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23 September, 2010 By Rev. Ted Pike

The extensive and meticulous investigative report by the UN Human Rights Council on Israel’s May 31 raid on the Free Gaza flotilla was released yesterday. Interviewing 112 survivors (but forbidden by Israel from questioning any of its commandoes), the report devastates Israel’s claim of innocence—further damaging her international reputation. Here are selected passages from the UN's high-drama, fast moving account, beginning with attack on the Mavi Mamara and ending with abuse and humiliations of survivors before deportation from Israel.

(i) Initial attempt to board the Mavi Marmara from the sea

112. Israeli zodiac boats made a first attempt to board the Mavi Marmara from the sea shortly before 0430 hours. Several zodiac boats approached the ship at the stern from both the port and starboard sides. The approach was accompanied by the firing of non-lethal weaponry onto the ship, including smoke and stun grenades, tear-gas and paintballs. Plastic bullets may also have been used at this stage: however, despite some claims that live ammunition was also fired from the zodiac boats, the Mission is not satisfied that this was the case. The smoke and tear gas were not effective due to the strong sea breeze and later due to the downdraft from helicopters.

113. The Israeli forces attempted to board the ship through attaching ladders to the hull. Passengers engaged in efforts to repel the attempted boarding using the ship’s water hoses68 and the throwing of various items at the boats including chairs, sticks, a box of plates and other objects that were readily to hand. This initial attempt to board the ship proved unsuccessful. It is the view of the Mission that the Israeli forces should have re-evaluated their plans when it became obvious that putting their soldiers on board the ship may lead to civilian casualties.

(ii) Landing of soldiers from helicopters onto the Mavi Marmara

114. Just minutes after soldiers from the zodiac boats had made initial unsuccessful attempts to board, the first helicopter approached the ship at approximately 0430 hours, hovering above the top deck. At this point between 10 and 20 passengers were located in the central area of the top deck, although this number increased as other passengers learned of events on the top deck. The Israeli forces used smoke and stun grenades in an attempt to clear an area for the landing of soldiers. The first rope that was let down from the helicopter was taken by passengers and tied it to a part of the top deck and thereby rendered ineffective for the purpose of soldiers’ descent. A second rope was then let down from the helicopter and the first group of soldiers descended. The Mission does not find it plausible that soldiers were holding their weapons and firing as they descended on the rope. However, it has concluded that live ammunition was used from the helicopter onto the top deck prior to the descent of the soldiers.

115. With the available evidence it is difficult to delineate the exact course of events on the top deck between the time of the first soldier descending and the Israeli forces securing control of the deck. A fight ensued between passengers and the first soldiers to descend onto the top deck that resulted in at least two soldiers being pushed down onto the bridge deck below, where they were involved in struggles with groups of passengers who attempted to take their weapons. The equipment jacket of at least one soldier was removed as he was pushed over the side of the deck. A number of weapons were taken from the soldiers by passengers and thrown into the sea: one weapon, a 9mm pistol was unloaded by a passenger, a former US Marine, in front of witnesses and then hidden in another part of the ship in an attempt to retain evidence.

116. A number of the passengers on the top deck fought with the soldiers using their fists, sticks, metal rods and knives. At least one of the soldiers was stabbed with a knife or other sharp object. Witnesses informed the Mission that their objective was to subdue and disarm the soldiers so that they could not harm anyone. The Mission is satisfied on the evidence that at least two passengers on the bridge deck also used handheld catapults to propel small projectiles at the helicopters. The Mission has found no evidence to suggest that any of the passengers used firearms or that any firearms were taken on board the ship. Despite requests, the Mission has not received any medical records or other substantiated information from the Israeli authorities regarding any firearm injuries sustained by soldiers participating in the raid. Doctors examined the three soldiers taken below decks and no firearm injuries were noted. Further, the Mission finds that the Israeli accounts so inconsistent and contradictory with regard to evidence of alleged firearms injuries to Israeli soldiers that it has to reject it.

(iii) Deaths of nine passengers and wounding of at least 50 other passengers

117. During the operation to secure control of the top deck, the Israeli forces landed soldiers from three helicopters over a fifteen-minute period. The Israeli forces used paintballs, plastic bullets and live ammunition, fired by soldiers from the helicopter above and soldiers who had landed on the top deck. The use of live ammunition during this period resulted in fatal injuries to four passengers, and injuries to at least nineteen others, fourteen with gunshot wounds. Escape points to the bridge deck from the top deck were narrow and restricted and as such it was very difficult for passengers in this area to avoid being hit by live rounds. At least one of those killed was using a video camera and not involved in any of the fighting with the soldiers. The majority of gunshot wounds received by passengers were to their upper torsos in the head, thorax, abdomen and back. Given the relatively small number of passengers on the top deck during the incident, the Mission is driven to the conclusion that the vast majority were in receipt of gunshot wounds.

