War crimes prosecutor receives Israel complaint

AMSTERDAM: The prosecutor of the International Criminal Court – the permanent war crimes court in The Hague, Netherlands – says she has received a complaint about Israel’s 2010 raid on a humanitarian aid flotilla bound for Gaza, and she will open a preliminary investigation by Toby Sterling

The complaint comes from the tiny African state of Comoros, a member of the court, though Israel is not. Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda said she met Tuesday with lawyers from a Turkish law firm that is representing Comoros.

Eight Turks and one Turkish-American were killed and several other pro-Palestinian activists were wounded when Israeli commandos stormed the ship Mavi Marmara on May 31, 2010.

The Mavi Marmari was registered in Comoros, an archipelago off the African coast near Madagascar with a population of around 800,000.

As required by the court’s rules when a member state complains, “my office will be conducting a preliminary examination in order to establish whether the criteria for opening an investigation are met,” Bensouda said in a statement.

“After careful analysis of all available information, I shall make a determination that will be made public in due course.”

Previous attempts to engage prosecutors in an investigation of Israel have stalled due to lack of jurisdiction.

The ICC has jurisdiction over its members, over cases that are referred to it by the U.N. Security Council and over events that take place on the territory of member states.

In a filing, lawyers from the Istanbul-based law firm Elmadag argued that events that took place on the Mavi Marmari should be considered as having occurred on the territory of Comoros.

The court, which is not part of the United Nations, relies on assistance from member states and other governments to enforce its rulings. The United States, Russia and China are not members, but 122 other countries are.

Sudan, despite being a member, has refused to arrest its president, Omar al-Bashir, who is wanted by the court for alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity. The court’s arrest warrant against al-Bashir has been opposed by the African Union and League of Arab States, among others.

Relations between Turkey and Israel were badly strained by the Mavi Marmara incident.

The two have since taken some steps toward a rapprochement. Israel offered an apology and compensation, and the Turkish and Israeli leaders agreed to try to normalize their relationship.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan says that full diplomatic ties can only be resumed after compensation is paid to the surviving victims of the flotilla raids and the relatives of the dead. In addition, Israel must end all commercial restrictions on the Palestinians, he says.

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