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Legal Cases Against Israeli Attacks on Civilian Boats to Break the Illegal Israeli Blockade of Gaza

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Gaza harbor with monument to those killed on the Mavi Marmara

Blockaded Gaza Harbor with Monument to 2010 Gaza Freedom Flotilla and the ten killed by Israeli commandos on the Mavi Marmara

gaza-city-harbor-seaport-boats-fishing-nets-heth8c

Fishing Boats in Blockaded Gaza Harbor.  Israeli commandos attack fishing boats going more than 3 miles from the coast to fish.

 

Fishing boats are seen at Gaza Seaport in Gaza City

Israeli Blockade of the Tiny Gaza City harbor, the only harbor on the Gaza Coast.

In 2008, human rights defenders began bringing international publicity to the illegal Israeli Blockade of Gaza by attempting to sail unarmed, civilian boats to Gaza.  Since 2008 approximately 31 boats have sailed to generate media coverage to the plight of 1.9 million inhabitants of Gaza living in the small coastal area 25 miles long and 5 miles wide, one of the most densely populated areas in the world.  Israel has attacked Gaza three times in the past 8 years, 2009, 2012 and 2014, killing thousands and leaving hundreds of thousands without homes. Over 200 Palestinians have been killed in 2018 by Israeli snipers and thousands have been wounded during the Great Return March in Gaza each Friday since March 2018.  The United Nations says that because of the Israeli land and sea blockade of Gaza, Gaza will become uninhabitable by 2020.

This blog contains information about the legal cases brought against the Israeli government and specific Israeli government officials for the assaults and murders of passengers on unarmed civilian boats that have attempted to break the illegal Israeli blockade of Gaza and for the return and/or compensation for the boats that the Israeli government have illegally seized.

The blog also contains a section on the boats and passengers that have sailed to break the blockade beginning with the Free Gaza Movement boats Liberty and Free Gaza in August 2008 and the Dignity in October, November and twice in December in 2008 that actually sailed into Gaza;  the Spirit of Humanity in January and July 2009; the cargo ship Tali in February 2009; the 2010 Gaza Freedom Flotilla with 7 ships, the Mavi Marmara, the Sfendoni, Challenger 1, cargo ships Free Mediterranean, Dafne Y, Gazze, and Rachel Corrie in May 2010; the Irene Jewish Boat to Gaza in September 2010; eight boats in the 2011 Gaza Freedom Flotilla 2 that were prevented from sailing by the Greek government, the Audacity of Hope, Tahrir, Saoirse, Gernika, Julianno, Stefano Chairini, Louise Michel and Eleftheri Mesogeios ;  Dignité Al Karama in July 2011; the Tahrir and Saoirse in November 2011; the Estelle in 2012; the Marianne, Rachel, Vittorio, Juliano 2 in 2015;  the Women’s Boat to Gaza the Zaytouna-Oliva in September 2016 and the Al Awda and Freedom in July-August 2018.

Updates on legal status of 2018 Gaza Freedom Flotilla boats stolen by the Israeli Occupation Forces

2 boats with caption freedom flotilla updates on legal status of boats

 

An Israeli court has ruled that the two ships, the Al Awda and Freedom, who both sailed this summer and were captured by the Israeli Navy, cannot be sold to compensate families of ‘terrorism’ victims. This decision overturns a ruling made by the Jerusalem District Court and ensures that the hearing will proceed in the Haifa Maritime court, applying Maritime law. We are hopeful that international law will be upheld. The Freedom Flotilla Coalition maintains that Israel must accept our demand that both ships be given as a gift to the Union of Agricultural Work Committees (UAWC), a non profit organization representing fishers in Gaza.

The next hearing in this matter will take place on February 5, 2019.

 

The Maritime Court in Haifa Claim in rem 26966-08-18

Claim in rem 26933-08-18

Before His Honour Judge R. Sokol

 

On the matter of:

The State of Israel

Through Prosecutor, Civil District of Haifa

15A Pal Yam Boulevard, Haifa

Tel: 04-8634006, Fax: 04-8634011

– v –  

The ship KARSTEIN

The ship FREEDOM

Through representative Attorney Gaby Lasky and/or Karin Torn Hibler and/or Hayya Abu Warda

From 18 Ben Avigdor St., POB 57092, Tel Aviv-Yafo 61570

Tel: 03-6243215, Fax 03-6244987

 

The Respondent

 

23/11/2018 Decision

File 18-08-26966

The prosecution will reply to the claims regarding the seizure of property and medical supplies by 15/12/2018

 

The Respondent’s reply

 

In accordance with decision of the honourable court from 07/10/18, the representative of the Respondent has the honour of submitting the Respondent’s reply to the application for confiscation. The position of the Respondent is that the application should be dismissed due to delay in its submission, and alternatively essentially due to the illegality of the maritime blockade on Gaza and its being counter to the rules of international and administrative law, due to the lack of grounds for confiscation and the disproportionality of confiscation as a measure.

 

  1. Since the State of Israel imposed a general closure on the Gaza Strip several years ago as part of its war on the Hamas administration, the civilian population of Gaza have been suffering in all areas of their lives from the destructive effects of the closure, and they are subject to abysmal hardship to the point of a real humanitarian crisis, the present dimensions and likely future ramifications of which are difficult to fathom and describe.

 

  1. In recent years there has been a tangible deterioration in the condition of the civilian population in Gaza, the electricity shortage has reached new levels, which have nearly paralyzed the health services, the cumulative results of the economic crisis that arises from the restrictions on commerce as well as the import and export of merchandise from Gaza and to it have produced new heights of grievous poverty and hunger.

 

  1. These base conditions of life and the daily routine of struggle for survival have brought the residents of the Strip to a condition of grave frustration and the desire to make their appeal against the hunger and the poverty in which they are living heard worldwide. In consequence of this, we have been seeing, over the past half year, starting in the month of March, the holding of demonstrations at the Gaza Strip fence, calling for the lifting of the illegal siege on Gaza and to permit the residents of the Strip to sustain their lives. The fact that there are those who are negatively exploiting the hardship of the residents by carrying out attacks and endangering the lives of Israeli residents by throwing Molotov cocktails and trying to damage the fence should not be taken lightly, and at the same time, so far 205 Gaza residents have been killed by gunfire of the security forces.

 

  1. Moreover, it is important to point out that only last Thursday, 8.11.18, the government of Israel transferred 15 million dollars from Qatar to employees of the Hamas administration in the Strip.

