No Comment — October 4, 2010, 4:36 pm

News That’s Unfit to Print: UN Report on the Flotilla Deaths

The United Nations Human Rights Council appointed an expert panel to look into the deaths resulting from the August 10 May 31 Israeli interception of a flotilla of vessels bringing relief supplies to Gaza. It was headed by Judge Karl T. Hudson-Phillips, Q.C., a retired judge of the International Criminal Court and former attorney general of Trinidad and Tobago, and included Sir Desmond de Silva, Q.C., the British former chief prosecutor of the Special Court for Sierra Leone, and Ms. Mary Shanthi Dairiam of Malaysia, a prominent women’s rights advocate. The panel released its report on September 27. (PDF) It contains some startling findings, particularly surrounding the death of a Turkish-American dual national, Furkan Do?an, and five other passengers:

The circumstances of the killing of at least six of the passengers were in a manner consistent with an extra-legal, arbitrary and summary execution. Furkan Do?an and ?brahim Bilgen were shot at near range while the victims were lying injured on the top deck. Cevdet Kiliçlar, Cengiz Akyüz, Cengiz Songür and Çetin Topçuo?lu were shot on the bridge deck while not participating in activities that represented a threat to any Israeli soldier. In these instances and possibly other killings on the Mavi Marmara, Israeli forces carried out extra- legal, arbitrary and summary executions prohibited by international human rights law, specifically article 6 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

The report concludes that the Israeli boarders did not face credible threats of imminent harm that would have warranted the use of such lethal force as was used to subdue the Mavi Marmara. “A well-trained force such as the Israeli Defense Force should have been able to successfully contain a relatively small group of passengers armed with sticks and knives and secure control of the ship without the loss of life or serious injury to either passengers or soldiers,” the panel concluded. Indeed, the case of the American victim was particularly compelling in this regard:

two of the passengers killed on the top deck received wounds compatible with being shot at close range while lying on the ground: Furkan Do?an received a bullet in the face and ?brahim Bilgen received a fatal wound from a soft baton round (beanbag) fired at such close proximity to his head that parts such as wadding penetrated his skull and entered his brain.

The report contains a fairly conventional discussion of the legal posture of the Israeli government concerning its blockade of Gaza, but its heart is clearly the fact-finding concerning the use of lethal force and the justifications advanced for it. Moreover, it’s hard to quibble with many of the report’s legal premises. Israel had a colorable right under international law to board and inspect the ships, and it had a right to use force in the process. The difficulties arise when lethal force is used against people who either present no threat to begin with or have been subdued. A bullet wound to the head of a person who is prostate and offering no resistance requires some extraordinary explanation.

This report has been widely circulated and discussed among international law experts who trade notes about its interpretation of the San Remo Manual and the various theories advanced by Israel to advance its blockade, and it has gotten intense attention in the press in Europe and in Turkey. But it has drawn remarkably little attention from the press in the United States. Even the New York Times, whose editorial pages previously included dueling columns about the significance of Do?an’s death and the flotilla incident, has not even mentioned the report’s existence, notwithstanding the fact that it deals with the death of an American citizen. Why might that be?

Defenders of the Netanyahu government tend to be dismissive of anything that comes out of the Human Rights Council, which is indeed a profoundly flawed institution. But this is not an expression of opinion by the council, even though it voted to adopt the report; it is rather the fruit of an independent inquiry by experts. The persons who prepared this report are eminent figures with no obvious prejudices one way or the other on the Gaza controversy. Their report is a model of clarity and masters an impressive body of evidence. No doubt mistakes have been made at some point, and there is room to quibble over interpretation and application of legal norms to the incident. But complete and utter silence? That sends a clear and unfortunate message about the value assigned to the lives lost.

Share
Single Page

More from Scott Horton:

Conversation August 5, 2016, 12:08 pm

Lincoln’s Party

Sidney Blumenthal on the origins of the Republican Party, the fallout from Clinton’s emails, and his new biography of Abraham Lincoln

Conversation March 30, 2016, 3:44 pm

Burn Pits

Joseph Hickman discusses his new book, The Burn Pits, which tells the story of thousands of U.S. soldiers who, after returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, have developed rare cancers and respiratory diseases.