118. Israeli soldiers continued shooting at passengers who had already been wounded, with live ammunition, soft baton charges (beanbags) and plastic bullets. Forensic analysis demonstrates that two of the passengers killed on the top deck received wounds compatible with being shot at close range while lying on the ground: Furkan Doğan received a bullet in the face and İbrahim Bilgen received a fatal wound from a soft baton round (beanbag) fired at such close proximity to his head that parts such as wadding penetrated his skull entered his brain. Furthermore, some of the wounded were subjected to further violence including being hit with the butt of a weapon, being kicked in the head, chest and back and being verbally abused. A number of the wounded passengers were handcuffed and then left unattended for some time before being dragged to the front of the deck by their arms or legs.

119. Once the Israeli forces had secured control of the top deck they undertook measures to move down to the bridge deck below in order to take over the ship’s bridge and thus take control of the ship. In relation to this operation, a series of shooting incidents occurred centred on the portside doorway which gives access to the main stairwell on the bridge deck. This door is near to the hatch and ladder, which allows access from the top deck to the bridge deck.

120. Israeli soldiers fired live ammunition both from the top deck at passengers on the bridge deck below and after they had moved down to the bridge deck. At least four passengers were killed, and at least nine injured (five with firearms injuries) during this phase. None of the four passengers who were killed, including a photographer who at the time of being shot was engaged in taking photographs and was shot by an Israeli soldier positioned on the top deck above, posed any threat to the Israeli forces. There was considerable live fire from Israeli soldiers on the top deck and a number of passengers were injured or killed whilst trying to take refuge inside the door or assisting other to do so. Wounded passengers were brought into the ship through the stairwell and through the ship’s bridge room and were helped downstairs where they could be given some form of medical treatment by doctors and others on board.

121. One witness described the circumstances in which one passenger was killed on the bridge deck: I saw two soldiers on top of the roof standing there holding their guns down at something on the roof that I couldn’t see. There were two guys hidden underneath a walkway of the ship to the right hand side and I was screaming at them not to move. The two passengers were below the soldiers. They could not see the soldiers and the soldiers could not see them while they were hidden under the walkway. Then the guys moved out making themselves visible as they tried to run towards the metal door. One man made it to open the door and got inside. The other man must have been shot. I think he was shot in the head from the way he looked, he wasn’t moving at all. He was twenty or thirty meters away from me. When the second man got shot, the first man opened the door and using it as a shield tried to reach out for the second man. He managed to reach him and was pulling him by his right arm. I couldn’t see any blood, but he wasn’t moving at all.

122. A group of up to twenty passengers, some holding sticks and rods and wearing gas masks, were located on or around the stairwell inside the ship. One passenger standing just inside the door was shot through the broken porthole in the door by a soldier standing a few metres away on the bridge deck outside.
123. During the shootings on the bridge deck and as it became apparent that a large number of passengers had become injured, Bulent Yildirim, the President of IHH and one of principal organizers of the flotilla, removed his white shirt which was then used as a white flag to indicate a surrender. This does not appear to have had any effect and live firing continued on the ship.
124. Israeli forces moved down to the bridge deck and moved rapidly to take over the bridge room towards the front of the ship. The doorway and windows of the bridge room came under fire and the ship’s captain ordered the ship’s engines to be cut. Israeli soldiers entered the bridge room through the door and broken window. The crew were made to lie on the ground at gunpoint. The captain remained standing but was held at gunpoint.

(iv) Shootings at the bow deck, the release of the Israeli soldiers and end of the operation

125. During the initial fighting on the top deck three Israeli soldiers were taken under control and brought inside the ship. While some passengers wished to harm the soldiers, other passengers ensured that they were protected and able to receive rudimentary medical treatment from doctors on board. Two of the soldiers had received wounds to the abdomen. One of the soldiers had a superficial wound to the abdomen, caused by a sharp object, which penetrated to the subcutaneous tissue. None of the three soldiers had received gunshot injuries, according to doctors who examined them. All three soldiers were in a state of shock and were suffering from cuts, bruises and blunt force trauma.

126. As the seriousness of incidents on the outer decks became apparent, there was growing concern among some of the flotilla organizers that holding the captured Israeli soldiers may have serious implications for the security of all passengers on board. It was decided that the soldiers should be released and they were taken to the bow of the lower deck. Once on the bow deck two of the soldiers jumped into the sea and were picked up by Israeli boats. The third soldier did not jump and was rapidly joined by Israeli soldiers who came down from the top deck.

127. At least four passengers were injured on the bow of the ship, both before and around the time that the Israeli soldiers were released. At least two passengers received wounds from live ammunition, while others received injuries from soft baton charges, including one doctor who was tending to injured passengers.
128. The Israeli forces stated that the active phase of the Israeli forces operation concluded at 0517 hours, once the ship was under their control and the three soldiers were released. During the 45-50 minute operation, nine passengers were killed, more than 24 passengers had received serious injuries caused by live ammunition and a large number of other passengers had received injuries caused by plastic rounds, soft baton charges (beanbags) and other means.

