Turkey Responsible for Flotilla Deaths

Turkey Responsible for Flotilla Deaths

June 2, 2010 | David A. Ridenour V.P.
The National Center for Public Policy Research
The international community should be denouncing Turkey, not Israel, for the loss of life on the so-called “Freedom Flotilla.”

That’s because Turkey, the flag state of the ship, had an obligation to ensure that the ships making up the flotilla adhered to international law.

It didn’t.

Though neither Turkey nor Israel are parties to the Convention on the Law of the Sea, the treaty presumably spells out what the states ratifying the treaty believe to be acceptable rules of behavior. Many of those countries are now, rather hypocritically, denouncing Israel.

The Free Gaza Movement announced its intention to breach Israel’s barricade of Gaza – requiring it to violate Israel’s territorial waters.

Article 19 of the Law of the Sea Treaty specifies that “any act of propaganda aimed at affecting the defence or security of the coastal state” or “the loading or unloading of any commodity, currency or person contrary to the customs, fiscal, immigration or sanitary laws or regulations of the coastal state” are deemed “prejudicial to the peace, good order or security” of that state. This flotilla – as with ones before it – would have done both if allowed to proceed.

While Article 19 only gives the coastal state the authority to act within its territorial waters, the bloodshed may well have been greater had Israel waited until then. If reports are accurate that some activists carried arms, Israeli commandos would have lost the element of surprise.

It also appears that Israel may have been within international norms in boarding the ship as all states have an obligation under Articles 109 and 110 of the treaty to stop unauthorized broadcasts (those intended for the general public, but not distress calls), including in international waters. The so-called “Freedom Flotilla” was broadcasting its voyage live.

Blood is on Turkey’s hands.

President Obama should do the right thing and recall the U.S. ambassador.

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