Context, No Comment August 28, 2015, 12:16 pm

Beltway Secrecy

In five easy lessons

Get access to 165 years of
Harper’s for only $45.99

United States Canada

CATEGORIES

THE CURRENT ISSUE

September 2016

Land of Sod

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Only an Apocalypse Can Save Us Now

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

The Watchmen

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Acceptable Losses

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Home

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Tennis Lessons

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

view Table Content

FEATURED ON HARPERS.ORG

Post
 
Andrew Cockburn on the Saudi slaughter in Yemen, Alan Jacobs on the disappearance of Christian intellectuals, a forum on a post-Obama foreign policy, a story by Alice McDermott, and more
Artwork by Ingo Günther
Article
Land of Sod·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Nobody in academia had ever witnessed or even heard of a performance like this before. In just a few years, in the early 1950s, a University of Pennsylvania graduate student — a student, in his twenties — had taken over an entire field of study, linguistics, and stood it on its head and hardened it from a spongy so-called “social science” into a real science, a hard science, and put his name on it: Noam Chomsky.

At the time, Chomsky was still finishing his doctoral dissertation for Penn, where he had completed his graduate-school course work. But at bedtime and in his heart of hearts he was living in Boston as a junior member of Harvard’s Society of Fellows, and creating a Harvard-level name for himself.

Photograph by Mike Slack
Article
The Watchmen·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Nobody in academia had ever witnessed or even heard of a performance like this before. In just a few years, in the early 1950s, a University of Pennsylvania graduate student — a student, in his twenties — had taken over an entire field of study, linguistics, and stood it on its head and hardened it from a spongy so-called “social science” into a real science, a hard science, and put his name on it: Noam Chomsky.

At the time, Chomsky was still finishing his doctoral dissertation for Penn, where he had completed his graduate-school course work. But at bedtime and in his heart of hearts he was living in Boston as a junior member of Harvard’s Society of Fellows, and creating a Harvard-level name for himself.

Illustration by John Ritter
Article
The Origins of Speech·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

"To Chomsky...every child’s language organ could use the 'deep structure,' 'universal grammar,' and 'language acquisition device' he was born with to express what he had to say, no matter whether it came out of his mouth in English or Urdu or Nagamese."
Illustration (detail) by Darrel Rees. Source photograph © Miroslav Dakov/Alamy Live News
Article
Acceptable Losses·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Nobody in academia had ever witnessed or even heard of a performance like this before. In just a few years, in the early 1950s, a University of Pennsylvania graduate student — a student, in his twenties — had taken over an entire field of study, linguistics, and stood it on its head and hardened it from a spongy so-called “social science” into a real science, a hard science, and put his name on it: Noam Chomsky.

At the time, Chomsky was still finishing his doctoral dissertation for Penn, where he had completed his graduate-school course work. But at bedtime and in his heart of hearts he was living in Boston as a junior member of Harvard’s Society of Fellows, and creating a Harvard-level name for himself.

Photograph by Alex Potter

Chances that college students select as “most desirable‚” the same face chosen by the chickens:

49 in 50

Most of the United States’ 36,000 yearly bunk-bed injuries involve male victims.

In Italy, a legislator called for parents who feed their children vegan diets to be sentenced to up to six years in prison, and in Sweden, a woman attempted to vindicate her theft of six pairs of underwear by claiming she had severe diarrhea.

Subscribe to the Weekly Review newsletter. Don’t worry, we won’t sell your email address!

HARPER’S FINEST

Mississippi Drift

By

Matt was happy enough to sustain himself on the detritus of a world he saw as careening toward self-destruction, and equally happy to scam a government he despised. 'I’m glad everyone’s so wasteful,' he told me. 'It supports my lifestyle.'

Subscribe Today