MEDIA STATEMENT: Public Prosecutor to investigate Israeli attack on Gaza humanitarian aid convoy
14 November 2012

Today's decision by the National Directorate of Public Prosecutions to investigate Israel’s 2009 boarding and attack on the Gaza humanitarian aid ship, the Mavi Marmara, has been welcomed by BDS South Africa (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions against Israel in South Africa) and the Palestine Solidarity Alliance.

The aid ship was en-route from Turkey to the Gaza Strip when it is was boarded in international waters by Israeli commandos resulting in the deaths of 9 humanitarian workers. The aid ship was carrying one South African passenger, Ms Gadija Davids, a Cape Town based journalist.

At a press conference earlier this morning, lawyers representing Ms Davids explained that the Priority Crimes Litigation Unit (PCLU), a Division of the National Director of Public Prosecutions, as well as the South African Police Services (SAPS) has taken a decision to officially investigate as well as communicate the matter to the International Criminal Court.
Attorney Ziyaad Patel, explained that Ms Davids together with other civilians on the Mavi Marmara aid ship, were subjected to "inhumane treatment" by Israel, which is considered a violation of their rights, crimes against humanity (Schedule 1 of the Rome Statute) and war crimes (Schedule 3 of the Rome Statute). Davids treatment included  being handcuffed with plastic cable ties, being left to sit in the sun for hours, all whilst guarded by "balaclava-clad Israeli naval soldiers". Davids was later incarcerated in an Israeli prison and denied access to South African consular assistance.

On the 27th of September 2010, a fact-finding report into the 2009 Israeli attacks on the Mavi Marmara aid ship was published by the United Nations.  The UN report found that Israeli forces had violated international law during and after their lethal attack on the Mavi Marmara aid ship, the report said: "The conduct of the Israeli military and other personnel towards the flotilla passengers was not only disproportionate to the occasion but demonstrated levels of totally unnecessary and incredible violence. It betrayed an unacceptable level of brutality. Such conduct cannot be justified or condoned on security or any other grounds. It constituted grave violations of human rights law and international humanitarian law." Four months later, in January 2011, Davids together with her legal representative requested the SA Police Services and the National Director of Public Prosecutions to institute a criminal investigation and prosecute those Israelis responsible for international crimes committed during the attack.

Today, in a letter addressed to Davids' legal representative, the Priority Crimes Litigation Unit, a Division of the National Directorate of Public Prosecutions, stated that: "After due consultation with the South African Police Services (SAPS)...we are of the opinion that reasonable grounds exist for an investigation into this matter and therefore have opened a case docket...the jurisdictional requirements contained in the Implementation of the Rome Statute of the Criminal Court Act 27 of 2002 and our law in general (especially our criminal procedure) are met".
Ms Davids welcomed today's decision: “[It] instills my faith and credibility in South Africa’s commitment to the protection of human rights".
Davids' legal representative also welcomed the decision: "[It] enforces the rule of law, respect for human rights and South Africa’s responsibility in meeting its international obligations. The South African Police Services and the National Directorate of Public Prosecutions should therefore be commended and supported for this decision.”

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