Al Fakhoora Welcomes Findings of UN Inquiry into Gaza Flotilla Violence
Al Fakhoora, an international organization committed to providing and expanding access to education for students in the West Bank and Gaza, announced today their firm support for the recently-released report by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights investigating the Gaza Freedom Flotilla raid by Israeli Naval Forces on 31 May, 2010. The report found that disproportionate and unlawful violence was used by Israel against unarmed activists seeking to provide humanitarian aid to the besieged Gaza strip, and that the actions of the Israeli military amounted to violations of international humanitarian and human rights law.
Specifically, the report, made public on 22 September, concluded that "lethal force was employed by the Israeli soldiers in a widespread and arbitrary manner which caused an unnecessarily large number of persons to be killed or seriously injured" and that Israel's military "carried out extra-legal, arbitrary and summary executions prohibited by international human rights law, specifically article 6 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights."
Al Fakhoora Director Farooq Burney, who was on board the vessel Mavi Marmara as part of Al Fakhoora's effort to provide computers to students in Gaza whose access to educational materials has been thwarted by the Israeli blockade, said he agreed with the report of the fact-finding mission on Israel's interception and boarding of the Mavi Marmara in international waters and the subsequent death of several unarmed individuals on board at the hands of live ammunition.
"As someone who witnessed this tragic occasion and who was subjected to the sort of treatment highlighted in the report – including the use of tight handcuffing and humiliation – the report of the Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights comes as a welcome validation of the widespread violations of human rights laws which took place on that day," Burney said. "While nothing in the report surprises me, I am nevertheless happy that the international community is drawing attention to this tragedy."
Among other conclusions of the report were that grave violations of international law also took place following the detention and imprisonment of flotilla activists in Israel. The Mission found that at the time of their arrest by Israeli forces, the civilians were not informed of the reasons for their arrest, a clear violation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Additionally, many people were presented with official papers to sign in Israel in which they admitted to entering Israel illegally and consented to immediate deportation. They were informed, according to the report, that "signing the document would expedite early release from custody and repatriation whereas failure to sign would result in a lengthy detention period." Several acts of violence – including kicking, punching and dragging – were committed against unarmed passengers while in Israeli custody.
Burney also said the report was noteworthy in its conclusion that the Israeli blockade of Gaza was wholly illegal under international law, and that the report identified many of the core issues which have motivated Al Fakhoora to fight for the cause of universal education. "At its core, the goal of efforts is apolitical – we simply want all people to have access to education," Burney said. "Access to education is basic human right, recognized by Article 26 of the UN's Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and universal includes the Palestinian territories. We weren't carrying guns or knives on the flotilla – we were carrying computers and school supplies for children."
Al Fakhoora's leadership have emphasized that while they were saddened by the actions of the Israeli military and the ongoing suffering imposed by the Israeli blockade of Gaza, their efforts to expand education in the region would continue with renewed vigor.
"We will continue to work with other major Middle Eastern European and American organizations to pursue the peaceful advancement of educational and humanitarian relief for the innocent people of Gaza," Burney said. "Our cooperation with these organizations and our efforts in the region will not cease until the harmful effects of the illegal Israeli blockade on Gaza are mitigated, and education can indeed be provided for all, in accordance with international human rights law."