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, Corcega and Messina, Sicily before heading to Gaza, Palestina. 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.
The next hearing in the case is scheduled to 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/

 

 

 

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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/

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Family of U.S. Citizen Furkan Dogan Murdered by Israeli Forces Sue in U.S. Federal Court Former Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak

Family of U.S. Citizen Furkan Dogan Murdered by Israeli Forces Sue in U.S. Federal Court Former Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak

Furkan_Doğan

Former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak was sued in the United States in October 2015 over his role in the 2010 slaying of Turkish American citizen Furkan Doğan by Israeli commandos who stormed a boat attempting to break the siege on Gaza.  Doğan’s family brings the case against Barak under the Alien Tort Statute, which allows foreign nationals to use US courts in cases alleging violations of international law.

The former Israeli prime minister was served court documents when he was in Los Angeles, California, for a speaking event in November 2015.  Doğan, 19, was shot multiple times at point-blank range during the raid on the Mavi Marmara, a Turkish boat in a flotilla sailing in international waters.  His parents, Ahmet and Hikmet Doğan, filed the lawsuit against Barak.  Barak was defense minister when Israeli forces shot and killed eight Turkish nationals, in addition to Doğan. A tenth victim died from his injuries in May 2014.

The complaint states that Doğan “was tortured and killed” during the raid on the flotilla: “Four of the shots struck Doğan from behind, hitting his head, back, left leg and left foot. The fifth shot struck his face at point-blank range, likely while he was lying on the ground on his back.”  In September 2010, a United Nations fact-finding mission found that Doğan was not killed instantly, but was “lying on the deck in a conscious, or semi-conscious, state for some time.”

In January 2016 Defendant Ehud filed a motion to dismiss the case.

 

In May 2016, the U.S. submitted a  Statement of Interest followed by Suggestion of

 

Immunity for Israel.

 

On October 13, 2016, the U.S. District Court granted the defendant’s motion to dismiss,

 

but in May 2017, the Dogan family submitted an appeal of the court’s decision and the

 

Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) and the Rachel Corrie Foundation filed an Amicus brief.

 

A complete timeline of the case can be found here.

 

 

 

Israeli Government Sued in International Criminal Court (ICC) for lethal attack that killed ten persons on Mavi Marmara in 2010 Gaza Freedom Flotilla

 

Mavi Marmara in Istanbul

 

Israeli Government Sued in the International Criminal Court for deaths from attack on the Mavi Marmara

In a separate lawsuit, on 14 May 2013, a referral was received by the International Criminal Court (ICC) Office of the Prosecutor (OTP) from the authorities of the Comoros, a State Party to the Rome Statute of the ICC, in relation to the Israeli attack on the Mavi Marmara which was registered in the Comoros Islands.  Six months after Turkey issued its arrest warrants, the OTP announced in its report  under Article 53 (1) Rome Statute that it decided not to investigate the registered vessels situation.

OTP’s decision not to investigate was based on the ‘gravity’ criteria of the Rome Statute. According to the OTP, ‘the potential case(s) likely arising from an investigation into this incident would not be of “sufficient gravity” to justify further action by the ICC.’  In so doing, the OTP did not consider the other two criteria for declining to investigate, namely, complementarity and the interests of justice. The Comoros ‘appealed’ the OTP’s decision and on 16 July 2015, the ICC Pre-Trial Chamber (PTC) requested the Prosecutor to reconsider its decision not to open an investigation.