 

  1. In order to raise a clear voice against the outrageous injustice that the policy of the blockade visits on the innocent residents of the Strip, several women human-rights activists set sail on board small vessels in a non-violent symbolic protest flotilla, in the hope that their protest would stimulate public discussion within the international community and bring about a change in the desperate situation in which the residents of the Strip have been living for so long. For that protest action the State now wants to order the confiscation of the Respondent.

 

  1. It will be emphasized that when the boats were seized by the navy, the vessels were carrying humanitarian supplies composed of 116 crates of medical supplies that were intended to be transferred to Gaza. Those supplies were seized when the boats were seized, despite the commitment made by the State at the time of the proceedings regarding the ship Marianne to transfer to their destinations by land all humanitarian aid that was seized on the boats.

 

  1. On 31.07.18, about two days after the seizure of Respondent 1, the first application was submitted by the Respondent to the District Coordination and Liaison for the Gaza Strip, but it was received without any reply from the DCL.

A copy of the first application of 31.07.18 is attached, and marked as Appendix 1

 

  1. In view of the fact that no reply was received, that same application was submitted a second time on 08.08.18. In reply we were told by the Public Inquiries Officer of the Gaza DCL that the application had been received at their office, but no reply beyond that has been received and the Respondent’s application remains unprocessed.  

A copy of the second correspondence is attached, and marked as Appendix 2

 

  1. On 12.09.18 an additional application was submitted to the Legal Advisor of the Defence Ministry with a copy to the Land Crossings Authority, in which we requested information on the status of our requests for the transfer of the medical supplies that had been seized on the boat to Gaza, but we have received no reply at all to this request either.

A copy of the third application, from 12.09.18 is attached, and marked as Appendix 3

 

  1. At the same time, negotiations were conducted between the representative for the Respondents and the Applicant on the need for the return of the supplies that were seized from two Israeli activists who were present on the boats when they were seized, Mr. Yonatan Shapira and Ms Zohar Regev. From the outset it was clear to the representative of the Respondents that there was no reason not to return to the activists their possessions. On the same day Mr. Shapira presented himself at the entrance to the Ashdod base, but to his surprise he was forced to wait for hours, while none of those present on the premises, not even the Military Prosecutor’s liaison officer, replied to his request and he was forced to go back without his belongings being given back to him. As of the writing of these lines the seized items have still not been returned to their owners.

A copy of the correspondence with the representative of the Applicant, of 28.08.18, is attached, and marked as Appendix 4

 

  1. The proceedings in question do not raise the question of whether it is permitted for Israel to defend the peace of its citizens and its sovereignty, indeed there is no disagreement that that question must be answered in the affirmative. The questions that the that the proceedings raise are whether the prolonged closure of the Strip is proportional and legal and if legitimate political protest against it constitutes a threat that requires the seizure of the boat and justifies its confiscation.

 

Delay:

 

  1. In in rem 26861-08-13 State of Israel v the ship Estelle, the honourable court ruled that when the State seizes a vessel as booty, international law imposes on it a duty to apply immediately to a court for instructions on how to dispose of the vessel and to rule on the legality of its seizure. The honourable court emphasized in its ruling that this was not a mere technical duty, but an essential duty the purpose of which is to ensure the correctness of the procedure and the procedural and essential rights of the parties liable to be harmed by it. Therefore it was decided that the violation of the said duty could justify the dismissal of the application. In the State’s appeal of the said ruling, Civil Appeal 7307/14, the Supreme Court ratified the clear rule that had been established.

 

  1. However, despite these unequivocal decisions, and despite the fact that Respondent 1 was already seized on 29.07.18 and Respondent 2 was seized on 03.08.18, the Applicant refrained for over a week from seeking instructions from the court. Only on 13.08.18 was a declaration submitted by the Applicant of its intention to submit an application for confiscation, and the present proceedings only on 22.08.18, without any explanation for the delay in applying to the court.

 

  1. Under these circumstances, the violation of the duty of immediate recourse to the court, in violation of the law and the established ruling is grave and in itself justifies the dismissal of the application.

 

The illegality of the blockade

 

  1. The Respondent will argue that the declaration of the maritime blockade on the Gaza Strip is illegal due to the fact that in the announcement to mariners of 06.01.09 it was indicated that the blockade would be imposed “until further notice”, despite the fact that international law requires that the declaration indicate in detail the period of time in which the blockade will be in effect (See Art. 94 of the San Remo Manual).

 

  1. Even though it is a formal requirement, it is based on an essential rationale, which is the setting of a defined period of time for the conduct of periodic and systematic examination of the necessity and effectiveness of the blockade, in order to ensure control over what is done, and an examination from time to time of the justification for this extreme measure. There is no disagreement that the imposition of a maritime blockade on a territory that has a civilian population causes substantial harm to the rights of civilians, hence it is of supreme importance that it be limited in time and that it be re-examined prior to its renewal.

 

  1. Accordingly, to the extent that it is determined that the declaration was in force and legal at the beginning of the year 2009 and also in the subsequent period, that does not establish the legality of the blockade after the passage of nearly eight and a half years from the date of its declaration.

 

  1. International and humanitarian law and international human-rights law impose on Israel essential duties towards the civilian population in the Gaza Strip. The imposition of the blockade and its enforcement rise to the level of a violation of Israel’s duties under international law and also constitute forbidden collective punishment.

 

  1. The maritime blockade and the actions to enforce it must hold to the principle of proportionality, which is a central principle both in international law and Israeli administrative law. Thus does Art. 102 (b) of the San Remo Manual stipulate that a declaration of a blockade or its enforcement are forbidden where the harm caused to the civilian population is disproportionate in relation to the concrete and direct military advantage that is expected to accrue from the blockade. The Respondent will argue that on the date of the seizure the enforcement of the blockade did not meet the requirement of proportionality, for the gravity of the harm done to the civilian population in the Gaza Strip immeasurably exceeded the military advantage.  

 

Lack of justification for confiscation, and its disproportionality

 

  1. The Respondent will argue that in any case, the action for which the confiscation of the Respondent is requested does not constitute a violation of the blockade, nor should it be seen as an attempt at its violation, but as a legal and legitimate act of protest which from the outset did not justify the seizure of the boat, much less a justification for its confiscation, such that the actions of the State constitute a case of ultra vires.

 

  1. The Respondent will further argue that the action of seizure and confiscation do not serve any reasonable purpose, they are clearly disproportional and unreasonable in view of the harm they cause to fundamental rights and protected interests, both under customary international law and under the constitutional and administrative law of the State of Israel, such that the State’s application should be dismissed in any case.