Deaths occurring on the Top Deck (roof

Furkan Doğan Furkan Doğan,
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. It 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.

İbrahim Bilgen İbrahim Bilgen,
a 60 year old Turkish citizen, from Siirt in Turkey, was on the top deck and was one of the first passengers to be shot. He received a bullet wound to the chest, the trajectory of which was from above and not at close range. He had a further two bullet wounds to the right side of the back and right buttock, both back to front. These wounds would not have caused instant death, but he would have bled to death within a short time without medical attention. Forensic evidence shows that he was shot in the side of the head with a soft baton round at such close proximity and that an entire bean bag and its wadding penetrated the skull and lodged in the brain. He had a further bruise on the right flank consistent with another beanbag wound. The wounds are consistent with the deceased initially being shot from soldiers on board the helicopter above and receiving a further wound to the head while lying on the ground, already wounded.

Fahri Yaldiz Fahri Yaldiz,
a 42 year old Turkish citizen from Adiyaman, received five bullet wounds, one to the chest, one to the left leg and three to the right leg. The chest wound was caused by a bullet that entered near the left nipple and hit the heart and lungs before exiting from the shoulder. This injury would have caused rapid death.
Ali Heyder Bengi,
According to the pathology report, Ali Heyder Bengi, a 38 year old Turkish citizen from Diyarbakir, received six bullet wounds (one in the chest, one in the abdomen, one in the right arm, one in the right thigh and two in the left hand). One bullet lodged in the chest area. None of the wounds would have been instantly fatal, but damage to the liver caused bleeding which would have been fatal if not stemmed. There are several witness accounts which suggest that Israeli soldiers shot the deceased in the back and chest at close range while he was lying on the deck as a consequence of initial bullet wounds. Deaths occurring on the Bridge Deck, portside

Cevdet Kiliçlar Cevdet Kiliçlar,
a 38 year old Turkish citizen from Istanbul, was on the Mavi Marmara, in his capacity as a photographer employed by IHH. At the moment he was shot he was standing on the bridge deck on the port side of the ship near to the door leading to the main stairwell and was attempting to photograph Israeli soldiers on the top deck. According to the pathology reports, he received a single bullet to his forehead between the eyes. The bullet followed a horizontal trajectory which crossed the middle of the brain from front to back. He would have died instantly.

Cengiz Akyüz and Cengiz Songür,
41 year old Cengiz Akyüz from Hatay and 46 year old Cengiz Songür from Izmir, both Turkish citizens, were injured on the bridge deck in close succession by live fire from above. They had been sheltering and were shot as they attempted to move inside the door leading to the stairwell. Cengiz Akyüz received a shot to the head and it is probable that he died instantly. The pathology report shows four wounds: to the neck, face, chest and thigh. Cengiz Songür received a single bullet to the upper central thorax below the neck, shot from a high angle, which lodged in the right thoracic cavity injuring the heart and aorta. Unsuccessful efforts were made by doctors inside the ship to resuscitate him through heart massage.
Çetin Topçuoğlu Çetin Topçuoğlu,
a 54 year old Turkish citizen from Adana had been involved in helping to bring injured passengers inside the ship to be treated. He was also shot close to the door on the bridge deck. He did not die instantly and his wife, who was also on board the ship, was with him when he died. He was shot by three bullets. One bullet entered from the top the soft tissues of the right side of the back of the head, exited from the neck and then re-entered into the thorax. Another bullet entered the left buttock and lodged in the right pelvis. The third entered the right groin and exited from the lower back. There are indications that the victim may have been in a crouching or bending position when this wound was sustained. Deaths and seriously wounded occurring in unknown locations
Necdet Yildirim,
The location and circumstances of the shooting and death of Necdet Yildirim, a 31 year old Turkish citizen from Istanbul, remain unclear. He was shot twice in the thorax, once from the front and once from the back. The trajectory of both bullets was from top to bottom. He also received bruises consistent with plastic bullet impact Wounding of Uğur Suleyman Söylemez (in a coma) The serious nature of wounds to Uğur Suleyman Söylemez, a 46 year old Turkish citizen from Ankara, which include at least one bullet wound to the head, have left the victim in a coma in an Ankara hospital. He remains in a critical condition with a serious head injury.
(v) Treatment of injured on the Mavi Marmara

