A Spanish judge has issued an arrest warrant for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and several former and current Israeli officials over a 2010 attack on the Freedom Flotilla’s aid ships. A fleet of 6 ships carrying an estimated 500 passengers, humanitarian aid, and construction materials was heading towards Gaza when Israeli forces raided the Mavi Marmara ship and killed 10 human rights activists. Autopsies showed that nine men were shot with 30 bullets and five were killed with close-range bullets to the head; one died a month later due to wounds suffered in the raid.
The other officials named in the warrant are former defence minister Ehud Barak, former foreign minister Avigdor Leiberman, former strategic affairs minister Moshe Ya’alon, former interior minister Eli Yishai, minister without portfolio Benny Begin, and vice admiral Eliezer Marom.
The Spanish investigation into the raid started 5 years ago, when Spanish activists involved in the Freedom Flotilla filed a criminal complaint against the Israeli officials for the actions of their security forces. In June of this year, the investigation was put on hold, but can be reopened if any of the suspects are brought to the authorities. Spanish national court judge Jose de la Mata has ordered the police and civil guard to notify him if any of the officials step foot in the country.
Controversy swirled around this case back in July, when judges on the International Criminal Court came out with a report condemning the initial decision of one of their prosecutors, Fatou Bensouda, not to open an investigation into the deadly attack despite evidence showing it was reasonable to conclude that war crimes were committed. In the report, the judges said Bensouda made numerous errors in her determination and that her conclusions were “simplistic” and “flawed.” The ICC judges then asked its chief prosecutor to reopen the investigation as soon as possible.
A UN human rights council’s report found “clear evidence to support prosecutions” of crimes under the Geneva Convention, including wilful killing, torture or inhuman treatment, and wilfully causing great suffering or serious injury to body or health. The UN added, “Israel’s decision to board the vessels with such substantial force at a great distance from the blockade zone and with no final warning immediately prior to the boarding was excessive and unreasonable.”
In 2014, a court in Istanbul, Turkey (nationality of the deceased) issued arrest warrants for Israeli generals Gabi Ashkenazi, Amos Yadlin, and Avishai Levy and vice admiral Eliezer Marom for the actions taken against the Turkish activists.
An Israeli spokesperson said Israel is working with the government of Spain to have the warrant cancelled.
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