UN rights body appoints experts to probe Gaza flotilla raid

July 24th, 2010 - 3:28 am ICT by IANS  

Geneva, July 24 (DPA) The UN Human Rights Council Friday appointed a former International Criminal Court judge, a past war crimes prosecutor and a UN gender-equality official to investigate Israel’s deadly raid on a Gaza-bound aid flotilla in May.
Karl Hudson-Phillips, Desmond de Silva and Mary Shanthi Dairiam will serve on an “independent international fact-finding mission” that was convened by the council to examine whether the flotilla raid violated international law.

They are expected to present their findings in September, the council said in a statement.

“The expertise, independence and impartiality of the members of the mission will be devoted to clarifying the events which took place that day and their legality,” it quoted council president Sihasak Phuangketkeow as saying. “We … hope that this mission will contribute to peace in the region and justice for the victims.”

The council passed a resolution to send the mission on June 2, two days after the raid. The motion, which also condemned the incident and called for a lifting of Israel’s blockade on Gaza, passed by a vote of 32-3. The US, Norway and Italy voted against it.

Israeli naval commandos boarded the Mavi Marmara passenger ship, which intended to breach the Gaza blockade in a bid to bring aid to the enclave, May 31 in international waters.

Israel said the commandos opened fire on activists aboard the ship after they were attacked by a group wielding sticks and knives.

Nine activists were shot dead, eight of them Turkish nationals aged between 29 and 61. The ninth victim was a 19-year-old American of Turkish descent.

The incident strained Israeli-Turkish relations and sparked international pressure on Israel to lift the Gaza blockade.

The Human Rights Council’s trio of experts will travel to the region after defining their plan of action and contacting all relevant parties, the agency said.

Phillips hails from Trinidad and Tobago, while De Silva and Shanthi Dairiam stem from Britain and Malaysia, respectively.

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