129. Whilst the Israeli operation was still under way, efforts were made to tend to wounded passengers inside the ship by other passengers, amongst whom were around 15 doctors, nurses and others with medical training, including an ophthalmologist and orthopedic specialist. Prior to the attack the doctors had met and agreed to use the ship’s small medical room, but there was no anticipated or preparation for the nature of injuries that transpired. The limited medicines and lack of appropriate equipment made it very difficult to properly treat wounded persons, particularly those who had received live fire injuries and required immediate surgery. By the end of the Israeli operation more than thirty persons were being treated inside the cabins, primarily in the lower deck in makeshift surgery areas, twenty of whom were in a critical condition.
130. The flotilla organizers and other passengers engaged in efforts to request the Israeli forces to provide the necessary treatment to the wounded persons. One organiser used the ship’s intercom to request assistance in Hebrew and persons also communicated directly through the cabin windows or by placing signs, written in English and Hebrew, in the ship’s windows. These attempts proved unsuccessful and it was up to two hours before the Israeli forces took out the wounded persons. However, the wounded were required to leave the cabins themselves, or taken outside in a rough manner, without apparent concern for the nature of their injuries and the discomfort that this would cause.
131. The wounded passengers were taken to the front of the top deck where they joined other passengers injured during the operation on the top deck and where the bodies of persons killed during the operation had been left. Wounded passengers, including persons seriously injured with live fire wounds, were handcuffed with plastic cord handcuffs, which were often tied very tightly causing some of the injured to lose sensitivity in their hands. These plastic handcuffs cannot be loosened without being cut off, but can be tightened. Many were also stripped naked and then had to wait some time, possibly as long as two three hours, before receiving medical treatment. Medical treatment was given to a number of wounded persons on the top deck by the Israeli forces.
132. Over several hours the wounded passengers were then airlifted by Israeli forces helicopters from the ship to hospitals in Israel. However, some of the wounded remained on board the Mavi Marmara, at least one of whom had injuries caused by live ammunition and did not receive appropriate medical treatment until after the ship’s arrival at the port of Ashdod in Israel many hours later.
(vi) Search and initial detention of Mavi Marmara passengers

133. All other passengers on the Mavi Marmara were taken one-by-one from the cabin areas and onto the external deck areas and were searched. The vast majority of passengers, including the ship’s captain and crew, were then handcuffed with plastic handcuffs and forced to kneel on the various decks for some hours. Some women, elderly men and persons from western countries were not handcuffed, or were temporarily handcuffed and then uncuffed after a relatively short period of time and were then permitted to sit on the benches. Most of those kneeling were drenched by water from the blades of the helicopter and were thus also in wet clothing throughout this period and were very cold. Other passengers exposed on open decks received serious sun-burn to their skin as a result of many hours exposure: medical reports show that at least thirteen passengers received first degree burns as a consequence. During the course of the twelve-hour journey to the port of Ashdod in Israel the passengers were brought inside the ship and allowed to sit on the available seating.

134. In the process of being detained, or while kneeling on the outer decks for several hours, there was physical abuse of passengers by the Israeli forces, including kicking and punching and being hit with the butts of rifles. One foreign correspondent, on board in his professional capacity, was thrown on the ground and kicked and beaten before being handcuffed. The passengers were not allowed to speak or to move and there were frequent instances of verbal abuse, including derogatory sexual remarks about the female passengers. Passengers were denied access to toilet facilities or made to wait for lengthy periods before being escorted to the toilet and then forced to use the toilet with Israeli soldiers watching and while handcuffed. Some passengers were in serious discomfort as a result, while others used makeshift receptacles, such as plastic bottles and others still were forced to urinate on themselves. The Israeli forces also employed dogs and some passengers received dog bite wounds. Some witnesses who suffer from chronic medical conditions, such as diabetes or heart conditions, were not provided access to their required medicines which were taken by Israeli soldiers.

135. The manner in which plastic handcuffs were attached to the wrists of passengers caused severe pain and discomfort. There was widespread misuse of the handcuffs by the Israeli soldiers who tightened the plastic handcuffs to an extent that caused pain, swelling, a loss of blood circulation in the hands and the loss of sensitivity in their hands and fingers. Most passengers who requested that the handcuffs be loosened were ignored or it resulted in the handcuffs being further tightened. A number of passengers are still experiencing medical problems related to the handcuffing three months later and forensic reports confirm that at least fifty-four passengers had received injuries, transversal abrasions and bruises, as a result of handcuffing on board the Mavi Mamara.

(c) Events aboard the Challenger 1

136. Passengers and crew on the Challenger 1, the smallest and fastest vessel in the flotilla, were able to witness the first moments of the assault on the Mavi Marmara. Once it became apparent that the Israelis intended to commandeer the ships, the decision was made for the Challenger 1 to accelerate out of the formation of the flotilla to allow more time for the journalists aboard to transmit news of the assault to the outside world via the boat’s satellite internet connection which remained in operation, but also in the hope that at least one boat might still be able to reach Gaza. The boat was chased by one of the Israeli corvette boats which it was unable to outrun. Eventually the starboard engine lost oil pressure and the captain, concerned the Israelis might ram the boat, shut down the engines.

