Turkel Committee Publishes Mavi Marmara Report

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Today an Israeli inquiry, the Turkel Committee, published the first part of its report on the Mavi Marmara incident and the lawfulness of the Gaza blockade generally, finding that Israel acted in accordance with international law (full report; summary; BBC News article). An earlier UN inquiry reached the opposite conclusion – for a critique see Yuval Shany’s post; for previous coverage see this post by Dapo.  I have not had the time to read the report, let alone digest it, but on a quick skim I saw, inter alia, that the report qualified the Israel/Hamas conflict as an international armed conflict, thus enabling the creation of a blockade, without however articulating a clear theory in that regard. The report also somewhat more controversially alleges that a blockade would be permissible even if the conflict was non-international in nature (see paras. 37-44).

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Gal Sion says

March 10, 2011

Before I begin to comment on the intersting legal question you raised here, I have to mention that this "UN report" was produced by the UN's Human Right's Council. It is important in my opinion to differentiate between documents and statements of different UN bodies as these bodies are no more than the aggregation of their member states.

See the list of the states here:

Mostly states where the HR situation is way below that of Israel, check how many of them are democracies.

It is well known that the UNHRC is very biased against Israel, it's actions are no more than dirty politics.

For refernce see Cox (assistant Professor from Texas):
6 J. Int'l L. & Int'l Rel. 87

In the data contained in his article you can see inter alia that 14 country specific resolutions has been issued in the UNHRC against Israel while for any other state it get's at the top to 3, against north Korea for example.

Now to the legal question-
I agree that this conflict doesn't seem like an international armed conflict but rather as a non-international one. But by choosing to classify it as international Israel isn't gaining a thing, the other way around, Israel is taking upon itself more restrictions.

It is well known that under International Armed conflicts you are under more obligations and that states are free to apply norms from IACs in NIACs. Operationally it means that if Hamas will choose to abide by international law, distinct themselves from the civilian population and live up to Art. 4 of the 3rd Geneva convention than it will be possible that they will have combatant status with all it's meanings.

It is some what absurd to argue that you are not allowed to use some methods of war in NIACs but allowed to use them on IACs. Contrary to municipal public law, in international public law a state is free to do what ever it wants as long as the law does not forbid it and no where does the law forbids naval blockades in Public International law. There is no reason for the customary norms contained in the San Remo manuals to be applied in NIACs.

Note that in section I which deals with the application of the norms, no where does it say "high contracting parties", meaning states as in the Geneva conventions. It just says "the parties".

Last but not least, Naval blockades in NIACs go back for such a long time that it was allready ordinarily used during the American civil war.

The William Bagaley case
18 L.Ed. 583

The Cheshire case
18 L.Ed. 175

San Remo Manuals: