Amnesty says Israeli flotilla probe lacks transparency

15th June 2010, Comments 0 comments

Amnesty International criticised on Tuesday Israel's planned internal probe of the deadly raid on a Gaza aid flotilla, saying it would lack transparency and was unlikely to ensure accountability.

The Israeli committee, which will include two foreign observers, was formed to conduct an investigation into the legal aspects of the May 31 operation in which commandos killed nine Turkish activists and wounded many more.

"The format of this government-appointed commission represents a disappointment and a missed opportunity," Malcolm Smart, Amnesty's director for the Middle East and North Africa, said in a statement.

"The commission looks to be neither independent nor sufficiently transparent, the two international observers may be denied access to crucial information and the commission's findings may not be used in future prosecutions," Smart said.

The panel will be headed by retired supreme court judge Yaakov Tirkel, and will include Nobel Peace Prize winner David Trimble from Northern Ireland and Ken Watkin, former judge advocate general of the Canadian armed forces.

But it was not clear what powers Trimble and Watkin would have. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office said they would not able "to vote in relation to the proceedings and conclusions of the commission."

The two could also be denied access to information if it was "almost certain to cause substantial harm to national security or to the state's foreign relations."

"The processes of the commission must be open, transparent and allow access to all information sources," said Smart. "It should not allow the political considerations of the Israeli government to determine which of its findings are made public."

Israel is facing mounting pressure to end the blockade on Gaza, imposed in 2006 after Gaza militants seized an Israeli soldier in a cross-border raid.

Commenting on that, Smart said the "creation of this commission must not distract attention from Israel's continuing blockade of Gaza, which Israel must lift immediately. The Israeli authorities' closure of Gaza constitutes collective punishment and is in clear violation of the Israel's legal obligations as the occupying power."

© 2010 AFP

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