Israeli Flotilla Public Inquiry to Include Canadian

Published: June 14th 2010
in News » Israel


On Monday, Israel announced that it is setting up an independent public commission of inquiry into the Gaza Flotilla crisis. The inquiry will be mandated to examine how Israel acted last month when it intercepted the convoy of ships that were headed toward Gaza.


Lawrence Cannon, Canada’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, stated that he welcomes the Israeli government’s decision to use an independent public inquiry to thoroughly investigate the events that occurred on board the flotilla ship, Mavi Marmara, which resulted in the deaths of nine activists and 10 Israeli soldiers being wounded.


“Canada fully supports an impartial, credible, and transparent investigation into the tragic incident,” said Cannon. “While we fully support the importance of delivering humanitarian aid to the people of Gaza, we also fully support Israel’s right to inspect ships to ensure military material and armaments do not reach the hands of Hamas terrorists.”


The commission will be chaired by Jacob Turkel. Turkel, 75, is a former Israeli Supreme Court Justice who is an expert in civil law. He retired from the court in 2005 and is considered by Israeli legal experts to be a conservative judge, although not an expert in inquiry commissions. He is also still a member of a military court of appeals panel.


The panel will include a Canadian, retired Canadian Forces Brigadier General Ken Watkin who headed Canada’s military judiciary and will act as one of two international observers. Watkin previously was the legal advisor to a Canadian military and civilian inquiry panel that was mandated to investigate the actions of Canada’s Airborne Regiment in Somalia. From 1995 to 2005, he acted as counsel for multiple inquiries stemming from the 1994 Rwanda genocide. He was also a legal advisor to the Canadian navy and military commanders in Bosnia.


“Given his career in the Canadian Forces, and his service as Judge Advocate General, Brigadier General Ken Watkin is well suited to participate in this commission,” said Cannon.


Also sitting on the commission are:


Shabtai Rosen (Member), 93, a British-born professor at Bar Ilan University who specializes in international law. He previously serviced as a diplomat in the posts of Israeli’s deputy head of mission to the UN from 1967 to 1971 and ambassador to the UN in Geneva from 1971 to 1974. In 1960, he was the Israel Prize laureate for jurisprudence. In 2004, he was awarded the Hague Prize for International Law.


Amos Horev (Member), 86, a retired major-general from the IDF who is also the former president of the Haifa Technion, Israel Institute of Technology.


David Trimble (Northern Ireland, Second Observer). The first minister of Northern Ireland from 1998 to 2002, he is a Nobel Peace Prize laureate and was a major force behind the signing of the Good Friday Ulster power sharing agreement between Protestants and Catholics. The agreement was mediated by George Mitchell, current US Middle East Envoy. Mitchell is presently brokering indirect talks between Israelis and Palestinians.


Cannon said that the Government of Canada “understands and sympathizes” with Israel’s security concerns and its actions in combating terrorism.


He added that “Canada joins others in calling on Israel and the Palestinian Authority to return quickly to negotiations toward a comprehensive and lasting peace in the region.”


The inquiry is being called an “important first step” by the US State Department. However, critics are saying that the announcement does not meet the demands of the UN Security Council to set up an international inquiry into what took place.


“We expect that the findings of the investigation, upon completion, will be presented to the international community,” said Cannon. “States and international bodies should not rush to judgment before all the facts are known.”

Related articles: (flotilla, gaza, government of canada, george mitchell, lawrence cannon)

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