Israel is set to release the second part of an internal commission to investigate the events of a military raid on a flotilla of ships heading to Gaza from Turkey in May 2010. Nine people were killed in the raid when an IDF attempt to board the Mavi Mamara ship took a violent turn. The findings due to be released Wednesday will focus on the state
mechanism for looking into potential war crimes. It will address how effectively Israel can investigate itself for alleged war crimes, and could have a major impact on the way the country’s critics and
allies look back on its investigation into Operation Cast Lead of winter 2008-9, as well as on future
The first part of the commission’s report, published on
January 23, 2011, found that Israel’s actions in enforcing the Gaza blockade
associated with the May 31, 2010 Mavi Marmara flotilla incident had been in
accordance with international law. It is usually referred to simply as the
Turkel Report, named for the commission’s chairman, former Supreme Court justice
The commission’s official name is the Public Commission to
Examine the Maritime Incident of May 31, 2010. Its original mandate is from June
The second part of the report reflects an addition made to the
mandate on July 4, 2010, at a time when Israel was still facing intense
criticism over alleged war crimes during Operation Cast Lead, which took place
in the Gaza Strip from December 2008 to January 2009.
heard testimony from a plethora of top officials in Israel’s legal system, as
well as from top human rights figures and academics.
Yehuda Weinstein and Deputy State Attorney Shai Nitzan testified on behalf of
the Justice Ministry, stating that Israel vigorously investigates itself when
there are accusations of wrongdoing, including war crimes.
that the unusually easy access to the High Court of Justice by any Israeli
citizen or Palestinian resident of the West Bank shows the “determination of the
Israeli legal system to maintain basic values and human rights even under
complex and sensitive circumstances from public and security
Yuval Diskin testified when he headed the Shin Bet (Israel
Security Agency), as did Maj.- Gen. (res.) Avichai Mandelblit when he was
military advocate- general, and Col. Haim Sasson, at the time commander of the
Military Police Investigations Unit.
Mandelblit spoke about the
difficulties – for Israel and any country – inherent in investigating alleged
crimes committed in the framework of combat where, without help from outside groups, the IDF often cannot locate
He contrasted these difficulties with a standard
criminal investigation where the victim comes forward and provides authorities
with information to perform an investigation.
Diskin and Sasson testified
in closed-door hearings.
Top figures in the human rights community,
including Michael Sfard from Yesh Din, Dan Yakir from the Association for Civil
Rights in Israel, and Jessica Montell from B’Tselem, also testified, mostly
claiming fundamental shortcomings in Israel’s ability to investigate
Sfard, for example, emphasized his belief that Israel fell short
on the principles of international law regarding transparency, effectiveness,
impartiality, independence and promptness, noting that “complaints regarding
ostensible violations of international law by soldiers face severe obstacles, so
that it needs a miracle to reach the last stage” of an investigation by which
one can determine that internal legal standards are met.
University Law School head Yuval Shany suggested changes to the investigative
system, including a multi-tiered mechanism that employs different approaches
depending on the rank of the officer who ordered a military action. The purpose
is to ensure that the investigator is always someone who was outside the chain
of command regarding the specific action.
While rejected by such
countries as Turkey and a number of human rights groups, the first part of the
report gained high recognition, not only from traditional allies like the US,
but from a number of UN officials and panels.