[Informal translation of Mainichi's scoop article dated October 28, 2013]
International Criminal Court to prosecute Israel on the Marmara Case
(Brussels, 28 October) According to the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) based in The Hague, the Netherlands, the Office of the Prosecutor (OTP) intends to complete its preliminary investigation during this year and conclude to launch an investigation on the case against the Comoro MV Mavi Marmara for the killing of nine Turkish activists during their seizure of the vessel deployed on an assistance mission for the Gaza Strip in May 2010.
"It could possibly become the first case outside of the African continent," said Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda in an exclusive interview with Mainichi, suggesting the possibility of a launch of an investigation on the case. If this is the case, it could be the first case where Israeli military will be prosecuted in an international tribunal for the alleged crimes of crimes against humanity.
ICC's Chief Prosecutor has the power to initiate investigation on a case when the case is of a severe nature and are referred by the case by a state party when the state party itself is unwilling or unable to prosecute the case by itself.
In the case of the Mamara incidient, killing of nine Turkish activists occurred on board the vessel registered under the Union of the Comoros. ICC can exercise its jurisdiction if a crime occurs on board of a vessel registered to a state party to the Court [Translator's Note: Article 12(a)]. There were also Cambodian and Greek vessels among the flotilla.
Prosecutor Bensouda expressed her hopes to "carefully analyze" the materials obtained through her preliminary investigation and to "complete the preliminary investigation during the year," while clarifying that materials are still in the stage of being collected from the parties concerned.
The OTP has launched its preliminary investigation on the situations in Afghanistan and the Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea, but they have not found enough evidence to prosecute the cases and have put the cases on hold. All seven [TN: now eight] situations under prosecution by the OTP is within the African continent and they have been under criticism from the African states.
The Comoros referred the case to the Court on May 2013. According to the referral document, on May 31 2010, the Israeli military seized six of the eight vessel-flotilla on the high seas, boarded the passenger boat MV Mavi Marmara registered under the Comoros via a helicopter, opened fire and killed nine Turkish activists and injured more than 50 people. The vessel was part of a flotilla deployed on protest against the Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip within the territory of the State of the Palestine and to send food and medical aid to the Gaza Strip. The document states that these alleged crimes may constitute war crimes and/or crimes against humanity.
The Israeli government set up an independent panel to investigate the case and concluded in January 2011 that the seizure was within the confines of legal procedure and the firings were an exercise of right of self-defense. According to media reports, the Israel government is critical about the Comoros referral of the case to the ICC, calling it an "abusive use of rights."
Original article by: Yoshihiko Saito, Mainichi Shinbun
Tentative translation by: Takahiro Katsumi, Secretary General, JNICC