137. The boat was intercepted by two Israeli boats and a helicopter. Passengers on the board said that at least one stun grenade was launched at the boat by the Israelis before they attempted to board. Passengers on the decks had decided in advance to employ passive resistance techniques to resist symbolically the Israeli soldiers boarding the boat. The passengers stood unarmed side-by-side blocking the path of the soldiers. Soldiers opened fire with paintballs and rubber bullets as they boarded, hitting and injuring one woman in the face with either a plastic bullet or a paintball. Another woman was bruised on her back by from rubber bullets.

138. Once on board, the soldiers moved to take control of the fly bridge. Passengers obstructing access were forcibly removed. On entering the fly bridge, the soldiers were met with no resistance, but a female journalist sustained burns on her arms from an electroshock weapon fired by an Israeli soldier. Witnesses said that the primary concern of the soldiers seemed to be the confiscation of photographic equipment and media.

139. The passive resistance offered by the passengers was met with force. One woman’s head was hit against the deck of the boat and then stepped on by an Israeli soldier. Passengers were handcuffed very tightly with plastic ties behind their backs, while the woman injured in the face was left unattended.
140. Several passengers said that it was clear that the Israeli soldiers knew who was onboard as they referred to some passengers by name. A plasticized booklet recovered from a soldier on the Mavi Marmara and filmed identified specific passengers on several boats with names and photographs including the Challenger 1.
141. One crew member observed that the soldiers were very young, seemed frightened and that were initially poorly organized. Soldiers behaved aggressively from the outset towards the passengers. Passengers were handcuffed with plastic ties and denied access to the toilet. One elderly man was obliged to urinate in his clothes because he was refused access to the toilet. There was an attempt to forcibly eject one woman from the boat into one of the zodiacs. Two women had hemp bags placed over their heads for an extended period. The woman injured in the face in the initial stage of boarding was left unattended for an extended period, even though there was an army medic on board. The physical violence was described as “unwarranted and excessive”. No distinction was made between activists and journalists, despite the presence of several well-respected international journalists on board.

142. The boat arrived in Ashdod at around 1100 hours on 31 May. Several passengers joined arms to resist disembarkation, protesting that they had been brought to Israel against their will from international waters. Two female passengers were handcuffed and forcibly removed while a male passenger was threatened with an electroshock weapon at point blank range. Passengers were led off the boat one-by-one accompanied by two Israeli officers.

(d) Events aboard the Sfendoni

143. The operation to board the Svendoni took place simultaneously with the assault on the Mavi Marmara. Soldiers were able to climb directly on board in a straightforward manner from zodiac boats without the need to use grappling irons or other equipment. Prior to boarding a number of stun grenades, plastic bullets and paint balls were fired at the boat from soldiers on the zodiacs: at least two passengers were hit, one on the back of the head. According to a medical doctor on board, one of stun grenades landed in the confined space of the bridge, injuring a number of people and causing damage to the hearing of one man.

144. Once aboard, the soldiers proceeded to the bridge of the ship. The passengers had planned to sit down on the decks of the boat to show passive resistance, but in the event the plan was only partially implemented. Many of the passengers, including the elderly, stayed below decks in the main lounge. On deck, passengers linked arms around the bridge. The Israelis then proceeded to fire electroshock weapons at the protesting passengers to clear access; a medical doctor, who was himself hurt in this way, later treated numerous electrical burn injuries to passengers. When two Israeli soldiers entered the bridge, one of the crew grabbed the wheel tightly, protesting that the boat was in international waters. A soldier hit him with the butt of his gun and in the ensuing scuffle the captain was kicked in the back, punched several times in the face and received electric shock burns from an electroshock weapon.

145. At one point after the boat was taken under control one passenger was roughly treated and restrained at the hands and feet with plastic ties. He screamed in protest and because the ties were too tight. At the insistence of a medical doctor, the handcuffs were removed. The man then ran and jumped into the sea. The passenger was later picked up by another boat.

146. The Israeli forces took control of the boat and the passengers were made to sit down. Some passengers were restrained with plastic ties for an initial period, but most were not. The soldiers attempted to stop a medical doctor from treating the passengers’ injuries, saying that the army medical officer on board would treat them. But since he was masked and armed like the other soldiers, no passengers would consent to be treated by him. The doctor said that they would have to shoot him to prevent him doing his job.
147. Passengers were searched one-by-one and taken to the main salon. Passengers said that access to water and to the toilet was only possibly with difficulty after repeated requests and not all passengers were granted access. Passengers were allowed to prepare food which they refused to eat until an army cameraman ceased filming them for propaganda reasons. Witnesses said that the soldiers were always aggressive and shouting and pointing their guns, but otherwise no one was ill-treated or restrained.
(e) Events aboard the Eleftheri Mesogios

148. Israeli forces boarded the Eleftheri Mesogios after 0430 hours, concurrently with the assault on the Mavi Marmara and Sfendoni. Soldiers boarded from three zodiac boats, using grappling irons and rope ladders to climb the sides of the ship. Although barbed wire had been placed around the ship, the soldiers were able to board relatively quickly.

