Daily archives: May 31, 2010

The Legal Position on the Israeli Attack

I think that anybody with any fairness is bound to admit that the statement William Hague came out with is much better than anything on Israel which New Labour ever came out with, especially this bit:

“This news underlines the need to lift the restrictions on access to Gaza, in line with UNSCR 1860. The closure is unacceptable and counter-productive. There can be no better response from the international community to this tragedy than to achieve urgently a durable resolution to the Gaza crisis.

I call on the Government of Israel to open the crossings to allow unfettered access for aid to Gaza, and address the serious concerns about the deterioration in the humanitarian and economic situation and about the effect on a generation of young Palestinians



But as I told this afternoon’s tremendous spontaneous demonstration on Whitehall, fine words are not enough and we must now see the kind of sanctions regime we saw against apartheid South Africa.

A word on the legal position, which is very plain. To attack a foreign flagged vessel in international waters is illegal. It is not piracy, as the Israeli vessels carried a military commission. It is rather an act of illegal warfare.

Because the incident took place on the high seas does not mean however that international law is the only applicable law. The Law of the Sea is quite plain that, when an incident takes place

on a ship on the high seas (outside anybody’s territorial waters) the applicable law is that of the flag state of the ship on which the incident occurred. In legal terms, the Turkish ship was Turkish territory.

There are therefore two clear legal possibilities.

Possibility one is that the Israeli commandos were acting on behalf of the government of Israel in killing the activists on the ships. In that case Israel is in a position of war with Turkey, and the act falls under international jurisdiction as a war crime.

Possibility two is that, if the killings were not authorised Israeli military action, they were acts of murder under Turkish jurisdiction. If Israel does not consider itself in a position of war with Turkey, then it must hand over the commandos involved for trial in Turkey under Turkish law.

In brief, if Israel and Turkey are not at war, then it is Turkish law which is applicable to what happened on the ship. It is for Turkey, not Israel, to carry out any inquiry or investigation into events and to initiate any prosecutions. Israel is obliged to hand over indicted personnel for prosecution.

Craig Murray is a former British Ambassador. He is also a former Head of the Maritime Section of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. He negotiated the UK’s current maritime boundaries with Ireland, Denmark (Faeroes), Belgium and France, and boundaries of the Channel Islands, Turks and Caicos and British Virgin Islands. He was alternate Head of the UK Delegation to the UN Preparatory Commission on the Law of the Sea. He was Head of the FCO Section of the Embargo Surveillance Centre, enforcing sanctions on Iraq, and directly responsible for clearance of Royal Navy boarding operations in the Persian Gulf.

Reviews of Craig Murray’s War on Terror Memoir, “Murder in Samarkand” – published in the US as “Dirty Diplomacy”:

“It really is a magnificent achievement” – Noam Chomsky

“A fearless book by a fearless man. Craig Murray tells the truth whether the “authorities” like it or not. I salute a man of integrity” – Harold Pinter

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Truly Disgusting

I have just spoken to the FCO press spokesman. The line on the legality of the Israeli attack is “We are not getting into that, especially when the details are unclear.” They are waiting for “clarification from our Embassy in Tel Aviv”.

That is a terrible reaction from the coailition government to its first test on human rights. The detail can make no difference to the fact that the Israelis attacked foreign flagged vessels in international waters. That is a priori illegal. Where the hell are FCO legal advisers? Is this government ignoring them just like New Labour?


Demonstration outside Downing St at 2pm. Doubtless it will be small, but I feel obliged to be there.

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What is the Point of Lib Dems Being in Government

if the UK does not condemn this Israeli massacre?

I can tell you categorically, as a former Head of the FCO Maritime Section, that a Turkish flagged ship on the high seas is Turkish territory. This Israeli attack was undeniably illegal.

Having seen so many illegal wars lately, you might be interested to know that in international law Turkey could now with perfect legality declare itself to be at war with Israel. I do not advocate that, but after the fake justification over Iraq I thought you might be interested to see what a genuine causus belli looks like.

But what the UK should be doing is giving voice to the strongest possible condemnation of Israel. What is the point of Lib Dems being in government if we cannot act against this kind of naked atrocity? Economic sanctions against Israel must be a minimum response.

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I Just Can’t Believe This Is Happening

In two and a half hours of coverage BBC News has interviewed the Israeli government spokesman and covered live an Israeli government press conference, while reporters have set out at length the Israeli government view of events nine times. There has been no attempt to interview anyone from the convoy organisers, from the Turkish government, or from the Palestinians, and no expression of scepticism or even reserve by any reporter about the Israeli version of events.

A BBC journalist has stated – quite wrongly – that the blockade of Gaza is legal, and there has been no mention of the fact that it is illegal to board a foreign ship in international waters.

UPDATE BBC producres refuse to put up any interviewee except from the Israeli propaganda regime. The Israeli command on the 10am news was the worst example yet. But my warm congratulations to the female anchor who, despite this backroom manipulation, cut across his mendacity. I fear her career may be damaged.

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Israeli Outrage

So now we have a reported 16 new Rachel Corries, as commandos of the rogue Israeli state massacre unarmed activists taking aid – building materials, purified water and electric powered wheelchairs – to Gaza. At least 60 more are reported injured, some critically.

The nationalities of the dead and injured are not yet known, but one would hope that this would finally turn the tide of unthinking Zionism among senior politicians that has enabled them to overlook Israel’s inexorable trend into a more and more racist, militarised and intolerant state. The brave activists who died will certainly have helped turn the media spotlight across Europe on Israel’s unconscionable treatment of Gaza and the other occupied territories.

The aid flotilla had actually obeyed the Israeli Navy’s order to turn away from Gaza when the ships were boarded. It is worth stating that the boarding of the ships – which were not in Israeli territorial waters – was in itself an illegal act. That is crucial as we wait for the Israelis’ usual lies about the incident, which will predictable claim their heavily armed elite commandos were attacked by the unarmed peace protestors.

It is disgraceful that I can find no reaction from the British government to this.

UPDATE As I predicted, the BBC 8am news reported that the Israeli commandos opened fire after they were attacked with “knives, axes and firearms”. There was absolutely no scepticism expressed at this Israeli claim, and no attempt to seek a reply from any representative of the aid convoy. The BBC has not mentioned – or interviewed anybody who might mention – the indisputable fact that it was illegal under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea and in customary international law for the Israelis to board the ships in international waters.

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