 

  1. It is clear that to the extent that whereas there was no authority to seize, there are no grounds for the confiscation of the Respondent. But even if it is determined that the seizure of the Respondent was carried out legally, that in itself does not lead to its confiscation. For that purpose a separate and independent rationale and essential justification are required. An application for confiscation, like all actions of the Applicant, must be examined not only in light of the rules of international law as the Applicant tries to argue, but also on the basis of standards and grounds for audit under Israeli administrative law.

 

  1. According to the Applicant, there is no need to prove that the action of confiscation is necessary for any purpose, and given the existence of the necessary previous conditions for the seizure of a vessel, the court must order its confiscation. However, that is not in fact the case. The court is not a rubberstamp that is restricted to giving a legal seal of approval to the actions of the Applicant, unless under the circumstances at hand there exists fundamental justification for the confiscation of the vessel. The words of the learned Robert Tucker are fitting in on this matter:

 

At the same time, seizure need not lead to the condemnation of the vessel or of her cargo. The lawfulness of the act of seizure is not dependent up on later condemnation by a prize court. It may well be that the circumstances held to justify seizure will not be regarded by a prize court as sufficient to justify condemnation

 

The determination of title remains the sole responsibility of the prize court, which is charged with the task of investigating the circumstances attending seizure and deciding whether there is sufficient cause for confiscating vessel or cargo – or both.” (The Law of War and Neutralitiy at Sea, Robert W. Tucker 1955, (346-348) (Emphasis added – G.L.)

 

  1. The rights of the owners of the Respondent to the boat are property rights protected by the Basic Law: Human Dignity and Liberty. As is known, those constitutional rights cannot be transgressed except by law or according to law, for a reasonable purpose and to the extent that that it does not exceed necessity. The Respondent will argue that the confiscation of the Respondent does not meet those conditions and that it is an arbitrary act that does not serve any purpose, much less any purpose that is reasonable as required.

 

  1. The confiscation of the Respondent was carried out in response to symbolic and non-violent protest against the policy of blockade of the Gaza Strip. On board the Respondent were a small number of peace activists who declaredly embrace absolute non-violence. The only objective of the activists was to express legitimate criticism against the policy of blockade. At no point did any of them present any danger to the security of the State of Israel, they did not resist the security forces’ capture of the boat and they undertook no violent action.

 

  1. In addition, there were no weapons or dangerous or forbidden materials whatsoever on board the Respondent, nor has the Applicant claimed otherwise.

 

  1. On the contrary, not only was the seizure of the Respondent not necessary for the realization of the security objective that was the basis of the imposition of the blockade, but the Applicant’s attempt to apply the laws of armed conflict at sea to a clear act of non-violence and symbolic protest that did not take place during a time of combat is out of place and undermines the objectives that those laws were intended to promote.

 

  1. There is no doubt that it was possible from the outset to suffice with inspecting the cargo that was on board the Respondent and immediately to free it upon completion of the inspection. Therefore there is no doubt that the confiscation of the Respondent constitutes an extreme measure that disproportionately violates the constitutional rights of the owners of the Respondent in disregard of appropriate balance between the relevant interests and moreover is extremely unreasonable.

 

  1. In view of all the above, the honourable court is asked to dismiss the Applicant’s application and to order the release of the Respondent.

 

  1. Moreover, the honourable court is asked to require the Applicant to pay the expenses of the Respondent and the lawyers’ fees along with the Value Added Tax as required by law.

 

[Signature]

Gaby Lasky

Representative of the Respondent

 

*** *** ***

Appendix 1

Gaby Lasky & Partners, Law Offices

18 Ben Avigdor St., P.O. Box 57092, Tel-Aviv-Jaffa, 61570

Fax: 03-6244387, Tel: 03-6243215

E-mail: laskylaw@yahoo.com

Gaby Lasky, Adv.

Karin Torn Hibler, Adv.

Haya Abu Warda, Adv.

31.07.2018

To the Coordination and Liaison Administration in the Gaza Strip

E-mail: kapatz@cogatmtkgaza.gov.il

Greetings,

The subject: Application to bring medical supplies on the boat “Awda” to the port of Gaza

The below-signed represents the ship “Awda” as well as part of the team of organizers of the flotilla.

Following the seizure of the ship “Awda” which was brought to the port of Ashdod by the navy on 29.07.2018, I hereby inform you that the boat is carrying humanitarian supplies composed of 116 crates of medical supplies.

These supplies have been brought as humanitarian aid for the healthcare system in the Gaza Strip, according to the attached list.

Accordingly, we request that these humanitarian supplies that were brought on the boat be transferred to their declared destination in the port of Gaza.

Moreover, it is known to us that some of the personal effects of the participants in the flotilla have not yet been returned to them. We will be grateful if instructions will be published for the return of those seized effects, in order to prevent a situation in which the personal effects of the flotilla participants be lost as has happened in previous cases.

Respectfully,

[Signature]

Gaby Lasky, Advocate

 

*** *** ***

Appendix 2

Haya Abu Warda haya@lasky-law.com

To: Kapatz@cogatmtkgaza.gov.il

Attached again is a request for the transfer of humanitarian and medical supplies on the “Awda” flotilla.

Regards,

Haya Abu Warda, Adv.

(2 electronic attachments: “Final Inventory of Medical Supplies on Boats to Gaza” and בקשה להעברת ציוד  הומניטרי 310718 [translation of 2nd file name : Request for transfer of humanitarian supplies 310718])

 

*** *** ***

Request for transfer of humanitarian supplies on the boat “Awda” to the port of Gaza

8 August 2018, 15:21 hours

Coordination and Liaison Administration Gaza/Office/Public Inquiries Officer/Roni Vaknin kapatz@cogatmtkgaza.gov.il

To Haya Abu Warda haya@lasky-law.com

Greetings,

Contact details:

Telephone: 08-6741469

E-mail: Kapatz@cogatmtkgaza.gov.il

Call centre hours:

Sunday: 10:00-12:00 13:00-15:00

Monday-Wednesday: 09:00-12:00 13:00-15:00

Thursday: 09:00-12:00

Greetings,

 

Roni Vaknin

Public Inquiries Officer

Coordination and Liaison Administration Gaza

[Quoted text concealed]

 

*** *** ***

 

Appendix 3

 

Gaby Lasky Law Offices

12.09.2018

To the Legal Advisor for the Ministry of Defence

Ministry of Defence, Hakirya

Tel Aviv 61909

Fax: 03-6976746

Greetings,

The subject: Follow-up on the transfer of medical supplies from the boats “FREEDOM” and “Awda” to the Gaza Strip

  1. The below-signed represents the boats “FREEDOM” and “Awda” (below: the vessels) as well as part of the staff of the flotilla.
  2. On 29.07.18 the boat “Awda” was seized by the navy and taken to the port of Ashdod.
  3. On 03.08.18 the boat “FREEDOM” was seized by the navy and taken to the port of Ashdod.
  4. On 26.08.18 the State of Israel, through the Haifa District Prosecutor, submitted an application for an order for confiscation of the two vessels.
  5. I hereby inform you that the two vessels were carrying humanitarian supplies composed of 116 crates of medical supplies.

