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Israel delayed medical treatment during attack on Gaza aid flotilla, says UN

BMJ 2010; 341 doi: (Published 29 September 2010) Cite this as: BMJ 2010;341:c5364
  1. John Zarocostas
  1. 1Geneva

Israeli forces that stormed the humanitarian aid flotilla seeking to break the blockade of Gaza on 31 May committed serious breaches of international and human rights law, including mistreatment of injured people needing medical care, a report by an independent UN factfinding panel has said.

The three member panel, headed by Judge Karl T Hudson-Phillips QC, a retired judge of the International Criminal Court and former attorney general of Trinidad and Tobago, concluded that such behaviour “constituted grave violations of human rights law and international humanitarian law.”

The other members of the panel were Desmond de Silva QC, of the United Kingdom, former chief prosecutor of the UN backed special court for Sierra Leone, and Mary Shanthi Dairiam of Malaysia, founding member of International Women’s Rights Action Watch Asia Pacific.

Nine passengers lost their lives and many more were seriously injured during the attack. Forensic and firearm evidence shows that at least six of the killings “can be characterised as extra-legal, arbitrary and summary executions,” says the report. But the Israeli government, which did not cooperate with the investigators, denounced the findings as biased and distorted.

The report says that most of the gunshot wounds received by passengers were to their upper torsos in the head, thorax, abdomen, and back and that Israeli soldiers continued shooting at passengers who had already been wounded.

A number of the passengers were also subjected to mistreatment while lying injured, it says. This included physical and verbal abuse and being denied medical treatment for two to three hours after the operation had ceased.

The report says that some of the passengers treated in Israeli hospitals acknowledged that they were well cared for by medical personnel, but others reported verbal abuse and taunting by their guards. Over 100 eyewitnesses claimed that many of those who were treated for injuries in the Israeli hospitals “were handcuffed to their beds” throughout their stay, and some were also restrained at their ankles.

The report says, “The conduct of the Israeli military and other personnel towards the flotilla passengers was not only disproportionate … but demonstrated levels of totally unnecessary and incredible violence.

“It betrayed an unacceptable level of brutality. Such conduct cannot be justified or condoned on security or any other grounds.”

The panel said that the interception of the flotilla “was unlawful,” and it also considered that there was no legal basis for the Israeli forces to conduct an assault and interception in international waters.


Cite this as: BMJ 2010;341:c5364


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