149. The passengers did not engage in any pro-active resistance to the take-over of the ship but used passive resistance methods, blocking access to the bridge with their bodies. The Israeli forces used physical force, electroshock weapons, plastic bullets and paint balls to clear the area. A number of passengers were injured, including one passenger whose leg was fractured leg.

150. All the passengers and crew were handcuffed. Israeli soldiers confiscated their passports and subjected them to body searches. Those who refused to cooperate were roughly treated. According to a number of witnesses, some people who refused to surrender their passports were assaulted, including one woman who was punched in the stomach and one man who was wrestled to the ground by two soldiers, kicked and beaten. One passenger said that the hand ties were too tight and when he asked for them to be loosened they were instead tightened further.

151. Witnesses stated that the passengers were almost continuously filmed on video cameras by the Israeli forces. One passenger said that he felt this was being done deliberately to humiliate the passengers and that this contributed directly to an elderly passenger experiencing an anxiety attack.

170. 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.

171. It is apparent that a number of the passengers on the top deck were subjected to further mistreatment while lying injured. This included physical and verbal abuse some time after the operation to secure control of the deck had concluded. Furthermore these passengers were not provided with medical treatment for two to three hours after the cessation of the operation. Similarly injured passengers who were inside the ship at the end of the operation of the Israeli forces were denied proper medical treatment for a similar length of time despite frequent efforts by other persons on board, including flotilla organizers, requesting such assistance to be provided. Other passengers suffering from chronic medical conditions were also denied access to their required essential medicines. The Israeli forces failed to meet the requirement to provide proper medical treatment to all those injured as rapidly as possible. Furthermore, the use of firearms should have been preceded by clear warnings of the intent to do so. While the circumstances of the initial stages on the top deck may not have been conducive to the issuance of such warnings, later stages in the Israeli operation to secure control of the ship certainly were possible and necessary.

172. The Mission is satisfied that much of the force used by the Israeli soldiers on board the Mavi Marmara and from the helicopters was unnecessary, disproportionate, excessive and inappropriate and resulted in the wholly avoidable killing and maiming of a large number of civilian passengers. On the basis of the forensic and firearm evidence, at least six of the killings can be characterized as extra-legal, arbitrary and summary executions. As such, the conduct of the Israeli forces amounted to violations of the right to life and of the right to physical integrity, as stipulated in articles 6 and 7 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

181. The Mission thus determines that the treatment of passengers on board the Mavi Marmara and in certain instances on board the Challenger 1, Sfendoni and the Eleftheri Mesogios, by the Israeli forces amounted to cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment and, insofar as the treatment was additionally applied as a form of punishment, torture. This represents a violation of articles 7 and 10 (1) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.

(c) Possible violations of the Fourth Geneva Convention and customary international humanitarian law

182. In addition to the international human rights violations set out above, the Mission considers that the same factual circumstances provide prima facie evidence that protected persons suffered violations of international humanitarian law committed by Israeli forces during the interception, including willful killing, torture or inhuman treatment and willfully causing great suffering or serious injury to body or health within the terms of article 147 of the Fourth Geneva Convention.



C. Detention of flotilla passengers in Israel and deportation

1. Factual Description and Findings

183. The Mission found the following facts to have been established to its satisfaction
.
(a) Processing of the passengers at the Port of Ashdod

184. All of the intercepted vessels in the flotilla were taken to the Israeli port of Ashdod where a processing centre had been set up in advance in marquees on the quayside to receive the passengers. The Challenger 1, the fastest vessel in the flotilla, arrived around 1100 hours on 31 May. The last ship to arrive was the Mavi Marmara at around 1800 hours on the same day. As a result of the numbers of passengers to be processed, the disembarkation process was extremely lengthy. Some passengers from the Mavi Marmara said that they had to wait up to twelve hours inside the ship under armed guard after it had arrived at the port and some did not disembark until the next morning.
185. The vessels were greeted by crowds of soldiers and sometimes civilians, including school children, at the quayside, waving flags and cheering the return of the Israeli forces. Some passengers said that they were jeered or taunted by the people on the quay. There were also television camera crews and journalists recording the disembarkation of the passengers. Many passengers said that they found the experience of being “paraded” before the media and the sometimes hostile crowds unsettling and humiliating.
186. Injured passengers who had not been airlifted were diagnosed and sent to nearby hospitals for treatment. Some passengers with serious injuries were made to walk off the Mavi Marmara unaided. Due to the delay in disembarking and processing all passengers, some injured passengers had to wait for considerable periods before they were diagnosed and sent to hospital. Others were not diagnosed until they arrived at the prison later.
187. During processing, all passengers were presented with official papers to sign. Various translations of the papers were in circulation, in English, Turkish and Arabic, but most passengers said that they were given a version in Hebrew and that the contents were not explained to them. According to those able to understand the papers, they stated that the signatory admitted to having entered Israel illegally and consented to deportation and be banned from re-entering Israel for a 10-year period. Some passengers were told that signing the document would expedite early release from custody and repatriation whereas failure to sign would result in a lengthy detention period pending court proceedings.