A detailed list of humanitarian supplies per vessel is attached as Appendix A

 

  1. We note that the State itself agreed, in previous proceedings at the Maritime Court in Haifa, that humanitarian supplies that were seized on boats on their way to Gaza would be transferred to their destination by land (In rem 7961-07-15 State of Israel v the ship Mariane).
  2. In order to facilitate following up on the transfer of the supplies to their destination, we request to receive a detailed list regarding the supplies that have been transferred to the Gaza Strip, the date of their transfer and the parties to whom the supplies were transferred.
  3. Insofar as as the State decides not to transfer part of the supplies, I would request to receive a detailing in that regard as well.
  4. Since much time has passed since the vessels were seized, I would be grateful to receive the report promptly.

[Signature]

Regards,

Gaby Lasky, Adv.

Copy:

The Land Crossings Authority

Fax: 03-9381053

 

*** *** ***

 

Appendix 4

Query regarding the return of property from the Ashdod base

28 August 2018, 17:23 hours.

Haya Abu Warda haya@lasky-law.com

To: hadarm@justice.gov.il

Copy: Gaby Lasky laskylaw@yahoo.com

Greetings Hadar,

Further to your correspondence with Gaby, I would request to receive an update on the return of the seized property of Zohar Regev and Yonatan Shapira. The items seized from Zohar Regev:

A black bag, cash in the amount of NIS 50 and foreign currency, reading glasses, keys, an Israeli driving licence, a cloth bag containing a fiction book, a backpack, washing supplies, a fiction book, a head light, and clothes.

The items seized from Yonatan Shapira:

A small pink backpack, a large black backpack, a black wallet, money in euros and shekels, two credit cards, a driver’s licence, a boat licence, additional cards and documents, a harmonica, flashlights, a small bag with medicines and washing supplies, clothes, two jackets, a storm suit, a book, a personal notebook, two pairs of sunglasses, a sleeping-bag.

Thanking you in advance,

Haya

 

*** *** ***

 

Haya Abu Warda haya@lasky-law.com

To: Amnon Brownfield Stein amnon@lasky-law.com

3 September 2018, 13:19 hours

 

Haya Abu Warda, Adv.

Message that was transmitted

From: Haya Abu Warda haya@lastky-law.com

Date 28 August 2018, 17:23 hours

Subject: Query regarding the return of possessions from the Ashdod base

To hadarm@justice.gov.il

Copy: Gaby Lasky laskylaw@yahoo.com

[Quoted text concealed]

 

 

 

2018 Gaza Freedom Flotilla- “Just Future for Palestine”

 

The 2018 Gaza Freedom Flotilla named “Just Future for Palestine” sailed in May from several ports in Scandinavia. Two boats – ‘Al Awda’ (The Return) and ‘Freedom’ sailed along the Atlantic coast , while two small sailboats – ‘Mairead’ and ‘Falestine’ travelled via European canals and rivers.

The boats made 30 port stops for educational programs in about conditions in Gaza before meeting again in the Mediterranean Sea for the final leg towards Gaza in late July. We estimate we reached over 100,000 persons in these educational events.

Each leg of the voyage on all four boats had new participants to give more supporters of Palestine an opportunity to participate directly on the 2018 flotilla.  Over 100 persons participated on the boats during the 75 day voyage and hundreds more helped as ground and port support in the 28 ports that were visited by at least one of the boats.  Artists in many communities were invited to paint on the boats with messages to Palestine.

Al Awda with Filestine & Mairead Maguire in background

In late July, the boats met together again-in Palermo, Sicily, Italy for the final leg towards Gaza. Information and photos about events and visitors along the way are recorded throughout our website https://jfp.freedomflotilla.org/category/news, as well as on our social media sites, Facebook and Twitter.

Unfortunately due to a mechanical issue and a crewing issue, the two small yachts (‘Falestine’ and ‘Mairead’) ended their voyage in the Mediterranean and could not directly confront the illegal Israeli blockade. ‘Al Awda’ and ‘Freedom’ left Palermo on 22 July 2018 on their final leg to the port of Gaza, Palestine.

We selected participants from different countries and they included representatives from civil society, including politicians, activists, journalists, trade union leaders, artists, professors, faith leaders and students for different legs of the journey. During the 75 days of the voyage, there were 8 different portions of the trip with different passengers on each part. We had an international ground crew that met the boats at each of the ports to coordinate with local organizers. Many of the biographies of the 22 delegates and crew on Al Awda and 15 delegates and crew on Liberty were on the final leg from Sicily to 40 miles off Gaza are available on our website under ‘Participants’. https://jfp.freedomflotilla.org/participants

The Freedom Flotilla Coalition is composed of civil society organizations and initiatives from many countries. We have been challenging the illegal and inhumane Israeli blockade of Gaza for many years and are committed to continue the struggle until the blockade is unconditionally lifted and Palestinian people everywhere achieve their full rights, including the right to freedom of movement.

The Freedom Flotilla Coalition campaigns participating in the JFP Flotilla include: Ship to Gaza-Norway, Canadian Boat to Gaza, Freedom Flotilla-Italy, Palestine Solidarity Alliance-South Africa, Rumbo a Gaza-Spain, Ship to Gaza Sweden, International Committee for Breaking the Siege of Gaza, US Boat to Gaza, Kia Ora Gaza – New Zealand/Aotearoa, MyCARE Malaysia, IHH Turkey, National Collective for Palestine and Platform of NGOs for Palestine in France, and Gaza Freedom Flotilla Australia.

The Israeli Occupation Forces were very brutal toward our Captain, crew and delegates. When the boat was boarded by masked gun-wielding Israeli soldiers, our Captain was beaten and tasered, the delegate from New Zealand received blows with blunt weapons and was tasered multiple times, finally to the head, rendering him semi-conscious on the ship’s deck and the ships doctor suffered broken ribs and another delegate suffered a broken foot.

