ICC Prosecutor Appeals Ruling to Investigate Gaza Flotilla Deaths

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Israel Navy forces approaching the Mavi Marmara bound for Gaza, May 31, 2010.
Israel Navy forces approaching the Mavi Marmara bound for Gaza, May 31, 2010.Credit: Reuters
ברק רביד - צרובה
Barak Ravid

International Criminal Court Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda on Monday appealed the recent ruling by a special panel of judges that she must reconsider her previous decision not to investigate alleged war crimes committed by Israel Defense Forces troops when they boarded the Mavi Marmara ship in May 2010.

Seven months ago, Bensouda had closed the file on the case, in which nine Turkish citizens were killed when an incident occurred between activists and IDF soldiers as the lead ship in a flotilla sought to break the Gaza blockade.

Bensouda wrote in her appeal that the judges’ decision altered the mandate she was given under the Rome Statute that established the ICC, and dramatically expands the scope of issues the court is meant to deal with. The prosecutor also argued that the special panel found technical errors in her work solely with regard to those decisions it disagreed with. As such, Bensouda said, the judges had exceeded their authority under the Rome Statute.

The prosecutor asked the ICC appeals court to overturn the demand to reevaluate her decision not to investigate, and to finally reject the complaint the Comoros Islands had filed in 2013 on the matter. The Mavi Marmara is a Comoros-flagged passenger ship.

Last November, Bensouda announced that after completing a preliminary examination into the complaint filed by the Comoros Islands, she had decided there were no grounds for opening a full criminal investigation. The Comoros Islands appealed that decision to the ICC special panel in January. The special panel also received petitions from the families of the Turkish nationals killed on the ship, who argued that there were grounds for a full-fledged investigation.

On July 16, the ICC special panel ruled 2-1 that Bensouda must reconsider her decision to close the file on the Mavi Marmara case, because of substantial irregularities that occurred during her preliminary examination. The judges stated that Bensouda erred in her determination that there would be difficulty prosecuting those officials that may have been primarily responsible for any crimes that took place during the raid on the Marmara.

ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda.Credit: AP

The judges also ruled that Bensouda erred when she determined that the scope and seriousness of the crimes that were allegedly committed were not serious enough to justify having the ICC open a full probe.