188. Almost all passengers refused to sign the document on the basis that they had been brought to Israel from international waters against their will or because they did not want to sign a document that they did not understand. There were concerted efforts by some Israeli officers to coerce passengers into signing the forms. Some passengers did sign under duress having annotated the text to reflect the circumstances of their entry into Israel or stating that it was signed “under protest”. Some passengers were threatened with physical violence for refusing to sign; others were beaten or physically abused for refusing to sign or for advising others not to sign. Efforts to persuade passengers to sign the forms continued at the airport almost up to the moment of departure.

189. Passengers were subjected to a series of meticulous searches, including strip searches. Although female officers generally searched the women, some complained that they were searched in full or partial view of male officers. Some male passengers said that they were subjected to or threatened with internal cavity searches. A number of passengers described the process of being searched as being deliberately degrading and humiliating, accompanied by taunts, provocative and insulting language and physical abuse. During the course of their detention in Israel, many passengers were searched multiple times, long after such searches could serve a useful security purpose.
190. During processing, passengers were photographed either for official documentation or, in some cases, for “trophy pictures”. The processing of some passengers was also videotaped. Passengers had their fingerprints and in some cases DNA swabs, were taken. Whilst some successfully declined to submit to fingerprinting, some had their prints taken by force. A victim and witnesses provided a vivid description of the circumstances in which one passenger, a Greek national, was severely beaten for refusing to provide his fingerprints to the Israeli authorities. The passenger was dragged along the ground for some distance and then surrounded by a large group of Israeli officials who proceeded to beat him severely, including the deliberate fracture of his leg. His cries for help were ignored, and one witness noted uniformed officials, both male and female, laughing at him. The passenger’s broken leg was not treated until after he had left Israel.

191. Passengers were also given a medical check, although some were able to and did refuse. Many passengers considered the medical checks to be cursory and pro forma. The medication of some passengers who were following special medical prescriptions for existing conditions had been confiscated by soldiers or left behind on the vessels. Requests for these medications to be returned were not met promptly although some people did receive their medication later after repeated requests.

192. In addition to the examples described above, there were other incidents of physical violence being perpetrated against individual passengers deemed non-cooperative, which resulted in physical injuries and trauma. One passenger, who made a general protest about the way the passengers were being treated, was told by an Israeli officer: “You are in Israel now; you have no rights”.

193. Passengers were not allowed access to a lawyer or to consular services during processing at the port. Some passengers said that there were translators available in some languages and some officials involved in the processing spoke languages other than Hebrew. However, many passengers were unable to understand what was being said to them.

194. The wife of one of the deceased passengers was treated with complete insensitivity to her bereavement. She was not allowed to make a phone call to inform her family of her loss. There were examples of members of the same family who were separated and kept in complete ignorance of the whereabouts and well-being of their relatives until repatriation. This separation added to the distress and anxiety experienced by the passengers.

(b) Detention of passengers and crew at Ella prison near Beersheva

195. After processing at Ashdod, the majority of passengers were transferred in batches to Ella Prison, near Beersheva, a one to two hour journey by road. Passengers were transferred in regular prison vehicles with barred windows. Some passengers had to wait in the vehicles for several hours. One passenger said that he spent twenty hours waiting in a van both at Ashdod and at the prison. Many passengers complained that excessive airconditioning made the vans very cold. Others complained that they were locked in the vans with closed windows in the sun for long periods so that the atmosphere became suffocating. Requests to adjust the temperature or to allow access to the toilet were either ignored or in some cases resulted in threats of or actual violence.

196. On arrival at the prison, most passengers were placed in cells in groups of up to four persons. A number of passengers reported that they were kept in isolation and did not meet with other passengers until they left the prison.

197. Most witnesses reported that the conditions at the prison were acceptable, although some complained that on arrival at the facility they had to clean the cells and the communal areas. Some also stated that the toilets did not function properly and some, including women, reported discomfort in using the showers due to the presence of surveillance cameras. Passengers were generally provided with food and water. Many passengers complained that they were prevented from sleeping in the prison due to regular roll-calls, noise from the prison guards and other deliberate disturbances.

198. Many passengers were subjected to further interrogations while in detention; some said that this was done repeatedly. There were a number of allegations of beatings during these interrogations.

199. Most witnesses reported that they continued to be denied access to a lawyer and to contact with their embassies. Lawyers from one Israeli legal aid NGO said that they made repeated attempts to visit the detainees but were denied entry for some time. When they were granted access, the lawyers had a very limited time with each detainee and could only conduct cursory interviews. Some passengers received a visit from their embassy representative but the majority had no such contact. Although there was some access to telephones, telephone cards, when distributed, allowed very limited calling time making it practically impossible to call abroad.