The Freedom Flotilla Coalition has sued the Israeli Occupation Forces for the return of the boats and for the delivery to Gaza of 13,000 euros of medical supplies that were on the vessels. Continue reading “2018 Gaza Freedom Flotilla- “Just Future for Palestine””

Women’s Boat to Gaza sues Israeli government over theft of Zaytouna-Oliva

Screen Shot 2017-06-29 at 8.04.18.pngScreen Shot 2017-06-29 at 8.09.57.png
In September 2016, the Women’s Boat to Gaza, Freedom Flotilla mission sailed the Zaytouna-Oliva from Barcelona. The boat stopped in Ajaccio, Corsica, France and Messina, Sicily, Italy before heading to Gaza, Palestine. On October 5 it was intercepted by the Snapir unit of the Israeli navy in international waters 34 nautical miles off the shore. The 13 women on board were taken against their will to the Israeli port of Ashdod, where they were interrogated and accused of entering Israeli illegally. The Zaytouna-Oliva a 15 m long sailing vessel was towed to Ashdod and then to the navy base in Haifa.

The State of Israel had presented a demand to confiscate the boat at the maritime court in Haifa on October 16, based on the Naval Prize law of the British Empire from 1864.

The Freedom Flotilla Coalition represented by Gaby Lasky and partners law office defends the right of international peace activist to sail freely in the Mediterranean Sea, to protest by non-violent means the illegal and inhuman blockade imposed by Israel on the Gaza Strip and claims that the vessel or its value should be returned to it.

Our plan of defense includes bringing testimonies from inside Gaza to prove how harsh the living conditions are under the closure – aiming to question its legality in an Israeli court.

Our lawyer in Israel Gaby Lasky filed an excellent 23 page appeal to the court to preserve the Zaytouna. The excellent brief can be read here: zaytouna court case march 2018

A hearing in the case was held in September 2017.

March 2017 Press Release

March 5, 2017, at 9.30 am, Judge Ron Sokol of the Haifa District Court, resumed deliberations on the government of Israel’s demand to confiscate the boat Zaytouna-Oliva, captured last year by the Israeli Navy in international waters (see following background). The proceedings was held in room 617 at the court building at 12 Palyam St., Haifa.

The court is acting in the capacity of an “Admiralty Court”, under a 19th Century British law which Israel inherited from the time of pre-1948 British rule and which is invoked against boats trying to breach the blockage of Gaza. Zohar Chamberlain Regev, an Israeli citizen living in Australia who is the registered owner of the Zaytouna-Oliva, is represented by Israeli Human Rights lawyer Gaby Lasky.

Activists concerned about the deteriorating situation in the Gaza Strip intend to maintain a presence in the courtroom. By coincidence, the proceedings take place at a rare moment when the mainstream Israeli media pays some attention to the situation in Gaza, with even senior members of the Israeli political and military establishment openly admitting that Gaza is undergoing a sever and deteriorating humanitarian crisis. For further details you can call Zohar Chamberlain Regev +34 647077426 or Adv. Gaby Lasky +972-(0)54-4418988.

WOMEN’S BOAT TO GAZA
The Freedom Flotilla Coalition goes to Israeli court demanding the release of the boat Zaytouna-Oliva illegally confiscated during the Women’s Boat to Gaza Mission.

The Freedom Flotilla Coalition demands the release of the boat Zaytouna-Oliva, stolen by Israel on October 5, 2016 in international waters 34 miles off Gaza and outside the self-declared Israeli security zone as the Women’s Boat to Gaza sailed on its 1,715 mile mission to break the illegal Israeli blockade of Gaza.

After an eight hour trip from the point of theft and arrest of the 13 passengers from 13 countries, including a Nobel Peace Laureate and two members of Parliament from Algeria and from New Zealand, the Zaytouna was taken from Ashdod harbor to Haifa harbor where it is currently being allowed to deteriorate without proper inspection and maintenance. Israeli lawyers hired by the Gaza Freedom Flotilla are demanding in Israeli court the return of the Zaytouna.

http://zope.gush-shalom.org/home/en/channels/press_releases/1488649171/


December 2016 Press Release

Today, Monday 19 December, 2016 (13:00) Haifa District court (acting as Maritime court) at Ave. Pal Yam 15a, Haifa, there will be a protest against the ongoing illegal blockade of Gaza and to demand the return of our Freedom Flotilla boat so that we can take it to Gaza without delay.

The Freedom Flotilla Coalition (FFC) has been challenging the blockade of the Gaza Strip for years, employing direct action, consisting of boats sailing to and from Gaza.

The most recent attempt was the Women’s Boat to Gaza, which ended when a sailing boat (Zaytouna-Oliva), with 13 women from different countries, sailed across the Mediterranean Sea towards Gaza. As with all of our boats in the last five years, the Israeli Navy – deeply involved in blockading Gaza and stifling its economy – illegally boarded the Zaytouna-Oliva in international waters, using an especially raised Women’s Naval Corps (the Snapir Unit) to drag off the women activists on board and take them to detention. The boat was taken to the Israeli port of Ashdod and the women on board deported from Ben Gurion Airport, denied a chance to get to Gaza and meet with the city’ inhabitants which they regard as sisters and brothers in Palestine.

The Zaytouna-Oliva was retained by the Israeli authorities which started proceedings to impound it, citing old British laws dating to the time of the Napoleonic Wars which were then used to impound French ships captured by the British Royal Navy; such legal procedures were applied in British Mandatory Palestine and retained as part of Israeli law.

The Israeli-Australian activist and CO Zohar Chamberlain Regev, who is the registered owner of the Zaytouna-Oliva, engaged Human Rights lawyer Gabi Lasky to contest the impounding proceedings at the Haifa Court today. In the past, Adv. Lasky and her associates manged to block the impounding of earlier Gaza-bound boats intercepted by the Israeli Navy.

Zohar Chamberlain Regev +34647077426 wbg.freedomflotilla.org/media-room

http://zope.gush-shalom.org/home/en/channels/press_releases/1482143492/

 

 

 

Israeli Court Orders Release of the “Estelle” That Attempted to Break Gaza Blockade in 2012

Estelle ship to Gaza

A Swedish human rights group intend to demand damages for a ship impounded by Israel after the Supreme Court ordered its release on Sunday, the French news agency AFP reported.
The ship was impounded in 2012 as it neared the coast of the Gaza Strip in an attempt to break the Israeli blockade of the Palestinian territory.
Israel-born activist Dror Feiler was one of 11 Swedish nationals belonging to the group “Ship to Gaza” who were on the vessel when it was commandeered by the Israeli Navy.
The Swedes, along with activists from Norway, Canada, Spain, Italy, Greece and Finland, were arrested and subsequently deported.
Feiler said that the Finnish-flagged Estelle was in Israel’s northern port of Haifa, still afloat but unfit to put to sea.
“Last time we had a person who checked the boat, it was maybe one year or nine months ago, the condition of the boat was not good, to put it mildly,” he said.
“It’s in salt water and we don’t know the condition of the engine, we don’t know the condition of the sails,” he said. “We will demand that the boat be put into seaworthy condition so we can sail it out.”
The Supreme Court awarded the ship’s owners legal costs of 40,000 shekels ($10,500) after ruling that it had been impounded illegally.
Feiler said Ship to Gaza would now file a claim for damages.
“They kept the boat for four years and now the court is stipulating that it was illegal so we shall try to get economic compensation,” he said. “It’s much larger (than the court expenses).”
read more: http://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/1.735847

Israel: Supreme Court Orders Release of Ship Captured Attempting to Break Gaza Blockade

(Aug. 10, 2016) On August 8, 2016, the Supreme Court of Israel rejected an appeal by the state against the Haifa District Court’s decision not to allow confiscation of the ship Estelle. Instead, the Court ordered the release of the ship to its owners.  (CA7307/14 State of Israel v. the Ship Estelle (Aug. 8, 2016), STATE OF ISRAEL: THE JUDICIAL AUTHORITY (in Hebrew).)

