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Turkey to challenge Gaza blockade at International Court of Justice | World news | guardian.co.uk

Turkey is to challenge Israel's blockade on Gaza at the International Court of Justice, amid a worsening diplomatic crisis between the once close allies.

The announcement by Turkish foreign minister Ahmet Davutoglu appears to rebuff UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon's attempt to defuse the row over Israel's armed assault on a Gaza-bound aid flotilla in which nine people were killed.

Turkey dramatically downgraded its relations with Israel, cutting military ties with its former ally and expelling the country's ambassador over his government's refusal to apologise for the killings of eight Turkish citizens and a Turkish American last May.

Ban said today that the two countries should accept the recommendations of a UN report that examined the incident. The report found Israel had used "excessive and unreasonable" force to stop the flotilla approaching Gaza, but that it was justified in maintaining a naval blockade on the Palestinian enclave.



The fact is that what we're experiencing right now is a top-down disaster. -Paul Krugman
by dvx (dvx.clt št gmail dotcom) on Sun Sep 4th, 2011 at 12:05:06 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Ambassador Craig Murray is a former Alternate Head of the UK Delegation to the United Nations Preparatory Commission on the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.  He was deputy head of the teams which negotiated the UK's maritime boundaries with France, Germany, Denmark (Faeroe Islands) and Ireland.
As Head of the Maritime Section of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, he was responsible for giving real time political and legal clearance to Royal Navy boarding operations in the Persian Gulf following the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, in enforcement of the UN authorised blockade against Iraqi weapons shipments.
Ambassador Craig Murray is therefore an internationally recognised authority on maritime jurisdiction and naval boarding issues.
His analysis of the Israeli blockade of Gaza and the right of the Gaza flotilla to sail
"The legal position is plain.  A vessel outwith the territorial waters (12 mile limit) of a coastal state is on the high seas under the sole jurisdiction of the flag state of the vessel.  The ship has a positive right of  passage on the high seas.  The coastal state can regulate economic activity exploiting the resources of the seas and continental shelf up to 200 miles, the extent of the continental shelf, or the agreed boundary, but there is no indication of fishing, oil drilling or analagous economic activity in this case.  The vessel is entitled to free passage."
"This right of free passage is guaranteed by the UN Convention on the Law of the Seas, to which the United States is a full party.  Any incident which takes place upon a US flagged ship on the High Seas is subject to United States legal jurisdiction.  A ship is entitled to look to its flag state for protection from attack on the High Seas."
"Israel has declared a blockade on Gaza and justified previous fatal attacks on neutral civilian vessels on the High Seas in terms of enforcing that embargo, under the legal cover given by the San Remo Manual of International Law Applicable to Armed Conflicts at Sea."
"There are however fundamental flaws in this line of argument.  It falls completely on one fact alone. San Remo only applies to blockade in times of armed conflict. Israel is not currently engaged in an armed conflict, and presumably does not wish to be.  San Remo does not confer any right to impose a permanent blockade outwith times of armed conflict, and in fact specifically excludes as illegal a general blockade on an entire population."
"It should not be denied that Israel suffers from sporadic terrorist attacks emanating from Gaza.
However this does not come close to reaching the bar of armed conflict that would trigger the right to impose a limited naval blockade in terms of San Remo. To make a comparison, in the 1970's and 1980's the United Kingdom suffered continued terrorist attack from the Irish Republican Army, with much more murderous impact causing many more deaths than anything Israel has suffered in recent years from Gaza.  However nobody would seek to argue that the UK would have had the right to mount a general naval blockade of the Republic of Ireland in the 1970's and 1980's, even though the Republic was undoubtedly the base for much IRA supply and operations.  Justifications of Israeli naval action against neutral civilian ships by San Remo is based on special pleading and an impossibly strained definition of the term "armed conflict".


Align culture with our nature.
by ormondotvos (ormond no spam lmi net no spam) on Mon Sep 5th, 2011 at 02:38:24 AM EST
[ Parent ]
"This right of free passage is guaranteed by the UN Convention on the Law of the Seas, to which the United States is a full party.

Could someone explain why this is relevant? Neither Turkey nor Israel have signed the UN Convention, and the ship had a Comoros flag. The Comoros have signed the Convention, which presumably makes the attack an act of war against them, but I'm not sure what that means in practice.

by gk (gk) on Mon Sep 5th, 2011 at 02:47:37 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I would assume that if Comoros doesn't care to enforce the issue, then for all practical purposes, the issue does not exist - at least for Comoros.

I would suspect that a US citizen on a Comoros ship intercepted by Israel would have recourse that technically a Turkish citizen would not. The US can claim that its citizen had their rights violated by Israel and Comoros has failed to uphold its citizen's rights as well. The US could then proceed - perhaps the most straightforward way would be in the ICC assuming it was willing to become a signatory.  As the US has not done so, then clearly the murder of its citizens by Israel do not concern the US.

My impression of International law is that it is not just a series of separate "laws" but tends towards a unified moral system of behavour.

I think that it is often hard to violate just one section. A case in point is this example being covered here.  It is not just relevant sections of Law of the Sea - but also other parts that relate to blockades during time of war. I would be surprised if there were not several other sections of international law that have been violated as well - including treatment of prisoners.

As a unified system of moral behaviour it becomes difficult to pick and choose without looking immoral.

The law of the sea was not created out of thin air. While Turkey and Israel may not have signed the UN convention there may be other previous conventions and precedents that they may have signed that take effect.

There is also a point where it does not matter whether your country has signed an agreement or not. For example, if you engage in genocide - it does not matter whether your country has signed the relevant documents or not. Indeed by not signing it creates the impression that your country has condoned genocide.

Could someone explain why this is relevant?

Ultimately, unless we have an expert on international law, or we ask one or more, the answer is we can guess why it is relevant, but really all we are doing is guessing.

Another test of relevance is does Turkey, the US, Israel, or Comoros make it relevant - signatory or no.

aspiring to genteel poverty

by edwin (eeeeeeee222222rrrrreeeeeaaaaadddddd@@@@yyyyaaaaaaa) on Mon Sep 5th, 2011 at 09:59:27 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I agree with most of what you are saying. My point was that I couldn't understand why a supposed "internationally recognised authority on maritime jurisdiction" was basing his case on a treaty that the parties hadn't signed, rather than on previous relevant conventions.
by gk (gk) on Mon Sep 5th, 2011 at 10:03:14 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Yea, but you have to remember, Israel attacked a US navy ship and America didn't bat an eyelid.

the rules don't apply to Israel.

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Mon Sep 5th, 2011 at 02:55:38 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The specific rules that he is discussing couldn't have applied to Israel, as the attack predated the UN Convention in question....(and Israel did pay compensation, something that would presumably have satisfied the Turks)
by gk (gk) on Mon Sep 5th, 2011 at 03:09:10 AM EST
[ Parent ]

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