200. No foreign national detained at Beersheva was charged with any offence or brought before a judge. One passenger was however taken, after he had protested his right to appear before a judge, before what he considered to be a “sham court” close to the airport to have his deportation confirmed.

(c) Ill-treatment of passengers at the airport and repatriation

201. Depending on their time of arrival, passengers were detained from between 24 and 72 hours. Jordanians and passengers from certain other countries with no diplomatic relations with Israel were released early and transported back to Jordan by road. The majority of passengers were taken from the prison to Ben Gurion International Airport in Tel Aviv for repatriation by air. Many passengers complained that they had again to wait for many hours in the sun inside prison vans both at the prison and on arrival at the airport during the deportation phase. One woman, overcome by the oppressive conditions in her vehicle said that she was refused access to a toilet despite making clear that she was menstruating.

202. Perhaps the most shocking testimony, after that relating to the violence on the Mavi Marmara, provided to the Mission was the consistent accounts of a number of incidents of extreme and unprovoked violence perpetrated by uniformed Israeli personnel upon certain passengers during the processing procedures inside the terminal at Ben Gurion International Airport on the day of deportation. These accounts were so consistent and vivid as to be beyond question. An intimidating number of armed soldiers and police were present inside the terminal building. Some passengers said that these officers were “spoiling for a fight”. All passengers had been subjected to multiple searches and were completely under the control of the Israelis by this stage. Most passengers were continuing to refuse to sign deportation documents and some were determined to make a point about the legality of the process by insisting on a court hearing to confirm the deportation. None of the violence described seems to have been justified.

203. Some passengers in the passport checking area saw an older passenger being roughly treated after receiving what appeared to be a beating. When other passengers, including Irish and Turkish, protested at this treatment, they were charged by soldiers using batons. In the foray, around 30 passengers were beaten to the ground, kicked and punched in a sustained attack by soldiers. One Irish passenger was seen being particularly badly beaten around the head and held in a choke position to the point of near suffocation. He identified his attackers as police officers. He was taken to a holding cell.

204. One Turkish passenger involved in the fight said that he was subsequently taken by soldiers, handcuffed with metal cuffs, picked up by the cuffs, taken to a small room and beaten and kicked by five more soldiers while others shielded the scene from outside. The police intervened to stop the violence in this case.

205. A number of women were pushed around by soldiers, one of whom was beaten with fists. They were also subjected to sexual taunts.

206. In a separate incident, a passenger was physically attacked by around seventeen officers when he refused to sign deportation paper, kicked in the head and threatened at gunpoint. A number of passengers had resolved to resist deportation in order to have the opportunity to demonstrate their innocence in an Israeli court. This was taken as a provocation by the Israelis.

207. One medical doctor gave a detailed account of his treatment. On arrival at the airport, the officer accompanying him jostled him and tried to trip him up on the stairs. He was then subjected to verbal insults as he passed through a check point. An officer slapped him on the back of the head and when he protested he was set upon by a group of uniformed officers, knocked to the ground and repeatedly punched and kicked. He was then dragged out of sight of other passengers where the attacks resumed. Attempts were made to break his fingers. He was restrained with metal handcuffs behind his back so tightly that he lost feeling to one hand. He was then hoisted up by the cuffs and pushed against a wall. When he asked for the cuffs to be loosened, he was told this was the price he had to pay for attempting to go to Gaza and that “it would be good for his health”. The doctor was wearing a jacket which clearly identified him as a medical doctor and said the attacks were completely unprovoked.

208. There were other incidents of isolated violence against individual passengers who were deemed to be uncooperative. One passenger was seen having his arm twisted behind his back by police to the point that the arm broke. Another was kicked and hit by some ten soldiers, handcuffed and taken by vehicle to another place 10-15 minutes away, where soldiers abused him for up to two hours. When he returned to the airport, he was bleeding from the head.

209. A large number of the military and police personnel at the airport exhibited serious and unprofessional lapses of military discipline whilst commanding officers failed in most cases to intervene promptly. Much of the behavior was surely criminal under domestic Israeli law.

210. The majority of the passengers regardless of nationality were deported from Israel aboard aircraft provided by the Turkish Government. The Jordanian detainees however were deported by bus across the land border between Israel and Jordan. The Greek passengers were airlifted back to Athens aboard a Greek military aircraft sent by the Greek Government. At least one passenger with dual nationality including Israeli nationality elected not to be deported in order not to jeopardize his Israeli citizenship. He was threatened with prosecution but was released in Israel and later left the country without hindrance.

211. Some passengers were made to wait for many hours on board the aircraft while the deportation procedures for the other passengers were being completed. Some passengers said that they boarded the plane in the morning but did not take off until after midnight.



(Click Here for official full length 56 page UN Human Rights Council Report. )

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