead of engaging on the
issue of legal accountability for Israel's illegal blockade of Gaza and the
unlawful attack on the Gaza flotilla," said CCR attorney Katherine Gallagher. "The U.S. must recognize that there can be no peace without
justice, and that until it supports accountability for violations of
international law - even when violations committed by Israel - instead of a
culture of impunity, it lacks the legitimacy necessary to serve as a broker of

"It has always been
the position of the Free Gaza Movement that when governments fail to act, it is
up to civil society to stand against injustice," said Audrey Bomse, Legal
Coordinator of the Free Gaza Movement. "The Fact-Finding Mission rejected
the notion that such intervention by civil society is meddlesome and called for
space for both humanitarian intervention to alleviate the crisis in Gaza, and political action
to address the causes creating the crisis. The Second Freedom Flotilla now
being organized, like the one so brutally attacked by Israel, will aim to do both. We
will continue sailing until the illegal siege of 1.5 million Palestinians in Gaza is ended."

Among its findings, the
report stated that "one of the principal motives behind the imposition of the
blockade was a desire to punish the people of the Gaza Strip for having elected
Hamas [and there is] no doubt that Israel's actions and policies amount to
collective punishment as defined by international law."

The report also found:

That the flotilla
presented no imminent threat but the Israeli attack was based in concerns
regarding a "possible propaganda victory" of the flotilla organizers;

That "the Israeli interception of the flotilla was
unlawful," and "the use of force by the Israeli forces in seizing control of
the...vessels was also prima facie unlawful";

That "much of the force used by the Israeli
soldiers...was unnecessary, disproportionate, excessive and inappropriate and
resulted in the wholly avoidable killing and maiming of a large number of
civilian passengers";

That based in forensic evidence, at least six of the
killings [including U.S.
citizen Furkhan Dogan] can be characterized as "extra-legal, arbitrary and
summary executions";

That "the conduct of the Israeli military and other
personnel towards the flotilla passengers was not only disproportionate to the
occasion but demonstrated levels of totally unnecessary and incredible
violence. It betrayed an unacceptable level of brutality"; and

That Israel's
confiscation of "a large amount of video and photographic
passengers, including many professional journalists... represents a deliberate
attempt by the Israeli authorities to suppress or destroy evidence and other
information" related to the flotilla attack.

"As a retired US Army Reserve Colonel and a former US diplomat, and as a
passenger on the Gaza flotilla, I am grateful that the UN Human Rights Council
commissioned an investigation into the Israeli military attack on the six
unarmed, civilian ships that formed the 'Gaza flotilla,'" said Ann Wright, one of two US diplomats who were passengers on the Gaza flotilla.
"Despite the passengers' notification to their respective diplomatic
representatives of criminal incidents that took place on the ships, including
murder, shootings, assaults, kidnapping on the high seas and theft of personal
property, the lack of required accountability by the Israeli government
pertaining to these crimes is outrageous. The lack of investigation on the part
of the U.S. government of the death of an American citizen and the assaults on
other American citizens by the Israeli military is a total renunciation of the
responsibilities of my government toward its citizens."

Sixteen U.S. citizens were part of the
flotilla, five of whom were on the U.S.-registered vessel Challenger I and one of whom was killed on the Mavi Marmara. U.S. citizens were injured, and their property,
including computers, video and photographic equipment which contain potential
evidence for investigations, was seized and appropriated by Israel and has not
been returned.

Marjorie Cohn, immediate past president of the NLG, said, "Israel could not maintain its illegal occupation
of the Palestinian territories without the support of the United States. Three weeks after
the flotilla attack, 329 out of 435 members of the House of Representatives and
87 out of 100 senators wrote letters to President Obama supporting what they
called Israel's right to 'self-defense.'
The Human Rights Council report says unequivocally that Israel had no
need to 'defend' against the flotilla because it posed no imminent threat and
that Israel's actions were illegal."

The Free Gaza Movement is a
human rights group that in August 2008 sent the first international boats to
land in the port of Gaza in 41 years. FGM seeks to break the
siege of Gaza, to raise international awareness
about the prison-like closure of the Gaza Strip and pressure the international
community to review its sanctions policy and end its support for continued
Israeli occupation.

The National Lawyers
Guild, founded in 1937, is the
oldest and largest public interest/human rights bar organization in the United
States. It is a member of the International Association of Democratic lawyers,
headquartered in New York with chapters throughout the United States.

The Center for Constitutional Rights is dedicated to
advancing and protecting the rights guaranteed by the United States
Constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Founded in 1966 by
attorneys who represented civil rights movements in the South, CCR is a
non-profit legal and educational organization committed to the creative use of
law as a positive force for social change.

For more information on
CCR's response to the attack on the flotilla and the blockade of Gaza, go to:

The Center for Constitutional Rights is dedicated to advancing and protecting the rights guaranteed by the United States Constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. CCR is committed to the creative use of law as a positive force for social change.

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