Mavi Marmara Post Mortems

I finally finished reading the full report commissioned by the UN Human Rights Council to investigate the IDF attacks on the Mavi Marmara last May. I can’t begin to describe how chilling these findings are.

The mission’s conclusion:

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 Doğan and İbrahim Bilgen were shot at near range while the victims were lying injured on the top deck. Cevdet Kiliçlar, Cengiz Akyüz, Cengiz Songür and Çetin Topçuoğlu 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 extralegal, arbitrary and summary executions prohibited by international human rights law, specifically article 6 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

Although the Israeli military described the event as a “lynching” of its soldiers by brutal provocateurs, the post-mortem description of the victims makes it pretty clear who the real victims were that night. Witness, for example, this post-mortem description of the body of teenage victim Furkan Dogan:

Furkan Dogan, a nineteen-year old with dual Turkish and United States citizenship, was on the central area of the top deck filming with a small video camera when he was first hit with live fire. It appears that he was lying on the deck in a conscious, or semi-conscious, state for some time. In total Furkan received five bullet wounds, to the face, head, back thorax, left leg and foot. All of the entry wounds were on the back of his body, except for the face wound which entered to the right of his nose. According to forensic analysis, tattooing around the wound in his face indicates that the shot was delivered at point blank range. Furthermore, the trajectory of the wound, from bottom to top, together with a vital abrasion to the left shoulder that could be consistent with the bullet exit point, is compatible with the shot being received while he was lying on the ground on his back. The other wounds were not the result of firing in contact, near contact or close range, but it is not otherwise possible to determine the exact firing range. The wounds to the leg and foot were most likely received in a standing position.

The fact-finding mission conducted interviews with more than 100 witnesses in Geneva, London, Istanbul and Amman – and consulted with numerous forensic and medical experts.  It is impressively thorough, especially considering Israel refused to cooperate with the investigation and still refuses to release the extensive video and documentary evidence it seized from passengers.

Not surprisingly, Israel has denounced the report as “biased and distorted” and is conducting its own investigation, the Turkel Commission. (The news from that investigation doesn’t look too promising – already we’re receiving reports that the commission is showing outright hostility to Israeli human rights groups that were called to testify.)

For a spot-on analysis of the UNHC report, I strongly recommend this piece by Salon’s Glenn Greenwald, who rightly takes the US government to task for its “appalling silence” in the face of Israel’s outrageous violation of human rights and international law:

Perhaps most illustrative of all is how inconceivable it is to imagine the U.S. Congress doing anything at all in the face of this report . . . except passing a Resolution condemning the investigators themselves while defending Israeli actions, including the actions that resulted in the death of an American teenager.  Is there any doubt that such a Resolution would pass with overwhelming bipartisan support, approaching unanimity — as happens each and every time there is a controversy involving Israel?   Thus far, the U.S. media and Government are largely silent about this U.N. Report, but if they are prodded into responding, the response will almost certainly be to condemn the report itself while defending and justifying Israeli actions even in the face of overwhelming evidence as to what really happened here, which managed to emerge despite the Israelis’ very telling efforts to keep it suppressed.

Greenwald is correct, of course. By all rights our government should be condemning this brutal assault and insist that Israel release all evidence of what occurred that night.

In the meantime, the only footage available to us is the video taken and smuggled out by Iara Lee, Executive Director of Cultures of Resistance – and one of the few Americans on the Mavi Marmara. (Part one above, part two below). While it is certainly not easy to watch, I suspect the videos Israel has locked away are infinitely more disturbing…

PS: If ploughing through a lengthy human rights commission report isn’t your cup of tea, I highly recommend the recently published anthology “Midnight on the Mavi Marmara.” Essential, essential reading.

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