Facts of the Case

According to the Supreme Court President Miriam Naor, “[s]ince Israel’s disengagement – following which Israel’s effective control over the Gaza Strip ceased … there were several attempts by foreign ships to reach the strip … .” (Id. ¶ 1.)  These attempts continued despite the issuance of an advisory notice on August 11, 2008, informing crew members that Israel’s navy was operating along the Gaza Strip shore and requesting foreign ships not to enter the area.  As attempts by foreign ships to reach the Gaza Strip continued, a maritime blockade was imposed during the “Cast Lead” military operation.  On January 3, 2009, Israel declared a maritime blockade and prohibited the entry of ships into an area extending 20 nautical miles from the shore.  (Id.)

The Estelle left Finland on May 28, 2012, heading to the Gaza Strip. Despite repeated warnings, it was continuing to approach the blockade area when it was stopped by the Israeli Navy.  The ship was brought to the Israeli port of Ashdod; its crew and passengers were removed, interrogated, and then deported.  After being checked, the ship’s cargo, designated under the cargo manifest as humanitarian aid, was transferred to the Gaza Strip through a land crossing.  The ship was then transferred to the Israeli port of Haifa.  (Id. ¶ 2.)  On August 15, 2013, about ten months after the ship had been impounded, the state filed a request to order the ship’s confiscation in accordance with the Naval Prize Act 1864. (Id. ¶ 3.)

Summary of the District Court’s Decision

The district court rejected the claim by the shipowners that the court lacked authority to adjudicate naval prize matters. Such authority, the court recognized, was based on the British Naval Prize Act 1864, as amended in 1939 to apply also to territories under the British mandate. A special provision authorized the then Palestine Supreme Court to adjudicate naval prize suits, following a declaration of war that was then published in the Palestine Official Gazette of 1939.  The court held that the eruption of war between Britain and Germany and its allies in 1939 was in itself sufficient evidence that there was a state of war, giving the Palestine Supreme Court the authorization to adjudicate matters of naval prizes.  (Id. ¶ 6.)

All the powers granted to the British Crown, including that of declaring war, the district court further determined, were transferred to the State of Israel upon its establishment. The existence of a state of war, or at least an armed confrontation, between Israel and the residents of the Gaza Strip, is not under dispute. Following the enactment of the Maritime Court Law, 5712-1952, the Supreme Court’s adjudicative powers in maritime affairs were transferred to the Haifa District Court when it sits as a maritime court. These include adjudicating naval prize matters. (Id.; Maritime Court Law, 5712-1952, SEFER HAHUKIM [BOOK OF LAWS, the official gazette] 5712 No. 97 p. 232 (in Hebrew).)

While rejecting the shipowners’ arguments against the district court’s jurisdiction, the court accepted their claim that the state had not complied with the procedural requirements under the Naval Prize Act. Accordingly “the ship and its documents should have been brought to the naval prize court ‘forthwith’ and ‘with all practicable speed’ for adjudication.  (CA7307/14 State of Israel v. the Ship Estelle, ¶ 8.)  The district court emphasized that

[t]he need for a judicial determination does not depend on the will of the impounding state or on a request by the ship owner; the legitimacy of the impounding depends on a judicial confirmation. The impounding state must, soon after impounding the ship and transferring it to a port under the state’s control, request and receive authorization for the impounding from the court of naval prizes. (Id.)

Under the circumstances of the case, the district court held, the long delay in filing with the court in itself justified the release of the ship, even in the absence of an express provision to this effect. (Id. ¶ 9.)

The Supreme Court Decision  

  1. General Rules on Adjudication of Naval Prize

Having reviewed extensive case law and literature on international maritime law, Court President Naor, who wrote the main decision, concluded that there was a consensus that ownership of a ship can only be transferred to the capturing state upon judicial authorization. (Id. ¶ 20). Furthermore, the time in which the state must request adjudication must be reasonable to allow it to collect evidence and hear the shipowners’ arguments before determining whether to start prize procedures. A review of multiple foreign court decisions indicates that ships impounded under their specific  circumstances were usually released within a few weeks. (Id. ¶ 36.)

Unusual circumstances, Naor opined, might justify a more significant delay in release of ships when it has been decided that prize procedures will not be pursued. Examples of such circumstances include an unusual security situation that does not allow for the release of ships or a need to rescue ships at the bottom of the sea.  (Id. ¶ 37.)

Naor concluded that a state that impounds a ship must begin prize procedures within a reasonable time, which in most cases may extend from several days to several weeks following capture. An unreasonable delay in engaging in legal proceedings, she stated, might entitle the shipowners to compensation.  (Id. ¶ 42.) Release of a ship based on a delay, she added, could not be reversed even if there were a justifiable cause for the ship’s capture. This is because the question of whether there is a cause for confiscation is irrelevant to the initial duty of the state to bring the ship before the designated prize court.  (Id. ¶ 44.)

  1. Application to the Current Case

According to Naor, the initiation of naval prize procedures by the state ten months following the capture of the Estelle was a sizable delay that significantly exceeds the accepted norms. (Id. ¶ 46.)  Additionally, the state had not presented any considerations specifically related to the Estelle that would justify such a delay. Those considerations could be, for example, efforts to reach an alternative remedy, the handling of cargo, or the conduct of negotiations with the ship’s owners. (Id.)

The circumstances of the case indicate that the state has not had any contact with the Estelle’s owners, nor did it conduct any investigation regarding the ship. In fact, Naor found, the State has not responded to the owners’ inquiries, nor did it update them regarding the ship’s condition. In this situation, she held, not only was the delay in starting the naval prize proceedings unreasonable but, in fact, the state’s mishandling of the owners resulted in depriving them of their right to submit their claims; had they been allowed to do so, it might have prevented the need to engage in the naval prize proceedings in the first place. (Id. ¶ 47.)

