- Category: Press releases archive
- Published on Friday, 03 June 2011 15:36
A flotilla of three passenger and three cargo ships departed off the coast of Cyprus on 30 May 2010 under United States, Greece, and Turkey flags carrying a combined 10,000 tonnes of humanitarian and reconstruction supplies along with over 600 passengers bound for Gaza. In the early hours of 31 May Israeli commandos killed at least nine activists and wounded many others during a military operation to board and seize the six ships en route while in international waters. After taking control, the Israeli military forced the seized ship to the port of Ashdod, approximately 40 kilometers south of Tel Aviv, from where the hundreds of passengers have been detained or deported. Among the activists from Australia, Europe, Israel, Palestine and the United States were an elderly Holocaust survivor, two German members of the Bundestag lower house of parliament, and 1976 Nobel Peace Prize laureate Mairead Corrigan Maguire of Northern Ireland.
CIVICUS supports the unanimous UN Security Council resolution in calling for "the immediate release of the ships as well as the civilians held by Israel" along with "a prompt, impartial, credible and transparent investigation conforming to international standards". International law unequivocally prohibits attacks on ships in international waters and the attack on these six ships has drawn widespread international condemnation. CIVICUS urges countries who have failed to unequivocally condemn the attack to support this global reaction.
"The claim of blanket entitlement to act against potential security threats cannot justify the extreme and lethal use of force against unarmed civilian ships and passengers," said Ingrid Srinath, Secretary General of CIVICUS. "Although Israel has a right to self-defense, as do all nations, any defensive act must abide by the basic principle of proportionality"
CIVICUS also calls upon the Israeli government to end the three year blockade on Gaza, which perpetuates a social and economic humanitarian disaster in the territory and amounts to collective punishment of civilians. The six ships sized on Monday were carrying cement and other building materials that the Israeli government bars; as a result three-quarters of the damage inflicted during Israel's three-week attack on Gaza in 2008-2009 remains unreconstructed more than a year later. For a population of 1.5 million people, the government of Israel allows 15,000 tons of humanitarian aid into Gaza each week and according to the World Health Organisation this causes a shortage of medicines and other essential supplies.
CIVICUS calls for the immediate release of the ships and all detained civilians, an immediate, independent investigation to the attack on the unarmed ships and the end of the blockade on Gaza. CIVICUS and civil society worldwide are watching the Israeli government's treatment of humanitarian voyages to Gaza. All countries who uphold international law should, we believe, ensure that the government of Israel is held accountable to international law.
CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation is a global movement of civil society with members and partners in over a hundred countries. The Civil Society Watch (CSW) programme of CIVICUS tracks threats to civil society freedoms of expression, association and assembly across the world. In 2009, CSW tracked threats to civil society in over 75 countries around the globe.
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