24 Jul 2010

UN names team to probe Gaza ship raid

2:29 pm on 24 July 2010

The UN Human Rights Council has appointed a three-member panel to investigate alleged violations of international law during Israel's raid on an aid flotilla bound for Gaza two months ago.

The UN team is expected to travel to Israel, Turkey and Gaza in August to interview witnesses about the circumstances which led to the killing of nine activists on one of the ships.

The Israeli navy stormed the flotilla on 31 May, killing eight Turks and a Turkish-American on board a Turkish ship.

Israel said its commandos acted in self-defence and has rejected calls for an international inquiry into the raid.

But Pakistan and Sudan led a move by Muslim countries at the UN human rights body, where they hold an effective majority, to condemn the raid and demand an independent inquiry.The council voted to set up the independent inquiry on 2 June.

A separate Israeli military inquiry released on 12 July found intelligence and operational errors in the raid but defended the use of force.

The fact-finding team comprises three independent experts; Sir Desmond de Silva, is a former war crimes prosecutor, Karl Hudson-Phillips is a former judge at the International Criminal Court and Mary Shanthi Dairiam, a Malaysian women's rights activist.

Legal action

Meanwhile, two Spanish activists and a journalist arrested in the raid are filing charges against Israel's prime minister, the BBC reports.

The three accuse Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu, six cabinet ministers and the navy commander of illegal detention, torture and deportation.

Spanish courts are yet to accept the case.