In an effort to justify the ten-month delay, the state argued that in evaluating how the Estelle was handled, it had to consider a wide variety of factors, including security aspects, foreign affairs interests, and other policy concerns. Naor rejected this argument and held that such considerations can be made by the state for the purpose of adoption of a general policy towards prize proceedings, but that process must be differentiated from the one needed for a determination of whether to resort to a prize proceeding against a specific ship.  (Id. ¶ 48.)

  1. Verdict

The Court ordered the immediate release of the Estelle and required the state to cover the ship’s costs in the amount of 40,000 New Israel Shekels (about US$10,500). (Id. ¶ 50.)

According to media reports, the Estelle’s owners intend to demand compensation for the damage caused to the ship during its impoundment, including the costs to return it to seaworthy condition. (Israeli Court Orders Release of Ship that Attempted to Break Gaza Blockade, HAARETZ (Aug. 9, 2016).)

http://www.loc.gov/law/foreign-news/article/israel-supreme-court-orders-release-of-ship-captured-attempting-to-break-gaza-blockade/

 

Link to the 33 page opinion  https://www.nevo.co.il/psika_html/yamaut/YAM-13-08-26861-22.htm

 

And an article about the verdict  http://opiniojuris.org/2014/09/14/guest-post-update-israelpalestine-revival-international-prize-law/

 

 

 

In 2013, Spanish prosecutor requests ICC referral of case against Israel’s Netanyahu for 2010 flotilla attack-but case dropped

In 2013, the prosecutor of Spain’s national court  formally requested a judge to begin steps to refer a case against Israeli leaders for the attack on the Gaza flotilla in 2010 to the International Criminal Court (ICC).

The Spanish campaign Rumbo A Gaza has a lengthy website in Spanish with many documents on this case.  https://www.rumboagaza.org/la-lucha-legal/

Three Spanish citizens, Manuel Tapial, Laura Arau and David Segarra, were aboard the Mavi Marmara when Israeli forces attacked and commandeered the ship in international waters on 31 May 2010, killing nine people, wounding dozens of others, and kidnapping all the crew and hundreds of passengers.

Tapial, Arau and Segarra filed the case against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, six ministers and a vice admiral of the Israeli navy who led the attack. Arau, a filmmaker, described the attack in an interview last August, and said the Israelis confiscated everything she recorded.

The Mavi Marmara was the largest of several vessels that formed the flotilla that attempted to break the Israeli siege on Gaza.

Prosecutor finds strong evidence of crimes against humanity

Spain’s eldiario.es reported that the prosecutor in the case, Pedro Martínez Torrijos, found that there was “strong evidence” of “crimes against humanity, illegal detention, deportation and torture” that merited investigation by the ICC.

Torrijos ruled that both Spain’s national courts and the ICC were competent to investigate the case, but that the ICC was preferable. If the ICC refused to investigate, or ruled the case inadmissible, according to Torrijos, then it could return to Spanish courts under universal jurisdiction.

The prosecutor said the ICC had jurisdiction because the vessels that were the victims of the attack were flagged in states that are members of the international court, and Spain was involved as its citizens were aboard the ships.

Government will decide

Under Spanish procedure, the prosecutor sent an official brief (PDF) containing his findings to a magistrate asking that the judge request the Ministry of Justice to refer the case to the ICC. In other words, eldiario.es reported, “the government will decide whether to refer the case to the ICC prosecutor.”

That could be a sticking point as several Western governments, including the UK and Belgium, have previously been complicit in frustrating efforts to bring Israeli war criminals to justice.

In June 2015, a Madrid court dropped its investigation into possible Israeli war crimes over the 2010 Gaza Flotilla raid. The case could be reopened, however, should Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, or any others named within, visit Spain.

Spain’s case is based upon the concept of universal jurisdiction, which maintains that crimes against humanity can be tried across borders. Spanish law has changed recently, however, to require a Spanish connection in the case for it to be tried. There were Spanish activists involved in the flotilla.

In a written ruling, the Spanish court said it was closing its investigation for the time being, unless those targeted should come to Spain in the future. It did not clarify what would happen in such a circumstance.

Chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) Fatou Bensouda said late last year that the ICC would not be investigating the Mavi Marmara incident, despite what he called a “reasonable basis” to believe that war crimes were committed.

https://www.breakingisraelnews.com/43177/spanish-court-shelves-mavi-marmara-investigation-middle-east/#Z4VmpXefgkhlDAGe.99

Four Passengers on Challenger 1 in 2010 Gaza Freedom Flotilla Sue Israeli Government in U.S. Federal Court

 

 

Challenger 1 and Challenger 2

Four Passengers on Challenger 1 in 2010 Gaza Freedom Flotilla Sue Israeli Government in U.S. Federal Court

Three Americans and a Belgian national sued the government of Israel in U.S. federal court in January 2016, seeking compensation for injuries suffered in a deadly 2010 confrontation between Israeli commandos and activists attempting to breach Israel’s naval blockade of the Gaza Strip.

 

The plaintiffs in the lawsuit, filed in Washington, DC, were aboard the U.S.-flagged Challenger 1, which was carrying media equipment and 17 passengers and crew members.  American plaintiffs David Schermerhorn, Mary Ann Wright and Huwaida Arraf, a dual U.S.-Israeli citizen, and Belgian national Margriet Deknopper suffered injuries that included partial loss of sight when a stun grenade exploded inches from one of them and a broken nose when another was hit by a rubber bullet.

“The attack on the high seas was unjustified and illegal under international law,” lawyer Steven M. Schneebaum of Washington wrote in a 21-page complaint, which alleged that the military operations injured more than 150 protesters and included torture, cruel or degrading treatment, arbitrary arrest and assault.

Under U.S. law, the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act generally bars lawsuits against foreign governments, except for certain circumstances, including terrorist acts against Americans by U.S.-designated state sponsors of terrorism.

Ralph G. Steinhardt, a professor of international law at George Washington University Law School and a member of the plaintiffs’ legal team, said the suit may turn on whether a court finds that the action against a U.S.-flagged ship in international waters should be treated as an assault in the United States or that Israel’s conduct was so egregious that it is not entitled to immunity, even in the absence of a U.S. terrorism designation.

On 25th January 2017 we received the Court’s decision to agree to Defendant’s motion to dismiss have been granted. There was no oral hearing and decision was made on paper.  Plaintiffs  have filed our notice of appeal with the Court of Appeal.

Links to the documents in this case are below:

PLAINTIFFS’ LEGAL COMPLIANT AGAINST THE GOVERNMENT OF ISRAEL

ComplaintFinal (1)

STATEMENT OF INTEREST OF THE UNITED STATES

11-21-16USG-SOI

PLAINTIFFS’ RESPONSE TO THE STATEMENT OF INTEREST OF THE UNITED STATES

Challenger 1 Lawsuit December Plantiffs response to motion to dismiss

PLAINTIFFS’ MEMORANDUM OF POINTS AND AUTHORITIES IN OPPOSITION TO DEFENDANTS’ MOTION TO DISMISS

9-19M2DOppBrFINAL

COURT DECISION TO DISMISS CASE AS THE STATE OF ISRAEL IS IMMUNE FROM SUIT, AND THAT IT WAS THEREFORE WITHOUT JURISDICTION TO ENTERTAIN EVIDENCE OR ARGUMENT ON THE MERITS OF THE CASE.

1-25-17Opinion

COURT ORDER TO DISMISS

1-25-17Order

PLAINTIFF’S NOTICE OF APPEAL

2-15NoticeAppeal

STATEMENT OF ISSUES TO BE RAISED ON APPEAL

3-2-17StateIssues

OPENING BRIEF OF APPELLANTS UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA CIRCUIT

6-5-17FlotAppBr.FINAL 

JOINT APPENDIX FOR OPENING BRIEF OF APPELLANTS UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA CIRCUIT  (LISTING OF ALL THE DOCUMENTS, LAWYERS, ETC FOR THIS CASE)

6-5-17JtAppendix

STATE OF ISRAEL’S APPELLEES BRIEF IN RESPONSE TO PLAINTIFF’S (BOAT PASSENGERS) APPEAL TO DISTRICT COURT’S RULING

7-5-17AppelleesBrief

PLAINTIFF’S (BOAT PASSENGERS) BRIEF OF APPEAL TO DISTRICT COURT’S RULING THAT THE STATE OF ISRAEL IS IMMUNE FROM SUIT, AND THAT IT WAS THEREFORE WITHOUT JURISDICTION TO ENTERTAIN EVIDENCE OR ARGUMENT ON THE MERITS OF THE CASE.

7-19ReplyBriefofAppellants

 

Audio of the lawyers during the October 16, 2017 US District of Washington, DC Court of Appeals hearing of our appeal from the case being dismissed at the trial court level.  Steven M. Schneebaum, of Washington, DC was our attorney who argued our case in the Court of Appeals.  Stoke and White of London were the lead attorneys with assistance from George Washington Law School professor Ralph Steinhardt.

More Information about the case:

Schermerhorn, et al. v. The  State of Israel, et al

Questions  and Answers

Q What is this case about?

A Israeli Defense Forces attacked a U.S.-flagged ship, The Challenger I, on May 31, 2010, while it  was navigating in international waters. The Challenger I was part of a flotilla seeking to deliver humanitarian aid and  medical supplies to  the residents of  the Gaza Strip, who  were and are still living under a blockade  imposed by the Government of  Israel.

Q Who are the plaintffs?

A. They are four individuals, three of whom are American citizens, who are seeking compensation for the injuries and  losses they suffered in the attack, which they allege violated governing rules of international law.  They were assaulted and beaten. They were hooded, handcuffed  and violently detained. One suffered partial blindness when a stun grenade thrown at him exploded one foot in front of his face. Another was shot in the face with a rubber bullet.  One plaintiff’s head was slammed on deck of the ship and stood upon. Israel has refused to acknowledge its responsibility for the injuries, and not offered any compensation to the victims.

The Challenger I is still being held in Israel, and the U.S. Government has  taken no positive steps to promote  the claims of  the plaintiffs in this case or  the American owners of the  ship.

Q What legal issue does the case present?

A In general, foreign governments may not  be sued  in the courts of  other countries,  under the

doctrine of sovereign immunity. U.S. law, however,  denies sovereign immunity to  defendants in certain specific situations. Among those are instances in which the foreign government or its agents have unlawfully  caused personal injuries in the United  States, or where they  engaged in certain violent  acts, like torture,  that come within the statutory definition of “terrorism.”

The four plaintiffs – humanitarian activists who have been working to highlight the plight of the residents of Gaza for  decades, and who suffered  serious physical  and emotional harm as  a result of the  attack –  allege in this case  that both of  these criteria are satisfied, and that therefore Israel is not entitled to immunity and must  answer to them in a  U.S. court.  The plaintiffs contend that torts committed  on U.S. vessels in international waters  happened “in  the United States,” and that Israel is legally responsible for them,  even if it has never been  designated a “state  sponsor of terrorism.”

Their case is grounded in the congressional determination that U.S. nationals who are victims of such acts as torture –  perpetrated by the  agents of any  state, friend or foe – are entitled to  have their claims  heard in court.

Q What is the current posture of the case?

A The specific allegations on which the plaintiffs’ case rely have never before been  addressed by a judge in this country: this is a  case of first impression. In the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, Judge Amy Berman Jackson disagreed with the plaintiffs’ legal theories, and dismissed the case. It is now before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. The four plaintiffs are asking the Court of Appeals to proclaim that the abuses to which they were subjected on a U.S  vessel on the high seas are  unacceptable in international  and in American law.

They argue that the exceptions set out by  Congress in  the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act are broad enough to  open the courthouse  doors to them.

Q Isn’t foreign policy outside the jurisdiction of the courts?

A. The plaintiffs are not  asking the court to  adjudicate foreign policy. They are not asking the court to  declare Israel a terrorist state,  or to determine  the legality of  the blockade of  Gaza. Rather, they are seeking relief for a violent, unprovoked,  and unjustified  assault committed on board a U.S.-flagged vessel in international waters. If they have no recourse in this country’s  courts, they will  be totally without  a viable remedy for the wrongs  done to them,  and the signal will be sent that American vessels may be  boarded and its passengers abused  by agents of foreign  governments with no  fear of legal liability.

Such as result would be bad law and bad policy. The Schermerhorn case is important to the four plaintiffs, but it should also be important to anyone  concerned about the accountability of states for  the irresponsible  and unlawful  conduct of  those acting in their names.

Q What will happen next in this case?

A The plaintiffs are asking to  have the case  sent back to the district court, so  that it  can take the next steps to  get the dispute  ready for trial. The plaintiffs will  have the burden of proving, by a  preponderance of the  evidence, that they were injured as they say they were:  standard procedure in civil cases. And through depositions and discovery, they will be entitled to explore Israel’s defenses against legal liability for their injuries. They will, in other words, have their day in court, which has been the goal of this  exercise from the beginning.

Washington, D.C

October 16, 2017